Citizens Equality, Rights and Values – ERGO participation in CERV dialogue week

Citizens Equality, Rights and Values – ERGO participation in CERV dialogue week

“Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values” (CERV) is the new European programme offering funding for citizens’ engagement, equality for all and the protection and promotion of rights and EU values. Civil society organisations active at local, regional, national and transnational level, as well as other stakeholders, can apply to receive CERV funding for the 2021-2027 period.

CERV stands for “Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values” and will be the biggest-ever EU fund for promoting and protecting fundamental rights inside the EU. It will provide 1,55 billion euro for the next 7-years period to projects protecting and promot the rights and values as enshrined in the Treaties, the Charter and in the applicable international human rights conventions. This will be achieved by supporting civil society organisations and other stakeholders active at local, regional, national and transnational level. The programme will replace the previous Rights, Equality and Citizenship programme and the Europe for Citizens programme.

The CERV programme will be based on 4 strands:

  1. Equality, Rights and Gender Equality – promote rights, non-discrimination, equality, including gender equality, and advance gender and non-discrimination mainstreaming;
  2. Citizens’ engagement and participation – promote citizens engagement and participation in the democratic life of the Union and exchanges between citizens of different Member States and to raise awareness of the common European history;
  3. Daphne – fight violence, including gender-based violence;
  4. Union values – protect and promote Union values. The Union values strand is one of the big innovations of the programme. It puts at its centre values which are common to all Member States and on which the European Union is founded:  respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. At a time where European societies are confronted with extremism, radicalism and divisions and a shrinking space for independent civil society, this strand will place civil society organisations at the heart of its priorities by funding projects which promote and raise awareness on EU values and EU fundamental rights and by providing financial support to local, regional and transnational civil society organisations.

During the CERV Civil Dialogue Week 2021 from 25-28 May 2021, potential partners and beneficiaries had the opportunity to get to know the new programme and to engage in an open dialogue on policy developments, opportunities and challenges.

The session on Equality and Rights was moderated by Irena Moozova, Director “Equality and Union citizenship” in the European Commission and engaged Sirpa Pietikäinen – Member of the European Parliament, FEMM Committee and  co-rapporteur CERV programme, Evelyne Paradis – Executive Director of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) Europe, Tamás Kádár – Deputy Director and Head of Legal and Policy of the European Network of Equality Bodies (EQUINET), Elizabeth Gosme – Director of COFACE Families Europe and Isabela Mihalache, our Senior Advocacy Officer.

At the invitation of the Moderator, our senior advocacy officer addressed the main challenges that that EU funds should address under the Equality and Rights strand of the CERV programme. We underlined the growing extremist and far right and populist movements, which challenge the idea of inclusive and democratic societies where people of different backgrounds can enjoy equal rights. Another challenge is addressing structural and institutional racism in the context of growing inequalities and discrimination and violence on the grounds of sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation. The fragmented nature and limited resources of EU funding programmes dedicated to various strands limit the EU’s capacity to respond to existing and new challenges, AI, climate change, covid-19; aspects regarding the distribution of funds across the groups of beneficiaries, the involvement of equality bodies, gender mainstreaming, mainstreaming of rights of the child and rights of people with disabilities, difficulties with the application process, implementation and reporting duties and mechanisms, ‘lack of support to first-time applicants’.

ERGO highlighted that programmes such as CERV are important since legislation alone is not enough to effectively tackle discrimination and racism and achieve equality. Structural problems and challenges are hardly funded by national funding if not for EU funding. Such structural problems are also cross-countries and better addressed at regional level through exchanges of knowledge and good practices. EU funding should allow developing synergies to tackle the challenges that are common to the promotion of equality, anti-discrimination and anti-racism to reach a critical dimension to have concrete results in the field. At the same time, the funds should take into account the specific nature of the different EU policies, their different target groups and their particular needs through tailor-made approaches. The current CERV strand on equality and rights should lead to a better understanding of various forms of discrimination, including antigypsyism, antisemitism, islamophobia and afrophobia; promoting a culture to combat discrimination on a more intersectional basis, thus making responses more effective, increased actions to prevent and combat discrimination, racism, xenophobia, anti-semitism, anti-muslim hatred, antigypsyism and other forms of intolerance. In that context, particular attention should also be devoted to preventing and combating all forms of violence, hatred, segregation and stigmatisation, as well as combating bullying, harassment and intolerant treatment. The CERV Programme should be implemented in a mutually reinforcing manner with other Union activities that have the same objectives, such as the EU Strategic Framework for Roma Equality, Inclusion and Participation, EU Action plans against racism etc; it should support NGO coalition building and platform on antiracism and avoid fragmentation of different antiracism movements.

In the future, the CERV programme could help by looking at the disproportionate impact the Covid-19 pandemic and crisis can inflict on marginalised ad vulnerable groups, which are more prone to discrimination, through continuous evidence data collection, awareness raising activities and combating negative narrative and stereotypes in the media and beyond and by ensuring synergies with the Recovery and resilience facility.