In late June, ATD Fourth World hosted the webinar “Building an inclusive Europe: Combating socioeconomic discrimination.”
Facilitated by EAPN’s Policy & Advocacy Coordinator, Kahina Rabahi, the webinar focused on the realities of life and the lessons we can learn from people living and fighting socioeconomic discrimination. We discussed legal and political arguments for adopting a comprehensive legal framework banning socioeconomic discrimination and the need to combine it with adequate public policies and investments.
- Andrew Kelly and Christina Power, ATD Fourth World Ireland community activists involved in the Add the Tenth Campaign.
- Olivier De Schutter, United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights
- Claire Hédon, French Defender of Rights/Ombudsman
- Marie Toussaint, Member of the Green Party in the European Parliament
Facilitator: Kahina Rabahi, Policy & Advocacy Coordinator EAPN Europe
Combating socioeconomic discrimination
With the reality of violence resulting from socioeconomic discrimination already recognized in several EU member states, a intersectional binding legislative act must be adopted at the European level. In addition to generating psychological suffering, socioeconomic discrimination can be the cause of numerous violations or intergenerational deprivations of fundamental rights; such as housing, employment, education and healthcare.
The need to address these violations seems all the more fundamental in the context of a multidimensional approach to poverty, as it highlights the role of discrimination and abuse, whether institutional or by private actors, in perpetuating situations of extreme poverty.
“Poverty is much more complex than just financial issues”
“Poverty is a multidimensional problem, it is much more complex than just financial issues,” said Andrew Kelly (ATD Fourth World Ireland). “People experiencing poverty face multiple challenges at the same time. In addition, there is still a huge stigma and shame of living in poverty.” Christina Power (ATD Fourth World Ireland) adds that discrimination also has to do with how people judge. There is an urgent need to fight against “aporophobia”, prejudice against people experiencing poverty. This form of discrimination generates many consequences: it makes access to essential services harder for people experiencing poverty and they often fear addressing social and public services.
Claire Hédon, French Defender of Rights, has two main missions as an Ombudsman: (1) to ensure that people’s rights are respected; and (2) to tell institutions what to do to respect human rights. “People who don’t experience poverty have difficulty understanding that reality,” she says. “What I see in terms of difficulties in accessing rights is that there are not a lot of appeals on socioeconomic discrimination, it is not used much. Throughout my work, I notice that public services have a limited response, making it even harder for people in poverty to get appointments, meetings or information. Public services are increasingly distant, and it has gotten worse because of dematerialization and digitalization.”
The report by Olivier De Schutter, United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, reminds governments to take action to prevent discrimination based on economic vulnerability. “Your income should not be a ground for discrimination or different treatment,” he asserts. “States are required to combat private discrimination in legal matters; between employees and employers, between owners and tenants, between schools, etc. But despite these laws, states are very slow to take action and fight socioeconomic discrimination. We definitely need better tools to fight this discrimination.” Professor De Schutter continues that there should be an impact assessment at the European level for policies that have a negative impact on people experiencing poverty. “The EU already does these impact assessments and it could do much more.”
“A state with minimum income, minimum wage and public services accessible by everyone”
MEP Marie Toussaint, member of the Green Party in the European Parliament, explained that the system only tracks GDP (gross domestic product) growth and not human wellbeing. “Socioeconomic discrimination is rooted in our state and it legitimizes social austerity. We keep prioritizing other things because at the end, poverty is not a problem because the argument is always that people experiencing poverty make bad choices: for example, they don’t find a good job or housing because they don’t want to. What we see is that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Redistribution is decreasing because the rich are contributing less. Fighting socioeconomic discrimination is necessary to ensure that everyone’s human dignity is respected. We cannot wait for people experiencing poverty to go to court. We need politicians to fight discrimination.”
Furthermore, MEP Toussaint addresses that people experiencing poverty do not participate in decision bodies. “We need them in governance. We are revising European treaties and I am hoping that we can forbid socioeconomic discrimination.”
Together with ATD Fourth World, EAPN Europe urges to legally prohibit socioeconomic discrimination. We also advocate participatory research with people experiencing poverty and the continuation of the Intergroup against Poverty in the European Parliament with adequate budget and secretariat.
Watch the full recording: