Posts Tagged ‘civil society’

Racism and discrimination everyday practices in Denmark – ENAR

Monday, November 9th, 2009

By Michael de Laine, Copenhagen, 9th November 2009

Racism and discriminatory practices take place every day, says ENAR, the European Network Against Racism, in its 2008 Shadow Report, ‘Racism in Denmark’. Many academic surveys, reports from distinguished organisations and NGOs have documented the unequal treatment given minorities in Denmark.

In its statistics, the Danish government describes non-European communities in a particular manner, according to ENAR, the European Network Against Racism.

Discriminated groups vary in ethnicity, cultures and religions, but, in the last few years, an open and hostile atmosphere towards Muslim groups has become very visible in all spheres of life, the organisation says.

Racism and discriminatory practices take place every day, as evidenced by many academic surveys, reports from distinguished organisations and NGOs, which have documented beyond doubt the unequal treatment given to minorities.

However, the ENAR report states, the single most discriminated area is the labour market – employment opportunities, apprenticeships and the negative views of employers.

In another discriminating area, housing and accommodation, “minorities are often directed by housing societies towards places and quarters where the percentage of socially deprived Danes and various minority groups is already high,” ENAR states. “Having done that, the authorities then call those areas ‘ghettoes’.”

In education there is an important focus on the Danish language, while mother-tongue education for minority children is almost abolished. There are also efforts to spread minority children in as many schools as possible in the name of integration. “The Danish education system is thus becoming a tool in the hands of anti-minority political forces,” the anti-racism organisation says.

In the health sector, children of asylum-seeking families are suffering while interpreting facilities are non-existent for women and elderly sick patients.

The relationship between the police and minority youth deteriorated in 2008 due to the increasing use of racial profiling by the authorities in stop-and-search raids in the neighbourhood, ENAR says. Police arrogance has caused friction and stress. Although Danish society has been relatively peaceful until recently, racial violence and crime have accelerated steadily, causing deaths and shootings.

“Right-wing movements take advantage of the negative atmosphere and recruit new members for their cause,” the ENAR report states. “Harassment of Muslim women and Jewish students is a cause for alarm.”

When it comes to accessing goods and services in the private sector, discrimination in discos, bars and entertainment places is still very widespread and out of the control of authorities.

In public services, small minority children are forcefully removed from homes and taken to Danish foster parents – a big issue that minorities feel very strongly about, the organisation says in its report.

“The media are often hostile towards non-European minorities, especially towards Muslim communities,” ENAR says. “The republishing of the caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed in 2008, splashing headlines in terror suspect cases before the trial or conviction, giving the green light to anti-minority politicians and focusing excessively on the negative stories have created a very bad image of minorities. Media debates as usual focused on Islam, the headscarf, radicalisation, and terrorism by Muslims.”

According to ENAR’s shadow report 2008 on Denmark, such developments have a political and legal context. “In the absence of strong legal protective measures against racism and discrimination and the free reign for politicians to say what they like, minorities have great difficulty in attaining equal rights and opportunities,” ENAR states.

Talking to NGOs, it became clear to ENAR that, in recent years, civil society, which was very active until 2001, has lost hope and faith in a positive change.

“On the anti-discrimination front, the government refuses to officially acknowledge the existence of racism in Denmark,” ENAR says. The government’s action plans “are full of talk about diversity and mono-cultural integration without a concentrated effort to tackle racism and discrimination,” it adds. “The name of the newly established Board of Equal Treatment (which does not deal with racism or discrimination) is a good example. Most of the new laws concerning minorities are actually new restrictions on citizenship, family reunions, asylum and social rights.”

According to ENAR, Denmark has been repeatedly criticised by EU institutions and international organisations, but, due to the lack of sanctions, the government has dismissed all valid criticism.

Successful integration has been linked by the government to the end of third-country nationals entering Denmark. This policy has had the desired effects by reducing asylum and family reunions from Asia, Africa and the Middle East, especially Muslim countries.

“The whole burden of integration has been put on the shoulder of ethnic minorities who are asked to adopt the Danish way of living by discarding their own values and traditions,” ENAR states in the report.

The anti-racism organisation notes that there are few practical remedies against racism and racial profiling, but there is a great focus on anti-terrorism.

Danish anti-terrorism laws are stricter than EU laws, ENAR says, and some cases in 2008 proved that many people were arrested without any substantial proof.

“Such drastic measures have alienated and angered Muslim communities who find themselves targeted because of suspicions and actions of a very tiny number of Muslim individuals,” the organisation adds. “The result of these negative developments is social exclusion, increase in poverty, break up of trust and the ‘us’ versus ‘them’ divide.”

ENAR says it believes that this divide will widen if the Danish media, politicians and local authorities do not come to realise that ethnic and religious minorities are here to stay and that an intercultural society with equal rights and opportunities is the best guarantee for an inclusive society.

