Mr Palm's speech on the completion of the first stage of the implementation of "Anti-discrimination" law in the education sector on 5 December 2011
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights says: ‘Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status’. This rather simple statement has been embraced by many nations. It is embedded in their national Constitutions and laws. The Albania Constitution states “Everyone in Albania should live free of Discrimination”. This means that the state has the responsibility to make sure that Everyone should be protected from discrimination in all its forms.
Unlawful discrimination occurs when someone is treated less favorably than another person or group because of their race, color, national or ethnic origin; sex, pregnancy or marital status; age; disability; religion; sexual preference; or some other characteristic specified under anti-discrimination law. Discrimination can occur in the open or is hidden; it can be by purpose, or it can be de-facto discrimination; it can be action or omission. For instance, nobody may have anything against a person in a wheelchair, but because an institution omits to provide a ramp for access, this person may be discriminated against.
Discrimination occurs when persons, including children are treated unfairly because assumptions are made about them. Assumption about what it means to be a boy or a girl; assumptions about the ability of people who may have an illness; or have a different colour of skin.
In Albania, women still are not treated equally at the work place and many still suffer violence at home. Children and people with disabilities miss out on educational or employment opportunities. More than half of Roma up to the age of 15 are illiterate compared to only 2% of the non-Roma population.
Discrimination hurts and humiliates; if experienced as a child, it will change its life forever. Discrimination of poor children will reinforce their poverty when they grow up. Global research links of child discrimination with future delinquency, poverty and socially disorganized communities.
The Law on Antidiscrimination, which you will get to know better these days, provides a framework for action for all institutions, including the Educational ones not only to guarantee enrollment, but to create an environment to protect children and young people from discrimination and to help them to properly address it. The law clearly states that a person, including a student, may complain if they are punished in a discriminatory way; if they are not allowed to join particular school activities for discriminatory reasons; or if their teacher or a member of staff makes fun of them or treats them badly because of their sex, race, disability etc.
I also see a particular role of schools in this. First we want the school to be a place free of discrimination. Second, I see the school to educate children and young people, so they can identify discriminatory practices elsewhere, and will protest and stand up against such practices where they occur.
With this vision, the Commissioner for Antidiscrimination in Albania has initiated this training programme with Directors, teachers and school counsellors, to inform them about the obligations and responsibilities provided by the law. UNICEF has been pleased to support this. We believe that this training will start a constructive dialogue about how to help students address and fight any forms of discrimination.
Laws are important but they are not enough. The Commissioner against Discrimination will help individuals to claim their rights. Ultimately, non-discrimination is about changing the views of society. All parts of the society can have a say, and the education sector plays a crucial role in promoting diversity and tolerance, in shaping future citizens to build a non-discriminatory society.