"Diversity" has become a key term in contemporary social and political discourse. Diversity is a reality, a value, an aim and a normative prescription for how to achieve the objectives of social cohesion. Despite the openness and fluidity of the concept, we still tend to perceive ethnic, cultural, religious and other groups as homogenous entities.
This is particularly visible in the anti-discrimination domain, for instance: discrimination of a Roma person is prohibited on the grounds of ethnicity, but how to deal with situations where ethnic background is not the only factor to cause unequal treatment? What if a Roma woman with mobility disability is being denied employment or housing on the basis of the all the grounds?
To define "multiple markets of disadvantage", social science uses the terms of "intersectionality", "multiple" or "compound" discrimination. Accordingly, the means to address such situations should also be multi-dimensional and multi-layered, but is it really happening? Many inclusion policies have been reluctant to look beyond the "label" and accommodate the needs of individuals who belong to more than one disadvantaged group. The same is true for many NGOs working within a narrow area who rarely reach out for coalition-based partnerships.
Rethinking Diversity: New Responses
Against this background, UNITED is organising an international conference in Lithuania. We aim at placing the concept of "identity" at the center of the discussion. A number of questions, including how majority communities perceive minority communities and how minority communities address diversity within their own community, will be addressed. In particular we will focus on discussing the need to build new coalitions which stretch across NGOs working in a particular field based on a common framework of human rights.
The usual discourse of anti-racism work sometimes fails to include other organisations - such as disability or LGBT, feminist organisations, or trade unions. By stressing "intersectionality" and "diversity" this conference aims to provide organisations with a chance to unite upon the cause of social inclusion and sustainable growth. The path of human rights would enable participants to act UNITED developing responses to shared challenges including building new coalitions, exploring possible frameworks for international litigation and providing conference recommendations for policy makers at both European and national levels.
Human Rights in Lithuania
Lithuania is one of the ex-soviet states that re-gained independence in 1990s. Since 2004 Lithuania has been a member of the European Union (EU).
Interesting lessons can be drawn from Lithuania's path to independence. It was marked by the steady shift of economy, society, and policy. However, social divisions have (re)appeared in the context of free market economy and globalization. Human rights legislation was adopted in a rushed manner by the governments will to comply with the Copenhagen Criteria - a set of prerequisites to access the EU. Human rights clauses were smoothly transposed into national law, but not all human rights values were embraced by the majority of society. Therefore, human rights are still perceived as intrusive within a country positioning itself as homogenous, catholic, and traditional. Such trends are reflected in civil society in Lithuania, which is fragmented into separate sectors working on narrow issues. In many cases NGOs are non-cooperative for broader "political" causes.
Why Lithuania is important in 2013?
The Lithuanian Presidency of the Council of European Union will take part from the 1st of July, 2013. Preparation for the Presidency and the Presidency itself is a great opportunity for civil society to influence pan-European policies on equality, non-discrimination and minority protection. This UNITED conference provides excellent fora for collaboration and sharing ideas and experience that can be furthered in European level discussions.
For potential participants
The conference will make use of a variety of working methods: thematic working groups, plenary sessions and workshops. Five thematic working groups will provide a safe space to rethink diversity throughout the whole event. Your active participation and contribution to these working groups will be highly valuable.
* Minority as a Label: Going Beyond Minority Identity
The aim of this working group is twofold: to discuss how minority labels petrify the image of its representatives for majority, while questioning what are the different challenges minority members face in a time of crisis. This working group aims to come up with new initiatives, and build coalitions to better fight inequality.
* Building New Coalitions to Address Challenges Faced by Undocumented Migrants
This working group will explore how it might be possible to progress the rights of undocumented migrants by building coalitions with other sectors. Case studies which highlight how unusual collaborations have led to improvements for undocumented migrants in Europe will be explored, such as the recent exclusion from charging for HIV treatment for undocumented migrants in the UK thanks to a collaboration of health, HIV and migrant organisations. This working group will explore possibilities to reframe issues faced by undocumented migrants to enable new partnerships with partners in the areas of health, youth, and labour unions amongst others. This working group will explore the potential risks of this strategy which may lead to winning some benefits for sub-groups of undocumented migrants to the exclusion of others, and potentially dividing a vulnerable group.
This working group invites participants that have immediate experience of engaging with and campaigning alongside undocumented migrants.
*Making the Case for Equality: Legal Responses to Discriminatory Practices
The working group will focus on discrimination litigation as a method of fostering social change. The aim of this working group is to develop tools and strategies that would assist NGOs in assessing, analyzing and pursuing discrimination cases. The group invites applications from practitioners working directly with the victims of discrimination. While legal education is not a requirement, basic knowledge of national non-discrimination legislation and international standards is desirable to take part in this working group.
* Turn on - Log in - Take Action Against Online Hate Speech
This working group is completely dedicated to connecting inspiring and diverse online activists. Together they will develop actions to make a difference in spite of online discrimination. We aim to spread a bigger and inspiring message that helps make our World a better place: without hatred and without discrimination.
This working group invites participants that have immediate experience of engaging with and campaigning both online and offline. Creative participants that think outside the box are particularly invited to join.
* International Solidarity: Joining Forces to Counter Right-Wing Threats and State Repression
In many countries now, activists fighting racism and discrimination and promoting diversity and equality face threats and persecution by both the extreme right and the authorities.
This working group will explore various tactics that can be used by activists to help and support each other across borders, as well as possible ways of mobilising support within local communities to counter persecution.
The group particularly invites applications from those who already have experience of organising or participating in solidarity actions, as well as those activists who faced threats and persecution themselves.
UNITED is the largest pan-European anti-racist network of more than 550 organisations. With its conferences antiracist and human rights activists from all parts of Europe meet and discuss effective ways of combating racism and discrimination. At a recent UNITED conference held in November 2012 in Finland (FIN) 89 participants from 38 countries look at specific issues, such as online campaigns, how civil society can co-operate with governmental bodies, undocumented migrants rights, volunteerism and youth work and many more.