On 6 June 2017, an event titled “WE DO NOT DISCRIMINATE! Conference on the occasion of the presentation of the Guidebook for Developing an Anti-discrimination Code of Conduct for Employers“ took place in Serbia. This conference was organized within the framework of the Twinning project “Support to the advancement of human rights and zero tolerance to discrimination“, and it is one of the elements that support the Serbian Commissioner for Protection of Equality (CPE) in increasing the effectiveness of her recommendations targeting employers who have been found to engage in discriminatory practices.
Approximately one third of all complaints submitted to the CPE in 2016 were related to recruitment procedures or the workplace. Therefore, the Guidebook was designed as a tool to assist employers in strengthening and improving mechanisms for the protection and promotion of equality. By way of promoting an Equality Code of Practice among both enterprises and public authorities, the CPE motivates employers to develop preventive measures against discrimination and she refers those who have been found to engage in discriminatory practices to an effective tool that can support them in remedying workplace discrimination.
The conference took place at the Palace of Serbia in Belgrade and attracted nearly 100 participants from the EU Delegation to Serbia, international organizations present in the country, embassies, state institutions and enterprises. The strong presence and participation of private sector businesses and of business organizations and networks came forward as a great promise of future collaboration. The participants were welcomed with keynote speeches by Goran Knežević, Minister of Economy, Brankica Janković, Commissioner for the Protection of Equality, and Oscar Benedikt, Deputy Head of Mission of the EU Delegation to Serbia. Following the keynote speeches, three panel discussions took place.
The first panel was titled “Good practice examples and positive experience in promoting equality in a corporate setting” and featured Niall Crowley, a BIM expert, who supported the CPE in developing ideas for an Equality Code of Practice as part of the Twinning project. In his contribution during the panel discussion, he emphasized that that was an important moment for equality, for the Commissioner for the Protection of Equality, and for business in Serbia. Experience across Europe has found that a proactive approach to equality, diversity and non-discrimination requires companies to be planned and systematic in their approach. In turn, a planned and systematic approach requires companies to put in place an equality infrastructure. This equality infrastructure starts with the development of an Equality Code of Practice which must be agreed upon, communicated and implemented within the company. Niall Crowley concluded that he hopes for a wide uptake of this Equality Code of Practice by businesses, and that business in Serbia is affirmed and recognized as a champion for equality.
The second panel, which carried the same title as the first panel, featured inputs by various other stakeholders in order to voice different insights about the topic at hand. The third panel was titled “Young People’s perception of anti-discrimination in the labor market in Serbia” and was followed by a lively discussion.
The conference provided an excellent platform for presenting and discussing the Guidebook for Developing an Anti-discrimination Code of Conduct for Employers. The CPE positioned itself well in the debate as a partner for business when it comes to implementing and further disseminating the code. It is to be hoped that business begins to network around the code and to take ownership of the code and its further development.