Following the successful implementation of the first online endevour (Webinars on Human Rights, Anti-Discrimination and Social Inclusion) and keeping in mind the very uncertain times of COVID-19, Symbiosis-School of Political Studies in Greece implemented the Webinars on Rights and Inclusion in the Times of COVID-19 during the period of June-July 2020. This seminar covered core issues relate to social inclusion during periods of crisis such the one we are currently getting through, the COVID-19 pandemic, in order to aware participants about human rights protection and promote active citizenship in an intensive programme. In particular, the presentations that constituted the seminar focused on the following thematic: human rights; city and inclusion; gender and equality; discrimination and activism; education and media.
The presentations and discussions involved a range of excellent, globally recognized speakers, including high profile academics and experts. In particular, the speakers were: Nils Muiznieks, President of the Association of the Schools of Political Studies, Council of Europe; Marianne Hester, Professor, Chair in Gender Violence & International Policy, University of Bristol; Sonja Licht, President of the Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence; Heinrich Geldschläger, Psychologist and Psychotherapist, CONEXUS. Atenció Formació i Investigació Psicosocials; Camillo Boano, Professor of Urban Design and Critical Theory, The Bartlett Development Planning Unit, University College London (UCL); Jacqueline Broadhead, Director, Global Exchange on Migration and Diversity, Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS), University of Oxford; Ana Perona-Fjeldstad, Executive Director, The European Wergeland Centre; Irena Guidikova, Head of Division, Inclusion and Anti-Discrimination Programmes, Council of Europe; Stefano Valenti, Head of No-Hate Speech and Cooperation Unit, Anti-discrimination Department, Council of Europe; Giovanna Astolfo, Lecturer in Building and Urban Design in Development, The Bartlett Development Planning Unit, University College London (UCL); Anne Bathily, Independent Consultant in Refugee Issues, Socio-economic Inclusion and Intercultural Practices; Cengiz Aktar, Political Scientist, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens; Sinead O’Gorman, European Director, Scholars at Risk Network; Remzi Lani, Executive Director of the Albanian Media Institute.
Since the pandemic became the focus of our lives, there are new takes on framing and (mis)framing human rights, while key rights are at stake, particularly during states of emergency and derogations, with severe impacts on media freedom, inequality rising and variable impacts on different groups, particularly minorities, while discussing human rights after the pandemic is urgently needed. While more disadvantaged people are the most affected by the situation in terms of health and security, social movements and their struggles to defend basic rights are also being dramatically affected. Social movements need to move, to appear in the streets, to meet and gather people in collective events. Movements are collective entities. So how can they act in a context of lockdown and social distancing or even isolation? Questions of responsibility arise, whose responsibility, for what, how and why?
During the COVID-19 pandemic, national governments have taken exceptional measures to slow down the spread of the virus. On numerous occasions, the Council of Europe Venice Commission has examined the limits of emergency powers. The Commission has consistently underlined that State security and public safety can only be effectively guaranteed in a democracy which fully respects the rule of law. Even in genuine cases of emergency situations, the rule of law must prevail.
The COVID-19 crisis is a reminder of the importance of ensuring lasting progress with respect to social rights enjoyment, particularly through the development of universal public health services. The pandemic shows in practical terms the indivisibility of human rights. It is crucial that the European Social Charter, also known as the Social Constitution of Europe, is used to shape human rights-compliant responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and to take stock once the crisis is over.
Major ethical challenges are raised, and difficult decisions are being taken in the COVID-19 crisis. It is essential that human dignity and human rights are upheld. The Oviedo Convention provides a unique international legal framework for states to use when taking important decisions in this context, which includes the principle of equitable access to health care (Article 3), guided by medical criteria, to prevent increased vulnerabilities and to avoid discrimination. Together with consent, protection of privacy and the other principles of the Convention, it reaffirms the fundamental link between human rights, solidarity and responsibility, essential in addressing the current crisis.
From an intercultural perspective some challenges posed are:
Threats to equality due to an increase in social inequalities: people, groups and territories which were already vulnerable before COVID-19 will most probably see their socio-economic situation worsening. Besides, not all citizens have access to clear, transparent and understandable information. A more fragmented and segregated society is a realistic scenario unless medium- and long-term strategies are put in place already now to map and address the specific challenges of the most vulnerable groups and individuals, and processes that involve the target groups in the preparation of the responses are promptly launched. These responses shall be comprehensive and aim at long-term sustainability from the social, economic, and environmental point of view. What is the role of intercultural leadership, strategies, and participatory processes in effectively contributing to overcoming social inequalities? Which role for the local authorities and their territories? Which processes should be put in place at what moments?
Threats to positive interaction through the temptation of privileging individual solutions to processes that require collective solutions: a deep crisis risks reinforcing individual strategies to ensure self-protection, with the danger of separating, marginalising, and segregating individuals and groups even further. How to reinforce a shared vision, cooperation, sense of belonging, collective responses, and citizens’ participation both during and after lockdown and physical distancing? How to communicate that processes are key and that certain policies and solutions require time and resources to produce their effects? How to re-organise societies and develop a vision for real inclusion in the post COVID era?
Threats to diversity through increase in racism, prejudice and stereotypes, and discriminatory practices: During the past months some countries have been witnessing public statements against certain nationalities and or hate speech, racial profiling to control quarantine and lockdown, increased risk of discriminatory actions by some police officers, increased risk of gender-based or homo-bi-transphobic violence in confinement. Yet, confinement has also triggered strong solidarity between neighbours regardless from nationality or residence permits, intergenerational support, youth engagement to be part of the solution, strengthening of social relations through digital tools, creativity, simplification of the administrative machines and their bureaucracy, and a strong resilience of human beings facing extreme situations. How to take advantage from these positive effects and sustain them over time? How to empower further neighbourhood associations and citizens’ participation in the spirit of cross-cultural mixing and interaction? How to make the municipal and state machines more creative, flexible and agile, not only in times of crises? How to promote further intercultural solidarity? How to value to contribution of everyone to our societies? Which role for the media in the information society?
Asynchronous Sessions and Modules
|Session I||Introductory Presentation|
|– Human Rights and COVID-19||Nils Muiznieks|
City and Inclusion
|– The Intercultural Cities Network||Irena Guidikova|
|– A new urban question: no inclusion without inhabitation||Camillo Boano|
|– The Inclusive Cities Framework||Jacqueline Broadhead|
|– The pandemic and migrant lives||Giovanna Astolfo|
Gender and Equality
|– Justice, Inequality and Gender-based Violence||Marianne Hester|
|– Women and Politics||Sonja Licht|
|– Working with men to stop gender-based violence||Heinrich Geldschläger|
Discrimination and Activism
|– Black Lives Matter in the European context||Anne Bathily|
|– Founding principles of the refugee protection recalled||Cengiz Aktar|
|– ECRI Standards and Monitoring relating to the non-discrimination in time on Covid-19 pandemic||Stefano Valenti|
Education and Media
|– Citizenship Education and COVID-19: re-thinking roles?||Ana Perona-Fjeldstad|
|– Researchers at risk: European coordination of support||Sinead O’Gorman|
|– Freedom of Media: Questioning the usual assumptions||Remzi Lani|
Moderated Live Online Discussions Programme
Gender, Equality and Education
|Monday, 13 July 2020||Speakers
City, Activism and Inclusion
|Wednesday, 15 July 2020||Speakers