Democracy & Justice

Racial Equality Impact Assessments Could Combat Institutional Racism in Spain

Racial Equality Impact Assessments are a social tool aimed at identifying, and offering practical solutions to, elements that lead to discrimination and inequality in decision-making processes. They should used at all levels of decision making.

by Pilar Eirene de Prada

We can't deny the reality that surrounds us. Even if we don't want to see it, racism is deeply rooted both in Spanish society and in the state. Its roots are so deep that in many cases we do not even notice it, as the United Nations Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent stated after their visit to Spain in 2018.

Report shows how deeply rooted racism is in Spain

This is also supported by the data. A recent report by the Council for the Elimination of Racial or Ethnic Discrimination (CEDRE) shows an increase in racism in all areas of life, especially in access to housing (31% of those surveyed have experienced discrimination), education (20%) and police treatment (19%).

There is a new challenge that has been added to this. Globally, more and more space is being given to racist ideas and racist policies. The rise of populist parties with extreme right-wing ideologies has tested both the system of fundamental human rights guarantees and democracy itself. These parties use fear and hate as the axis of their discourse, deploying narratives about the "other" as an enemy, which creates an easy and electorally profitable resource. Their goal is to advance their own agenda based on anti-democratic values to deprive part of the population of their rights.

These parties use racist and xenophobic speech as a pillar on which to build their political proposals, thus normalizing racism. And when their political leaders make aggressive interventions in parliamentary institutions, and drive the narrative in traditional and social media, they legitimize these types of attitudes and encourage people to show them publicly.

It is time for institutions and society to acknowledge loud and clear that racial discrimination is not only present in society, but it is also rooted in institutions. It also needs to be said that we must redouble our efforts to eradicate it. Only in this way will we be able to achieve the society we all want: One that is supportive, inclusive, and which carries at its core the aspiration to become authentically intercultural and egalitarian.

What are Racial Equality Impact Assessments?

A Racial Equality Impact Assessment (REIA) is a social innovation tool aimed at identifying elements that cause discrimination and inequality in decision-making processes. They also propose practical solutions to these problems. They aim to reduce, eliminate and prevent institutional racism and inequalities while supporting racial equity through proactive and preventive measures.

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The core elements of REIA are the identification and involvement of key social actors, data collection and analysis, analysis of potential adverse effects, and the proposal of alternatives that promote racial equality. These are intended to reach all levels at which decisions are made, both in the public and private spheres. They include regulatory issues, policies, practices, decisions making, and budgetary issues, through a cross-sectional approach, similar to gender impact assessments.

This year Rights International Spain (RIS) has developed a pioneering project to promote the implementation of this tool in Spain, with financing from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Office. It has counted on the active participation of ten Afro-descendant and anti-racist organizations and collectives in Spain: namely, Afrogalegas, Afromurcia en Movimiento, Asociación de Juristas Afroeuropeos, Biznegra, Comunidad Negra Africana y Afrodescendiente en España, Equipo de Implementación del Decenio Afrodescendiente en España, Federación Unión Africana de España, Red de Hondureñas Migradas, SOS Racismo Galicia and SOS Racismo Madrid.

We believe that this tool is destined to play a central role in the fight against racial discrimination. For this reason we have asked parliamentary groups to adopt Racial Equality Impact Assessments (REIA) as a cross-sectional measure in all decision-making processes. The aim of this is to effectively combat institutional racism. In addition, we stress the importance of starting to collect disaggregated data on race and ethnicity in general, as well as to be able to determine the concrete impact of rules, policies and practices. Likewise, the need to introduce consultations with vulnerable and invisible groups such as ethnic and racial minorities, and increase their presence in institutions and in positions of responsibility in the administration.

Social organizations take the lead

So far institutions have failed to acknowledge that they, and society itself, are built on deeply rooted racist strctures. In response to this, social organizations wanted to take a step forward in the fight against racial discrimination by adapting and appropriating REIA. This process has culminated in the creation of the Study and Diagnostic Questionnaire on Racial Equality in Spain. This is a guide designed to enable social agents, regardless of their size or area of specialization, to analyze in depth the possible unequal effects of norms, policies and practices that they think have the potential to produce discriminatory effects on racial grounds.

However, although social organizations have decided to take the lead, we insist that REIA must be adopted in all decision-making processes to effectively combat racism in institutions.

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