Unia recognised internationally as a National Human Rights Institution
Unia was recently recognised as a national institution for the protection of human rights, B status, by the competent international bodies. Unia received this recognition for its independence and commitment to human rights, such as the right to equal opportunities and non-discrimination. ‘The B status is the first step for our country towards an institution that protects all human rights’, says Unia director Patrick Charlier.
Unia received this status from the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI), which is supported by the United Nations. ‘Belgium once again has an internationally recognised human rights institution. This status sends a strong message for Unia. It means that anyone can report discrimination to us. In the past year, we have been contacted by a record number of people who felt they had experienced discrimination’, explains Patrick Charlier.
In 2014, the former Centre for Equal Opportunities and Opposition to Racism lost its status as national human rights institutions in the context of the split into Unia and Myria. Unia was thus required to demonstrate its independence and expertise anew.
Our work continues
Unia emphasises that this recognition is not an end in itself. It received the B status because its mandate is focused on discrimination and the rights of disabled persons. However, as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Belgium needs to have an institution that ensures respect for all human rights, which is the prerequisite for A status.
‘Unia has been recommending establishing an A-status institution in Belgium since 1999. We would also like to emphasise the fact that Belgium currently has many institutions mandated to defend and promote human rights, such as the Institute for the Equality of Women and Men as well as Myria’, adds Patrick Charlier.
Unia takes a stand for getting along together, even in times of corona crisis
The corona crisis that is gripping our country has fuelled mutual distrust among citizens. “We notice that there is a strong tendency to look for culprits or scapegoats”, says Els Keytsman, director of Unia. “This is a trend that we must counteract. Nobody benefits from it. We would do much better to support the countless forms of solidarity created by the pandemic. The corona crisis is certainly not over yet. We have to learn to live with this virus without destroying the solidarity in our society.”
Unia is here for you - coronavirus or not
Pandemic or not, we are here to combat discrimination. Unia is here to listen and to help. Subject, of course, to the appropriate precautions. How does this affect you?
Number of reports of discrimination rises by over 13%
In 2019, Unia saw a continued upward trend in the number of reports and cases concerning discrimination. ‘The number of reports was 13.2% higher than in 2018, while the caseload increased by 6.9%. On social media, we are seeing harsher language, about people with disabilities, Muslims and refugees, for example’, says Unia director Els Keytsman. ‘There is a normalisation of hate speech on social media, as well as on the street.’
A website to boost equal opportunities in municipalities
On May 9, Unia launched websites on which municipal politicians and officials can find advice and concrete examples on how to boost equal opportunities at the local level.