Strasbourg, 05.05.2021 – The Committee of Ministers today adopted Guidelines for the 47 member states to help them in upholding equality and protecting against discrimination and hate during the Covid-19 pandemic and similar crises in the future.
The Committee of Ministers stresses the importance of establishing effective structures and procedures to manage crises and their specific impact on disadvantaged groups and equality in a swift and inclusive way.
In doing so, member states should respect the European Convention on Human Rights and other international human rights instruments and take into account the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages and other European or international human rights instruments, as well as the recommendations of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI).
These guidelines, prepared by the Steering Committee on Anti-Discrimination, Diversity and Inclusion (CDADI), focus on information, protection, access to services and benefits, combating hate speech and violence, prevention of discrimination, digitalisation and artificial intelligence. They invite member states to take measures such as:
maintain an active and continuous dialogue with vulnerable groups throughout the crisis, involve them in creating crisis-related measures and policies and ensure their concerns are reflected in the decision-making processes.
- ensure that persons belonging to vulnerable groups have, on an equal footing with others, effective access to healthcare, including available vaccines.
- ensure that all children including those belonging to vulnerable groups continue to access adequate schooling.
- provide all persons belonging to vulnerable groups with access to housing with good hygiene standards and which enables them to respect health-related rules and recommendations.
- take adequate measures to protect employees, including those belonging to vulnerable groups, who are particularly exposed to the dangers of the crisis on their way to work and at their workplace.
- focus on preventing and combating violence against persons belonging to vulnerable groups, including hate crime, domestic and gender-based violence and provide victims with the necessary psychological, social and legal support, particularly by ensuring the availability of hotlines and enough places in well-functioning shelters.
- take adequate measures to ensure that the digital tools developed to deal with the pandemic are not discriminatory against persons belonging to vulnerable groups or otherwise violate their rights.
The explanatory memorandum to the guidelines and a compilation of promising and good practices provide a set of good practices from various member states that can be used by other member states to implement the guidelines, improve their responses to the Covid-19 pandemic and enhance their preparedness for future crises.
Central, regional and local authorities have, together with Equality Bodies and National Human Rights Institutions, an essential role in implementing these guidelines.
Finally, in times of crisis, Equality Bodies, legal aid structures and other institutions tasked with supporting victims of discrimination, violence and other rights violations should continue providing personal support and legal advice and assistance to secure their rights. The judiciary should continue to oversee the legality of the executive’s action, including emergency measures that could have discriminatory effects or otherwise violate the rights of persons belonging to vulnerable groups.