Addressing inequalities through a human rights lens

Lab debate
Wednesday, June 19, 2019
13:00 to 14:15

This session will launch the newly-adopted EU Human Rights Guidelines on Non-discrimination. It will expose the human costs of discrimination in terms of lost opportunities, with a focus on how multiple discrimination aggravates the social, economic, cultural, civil and political conditions in society. To highlight the complexities of discrimination with regards to economic, social and cultural rights, the Human Rights to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation will be used as an example and provide an opportunity to publicise the EU Human Rights Guidelines on the rights to safe drinking water and sanitation. Participants will explore how the application of human rights can be used to tackle discrimination and inequalities.

Key points

  • There is a clear correlation between human development and discrimination

  • The EU has adopted new guidelines on non-discrimination to guide policymaking and implementation

  • Data on discrimination on ethnic grounds is not available complicating the search for solutions


Discrimination takes many forms. It can be against women, ethnic minorities, the LGBTI community, people with disabilities, indigenous people and many more. There is a clear correlation between the degree of discrimination and its effect on development as measures of human development show. One of the most prevalent forms of discrimination is against women. There are some striking figures. For example, in 100 countries women are prevented from pursuing job opportunities because of their gender. LGBTI communities face discrimination in 77 countries and in many of these the penalities for illegal activities are extreme. More than 370 million indigenous people worldwide face discrimination in the form of exclusion from education and other services while there are about 1 billion people with disabilities who face discrimination globally. Representatives of different groups suffering from discrimination took part in the session. These included a speaker from the Dalits community in India and south Asia which collects human waste from the streets. They face huge discrimination from the broader population and are exploited by the government as they clean the rail network and defence properties. In some countries, indigenous peoples cannot integrate because they are denied access to education in their own language and are excluded from political representation. In some African countries, the disabled suffer discrimnation. They have poor access to transport and employment opportunities where employers were prejudiced against jobseekers with disabilities. Some of the measures taken to combat discrimination include the recent move by the 28 countries of the EU to adopt guidelines on non-discrimination. These guidelines would be used by EU staff working in around 140 countries worldwide and applied in their work implementing policies on the ground. The EU's Delegations will have to report after 12 months how they have applied the non-discrimination guidelines in their work. ?Brussels, 18-19 June 2019 ? As these guidelines had been discussed and approved by the EU's national governments, these countries should also apply these principles in their work with third countries. National human rights institutions play an important role in advocating for human rights at national level and monitoring government and public institutions to ensure that they are respecting principles of non-discrimination in their activities. It is crucial to implement existing commitments and ensure that they are applied on the ground. Many governments do not collect data broken down by ethnic group, making it very difficult to analyse the reality of disrimination and seek new solutions.


There are 80 countries in the world where women require their husbands' approval to work.

Organised by


Birgitte Feiring
Department Director
Danish Institute for Human Rights
Margaret Orech
Uganda Landmine Survivors Association
Petter Wille
European Network of National Human Rights Institutions
Luisa Ragher
Head of Division Global.1 Human Rights
European External Action Service (EEAS)
Joan Carling
The Indigenous Peoples Major Group for Sustainable Development
Ashif Shaikh
Jan Sahas Social Development Society