Critical Reflections on the Role of Equality Bodies
Time and Place
Tuesday 21 September 2010
09:00 – 17:30
Weetwood Hall Hotel and Conference Centre, Otley Road, Far Headingley, Leeds, LS16 5PS
Independent bodies set up to promote, monitor and enforce equality law, which are widely regarded as having a crucial role to play in the effective implementation of substantive non-discrimination and human rights law, have proliferated in recent years. This is partly because obligations to create them have been imposed on countries by both regional and international entities. Thus, in the EU, Member States are already required to establish independent equality bodies dealing with race and gender and there are proposals to extend this obligation to age, disability, sexual orientation and religion or belief. At the global level the United Nations has, for some time, actively encouraged the establishment of independent national bodies to advance the implementation of human rights including the right to be free from discrimination. Most recently, in a new departure for international human rights law, Article 33 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities requires States Parties to “maintain, strengthen, designate or establish … a framework, including one or more independent mechanisms, … to promote, protect and monitor implementation”.
Accordingly, in many countries – particularly in Europe - the last decade has witnessed the establishment, expansion or restructuring of equality bodies or human rights institutions with broader remits including equality. There is no consensus about how such bodies might best be shaped so as to facilitate greater equality in practice and there is a wide variation in their nature, remit and practice. The global economic downturn has intensified concerns to ensure value for money in this, as well as other, areas of public spending.
These factors combine to make the present a perfect time to reflect on the role and effectiveness of equality bodies and wider national human rights institutions in achieving equality in practice. This conference aims to provide a space for such reflection and to bring together experts from the equality body and national human rights institution sector, the NGO sector and academia.
Chairs: Professor Sir Bob Hepple, Professor Dagmar Schiek, Mr David Shannon
9.00 – 9.30: Registration and Coffee
9.30 – 11.00: Overview of Commissions
Barbara Cohen, “Equality Bodies: Geographical, Historical and Structural Context”
Bob Niven, “Legal Context and Single and Multiple Strand Equality Bodies: Pitfalls and Potentials”
11.00 – 11.30: Coffee break
11.30 - 12.30: Quasi-Judicial and Ombudsmen Functions
Jenny Goldschmidt, “Equality Bodies and Dispute Resolution: Reflections on the Experiences of the Dutch Equal Treatment Commission”
Nick O’Brien, “Equality Bodies and the Ombudsman Structure: Reflections on Effectiveness”
12.30 - 13.30 Lunch
13.30-14.30: Strategies for Change and Compliance
Dimitrina Petrova, “Influencing Policy and Governmental Opinion: The Role of Equality Bodies”
Caroline Gooding and Anna Lawson, “Legal Strategies for Achieving Change”
14.30 – 15.30: Independence and Relationships with Other Organisations
Evelyn Collins, “Equality Bodies and Governments: Working Together Independently?”
Ingrid Aendenboom, “Equality Bodies and NGOs: Working Together Independently?”
15.30 – 16.00: Coffee/Tea
16.00 – 17.00: Effectiveness and the International Dimension
Oliver Lewis, “Initial Indications of the Impact of Article 33 in Practice”
Rachel Murray, “Effective and Ineffective Equality Bodies: Telling the Difference?”
17.00 - 17.15: Closing Remarks
Ingrid Aendenboom is legal adviser to the director and deputy director of the Centre for Equal Opportunities and Opposition to Racism, Belgium.
Barbara Cohen is a discrimination law consultant who has worked on a range of projects in the UK and elsewhere, Vice Chair of the Discrimination Law Association and a Trustee of the Runnymede Trust. Formerly, she was head of legal policy in the Commission for Racial Equality.
Evelyn Collins (CBE) is the Chief Executive of the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland.
Caroline Gooding is a leading independent expert and author on disability rights and public sector duties more generally. She is also the former Special Advisor to the Disability Rights Commission and Mayor of London’s Cabinet Adviser on Disability Rights.
Jenny Goldschmidt is Professor of Human Rights Law at the University of Utrecht, Netherlands. She was the President of the Dutch Equal Treatment Commission from 1994-2003 and has been elected onto the International Commission of Jurists.
Bob Hepple has worked as professor of law in the University of Kent, London and Cambridge. He was also Master of Clare College, Cambridge from 1993-2003. In 2003, he was made a fellow of the British Academy and, in 2004, he was knighted.
Anna Lawson is a senior lecturer in Law at the University of Leeds and a member of its Centre on European Law and Legal Studies, and its Centre for Disability Studies. Her research interests focus on disability equality and human rights law.
Oliver Lewis is Executive Director of the Mental Disability Advocacy Centre (MDAC), Budapest, Hungary and visiting Professor at the Central European University. He is also co-ordinating a multi-national research project on the implementation of Article 33 of the UN Convention of the Right of Persons with Disabilities.
Rachel Murray is Professor of International Human Rights Law at the University of Bristol. Her specialist areas are human rights in Africa, particularly the African Charter and its Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights and the Organization of African Unity/African Union.)
Bob Niven is Resident Adviser to the Israel Equal Employment Opportunities Commission. He was previously (in Great Britain) Chief Executive of the Disability Rights Commission and before that Director of Equal Opportunities legislation and policy at the Department of Education and Employment.
Nick O’Brien is a visiting research fellow at the University of Liverpool. Formerly he was the head of legal policy at the Disability Rights Commission.
Dimitrina Petrova is a fellow at the University of Essex and a visiting professor at the Legal Studies Department of the Central European University. She is also the founding executive director of The Equal Rights Trust and was the founding executive director of the European Roma Rights Centre, Budapest.
Dagmar Schiek is the Jean Monnet Chair in European Law, and Director of the Centre for European Law and Legal Studies at the University of Leeds
David Shannon is a lawyer and human rights advocate and a member of the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. He is also studying for a PhD on human rights and disability at the University of Leeds.
The cost of attending this conference is £60 (which includes morning and afternoon refreshments and lunch). Places should be booked by the close of business on Friday 10 September. For further details, and to book a place, please go to
If you have any questions relating to this conference, please email Anna Lawson
[log in to unmask] and include “Leeds Equality Conference” in the subject line.
Funding and Organisation
This conference has been organised by Caroline Gooding, Anna Lawson and Bob Niven. It has been made possible by a subsidy provided by the School of Law University of Leeds in promotion of the work of the Centre for European Law and Legal Studies. Many thanks to Prof Dagmar Schiek, in particular, for making this possible.
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