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Road to equality begins at local level
 
Largely unnoticed, cities across Europe have been developing innovative practices and initiatives to deliver equality and combat racism and discrimination. While public attention all too often focuses on inter-community tensions, violent radicalisation or impoverished urban ghettos, local authorities are finding ways to promote more cohesive communities through strategies that address the needs of all city residents, irrespective of their ethnic or religious backgrounds. Such experiences and lessons learned have now been collated for a report, published by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) and presented at the European Union Committee of the Regions in Brussels on 3 March 2008.

The report “Community Cohesion at local level: Addressing the needs of Muslim Communities” brings together experiences from a number of cities across Europe. It focuses on fields such as education, employment and the provision of public services which all remain critical for the success of building cohesive communities.

“We’ve seen the economical and human cost of not getting this right in several cities over the last few decades. The well-being of our cities and regions are in our hands and we can do something about it, as the examples from the report demonstrate – that’s the way forward”, said Sheffield Councillor Peter Moore, member of the Committee of the Regions.

The local authorities that have contributed to this report have learned from the “errors of the past” such as the failure to mainstream equality and non-discrimination into all areas of public policy. Mainstreaming certainly does not mean a one size fits all model, but rather the recognition of different needs and thus different models of service provision. Mainstreaming equalities primarily means consulting people on how to meet their needs in order to be inclusive.

Muslims require mainstreaming of their needs within the wider scope of integration, equality, non-discrimination and community cohesion policies. However, it is important that institutions guard themselves against a mindset of special initiatives for Muslim communities per se.

Racial and ethnic inequality, as well as religious prejudice cannot be tackled in isolation. It requires the efforts of all of the key institutions to work together to ensure long-term change. The basis for such a strategy is a strong commitment to non-discrimination, equality and social cohesion and to ensuring that all are able to participate in the social, economic, cultural and political life of the city.

In the area of education the report highlights the principle of equity and efficiency that both work towards mixed schools, while tackling drop-out rates and underachievement amongst certain communities. In the area of employment the report suggests that the local authority takes the lead in promoting non-discrimination and supporting a diverse workforce. In the area of public services the report draws attention to care for the elderly and the need for language provisions.

Download the report Community Cohesion at local level: Addressing the needs of Muslim Communities

Information about FRA

The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), based in Vienna, was established in March 2007. It is an independent body of the EU and being built on the former European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC). Its objective is to provide assistance and expertise on fundamental rights matters to the EU and its Member States, when they are implementing Community law. The aim is to support them to respect fully fundamental rights when they take measures or formulate courses of action. To find out more about FRA’s work, please visit http://fra.europa.eu

Information about the report

“Community Cohesion at local level: addressing the needs of Muslim Communities” is a product of the Local Communities Network (LCN) project. The LCN brings together FRA, the Committee of the Regions, and policy officers from the cities of Aarhus (DK), Antwerp (BE), Bradford (UK), Genk (BE), Mannheim (DE), Nantes (FR), Sheffield (UK), Rotterdam (NL), and Turin (I). The LCN maintains a policy dialogue and exchange of good practice with regards to addressing racism and discrimination, as well as issues specific to the situation of Muslims. This report brings together some of the good practices and initiatives from these cities, and aims to share the lessons learned with other municipalities and regions in Europe.

Further information:

FRA Media Team

+43 (1) 580 30 633

media@fra.europa.eu

 
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