Dr. Regina Polak, Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office on Combating Racism, Xenophobia and Discrimination
The European Values Study 2017/2018 is a large-scale, cross-national, repeated cross-sectional survey research programme on basic human values of citizens all over Europe that concerns family, work, environment, politics, and other such topics.
The study shows that a joint effort in promoting tolerance and combatting discrimination makes a difference. In countries, where governments and civil society actively promote integration and address the value of diverse and cohesive societies, there is a less racist and xenophobic attitude towards migrants. In countries where political discourse heightens cultural anxiety, and where anti-migration policies prevail, negative perceptions of migrants remain extraordinarily high. These results will be published in 2022 in a special volume on “Values – Politics – Religion”, which I will edit.
According to the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) report OSCE Human Dimension Commitments and State Responses to the Covid-19 Pandemic 2020 developments during the pandemic give cause for concern. Racism, xenophobia, intolerance, and discrimination are still deeply embedded in the OSCE region. Hate-motivated attacks and various forms of online harassment and discrimination were reported. Women were especially affected, being victims in different ways than men.
The pandemic shed light on the important role of migrants and migrant workers in society — especially in the health care systems, nursing homes, agricultural and domestic work. But also, the harsh conditions in which many of them work, became visible.
Improved co-operative, comprehensive and cross-dimensional efforts on changing the perception towards migrants are necessary in the OSCE region. OSCE participating States have committed themselves, through a number of mechanisms, to protecting foreigners against acts of violence, combating discrimination against migrant workers and, subject to national legislation and international commitments, combatting discrimination against asylum seekers and refugees (Maastricht, 2003). States have reconfirmed their condemnation of all acts of discrimination on the ground of race, colour and ethnic origin, intolerance, and xenophobia against migrant workers (Budapest 1995). States committed to taking appropriate measures to better prevent racist attacks and other manifestations of violent intolerance against migrant workers and their families. States also considered undertaking activities to raise public awareness of the enriching contribution of migrants and migrant workers to society (Sofia, 2004). Participating States should restate, that human rights and fundamental freedoms are universal, and also to be afforded to migrant workers, wherever they live. States are responsible for creating conditions that foster greater harmony between migrants and host societies. States need to promote narratives and visions of inclusive and cohesive societies. Including migrants´ active participation in society and encouraging and enabling them to actively contribute to media, public and political discourses, and educational and civil society institutions would go a long way in achieving these goals.
Improving co-operation with civil society — focusing on migrant and women activist groups — plays a crucial role in this regard. Coalition-Building for Tolerance and Non-Discrimination, a practical tool developed by ODIHR, has proved to be effective in reaching common goals.
ODIHR has additional resources, materials, and tools for migrant integration, supporting States and civil society actors to combat hate crimes and promote tolerance and non-discrimination.
I am convinced, that taking a joint effort and co-operation at all levels of society will change perceptions towards migrants and contribute to inclusive and cohesive societies shaped by trust, mutual understanding, and respect for diversity.