The Interfederal Centre for Equal Opportunities is now Unia
The Interfederal Centre for Equal Opportunities has been renamed Unia. This change of name is an important step for the organisation, which aims to communicate its mission and raise its profile among the general public. Henceforward Unia will position itself as an institution that encourages citizens to seek out information on equal opportunities and discrimination or report cases of discrimination.
The name change is the result of a process which commenced in 2012, when the Centre was handed ‘interfederal’ powers. Unia also recently acquired a new board of directors and management, jointly run by Els Keytsman, former manager of Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen [Flemish Refugee Action], and Patrick Charlier, acting manager of the Centre since May 2015.
'Our mission has evolved over time. Today we are competent in all matters pertaining to equal opportunities and the fight against discrimination under the 17 criteria set out in our antidiscrimination law. We now operate at the federal, regional and community level. Therefore employment, education, housing and services have become some of our important areas of action. We are extending our local points of contact across the length and breadth of Belgium and aim to become closer to the citizen in this way', says Patrick Charlier.
Closeness to the public is something of a challenge: a survey conducted by Unia shows that few respondents know of any organisations dedicated to equal opportunities. Indeed, 74 percent of the survey population had no idea whatsoever about who to contact in a case of discrimination. 'Our visibility could and should be a great deal better. Our official name was too long, too complex and, it transpired, present in about 70 or so variations. So we were actually crying out for a new name. Unia is a relevant and simple name which sounds good in both our national languages. It sets us up nicely as a point of reference in the fight against discrimination', continues Charlier.
The same survey reveals that 60 percent of people are of the opinion that Belgium needs an institution like Unia. 'Citizens need a point of reference, now more than ever, if they feel themselves affected by discrimination. An inclusive society involves questions, challenges and even a certain degree of social unrest. If someone feels discriminated against, or has any questions about discrimination, they should come to Unia as a matter of course.'
The new name for the Interfederal Centre for Equal Opportunities comes from the Latin unio (meaning unity, togetherness, 'I unite'). A term which neatly describes the philosophy we aim to bring across in our work: initiating dialogue, strengthening the social fabric, concentrating on the things that unite us, rather than on those which divide.
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