“2008 was the European Year for Intercultural Living,” the organisation says. “Minorities hope that the Danish media, politicians and authorities have learnt from this message to not only divert their attention from Danish values but to focus on universal values of respect, accept and understanding for all.”

Strengthen volunteer work as supplement to public and private sectors, says Cevea

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

By Michael de Laine, Copenhagen, 13th October 2009

Voluntary work by the civil society is a vital supplement to the work carried out by the public and private sectors in Denmark, and the voluntary sector should play a larger role in public welfare and social policy in particular, a survey carried out for the centre-left think-tank Cevea shows. Voluntary work has great potential for integration. Cevea has published 22 recommendations that politicians can implement today make greater use of and give greater recognition to civil society’s voluntary work.

There will always be a need for voluntary work – the third sector – and volunteers often do a better job than the public and private sectors, a survey conducted for the centre-left think-tank Cevea shows.

According to the survey, which was carried out by Interresearch in collaboration with Frivilligt Forum, an umbrella organisation for groups involved in volunteer work, and the Sports Confederation of Denmark (DIF), 46% of the people polled believe that volunteers do a better job than the public and private sectors; 15.9% disagree. 77.8% say there will always be a need for voluntary work.

Cevea agrees with the people polled that voluntary work is a vital supplement to the work carried out by the public and private sectors – and volunteers should be used where they can supplement and support the other sectors where they can develop solutions to concrete challenges.

According to the think-tank, volunteers have involvement in and responsibility for their work; they have insight into the tasks performed and proximity to the people receiving their services; they are flexible and full of ideas for doing the work; and they enjoy respect and mutual recognition in social communities.

These values in particular have a potential in the renewal of public welfare and social policy,” Cevea says. Here, civil society in the form of the voluntary sector should play a much larger role. This also applies to the broader voluntary work carried out in other areas – such as sports clubs, housing associations and hobby organisations – where democracy and the feeling of togetherness in society are developed.

Voluntary work has great potential for integration – the children of immigrants can be involved in sports, where each game has rules, and through this involvement can get a stronger attachment to and understanding for society in a broader context.

But Danish politicians do not give the third sector the same degree of recognition that it receives in other countries, Cevea says.

In Washington DC, President Barack Obama moved the civil society into the White House when he moved in, while former British Prime Minister Tony Blair opened an ambitious ‘Office for the Third Sector’ in 2002,” the think-tank says. “At the same time, both Norway and Sweden have adopted ambitious national action plans for developing and supporting civil society and for realising the potentials of voluntary work.”

According to Cevea, if unpaid voluntary work in Denmark had the same value as it does in Sweden, it would employ 130,000 people and have a value of about DKr 56 billion a year, equalling about 3.9% of gross national product.

In a report, ‘Borgerens inddragelse – afdækning af det frivilliges potentiale (Involving the people – the potential of voluntary work)’, Cevea has published 22 recommendations that politicians can implement immediately to make greater use of and give greater recognition to civil society’s voluntary work.

  • A new national holiday should be introduced to draw attention to the work of the civil society.
  • It should be possible for conscripts to do service in a voluntary organisation.
  • Popular sports with a broad base should be strengthened nationally and locally, and tasks that sports organisations carry out for authorities should be financed by the authorities.
  • University students should receive merits for work experience jobs in voluntary organisations.
  • Middle-level managers in voluntary organisations should be trained at a new academy.
  • The government should create a ministry for voluntary work.
  • The government should develop a national action plan that promotes the potential of voluntary work.
  • All legislation about voluntary work should be collated in one voluntary work law.
  • The existing jungle of funding sources should be replaced by fewer, transparent sources that are part of the annual state budget.
  • Voluntary initiatives should be financed by funding aimed at the start-up, development and stabilisation phases.
  • There should be a separate funding source for documentation and evaluation of voluntary work.
  • A national knowledge centre for voluntary work should be created.
  • A ‘voluntary work town of the year’ should be named annually.
  • Centres for voluntary work should be the local anchorage for the broad-based voluntary work.
  • Voluntary work centres should have more resources that are earmarked so they can meet their extra responsibilities.
  • The voluntary work centres must develop local strategies for targeted information campaigns about voluntary work.
  • The state and local authorities should introduce a policy of buying products and services from the voluntary sector.
  • All local authorities should encourage their service institutions such as nursing homes to collaborate with voluntary work centres in creating associations of relatives to people in the service institutions.
  • There should more non-profit institutions with greater autonomy.
  • Agreements between public authorities and voluntary organisations should include trade unions to define demarcations between the work of volunteers and professional staff.
  • Unused funds for voluntary work in one local authority should be transferred to local authorities that have used too much on voluntary work.F
  • unds should be earmarked for voluntary projects aimed at increasing integration of immigrants.