Strategic Litigation

A tool for strengthening anti-discrimination legislation


17-18 December 2005

City Hall, London



Proposal Summary


In the context of the UK Presidency of the European Union (July-December 2005), ENAR wishes to organise its next conference in London. All ENAR conferences have a preset theme, set through consultation with its members, agreed by its General Assembly and approved by the European Commission (at date of drafting the proposal this approval is still outstanding). Holding the conference in the forthcoming presidency country however allows it to additionally raise key issues of interest in the areas of racism and racial discrimination to be considered for the Presidency’s agenda. It therefore provides a key opportunity for anti-racism NGOs across Europe to have a voice at the centre of European politics and development.



Conference Background


Since 2003 (May 2004 for new EU Member States), the European Union has required its Member States to implement the ‘Race Equality Directive’ (2000/43) adopted in 2000. Whilst in some of these Member States national anti-discrimination legislation was already in place, a number of countries did not have any such laws to tackle racial discrimination and to date, some have yet to introduce adequate legislation towards meeting this need. The European Commission, as guardian of the EU Treaties, has undertaken court proceedings against those countries. However, anti-racist NGOs also have a crucial role in monitoring and ensuring that adequate legal standards are in place, but more importantly, that they are used in order to have comparable legal protection from racial discrimination throughout the EU. The subject for this ENAR conference is, therefore, strategic litigation.


Good quality strategic litigation can serve the following purposes:


1.     Encourage greater numbers of victims of racial discrimination to present their cases to the courts

2.     Encourage the development of existing anti-discrimination legislation in national contexts

3.     Test and develop the existing anti-discrimination legislation against the requirements of EU legislation

4.     Encourage the further development of EU legislation against racial discrimination and other forms of discrimination


The UK has some of the best legislation in Europe on racism and racial discrimination and a wealth of experience of litigation in this area. There is much to be learnt from this experience for the rest of the EU member states.


There is only a hand full of NGO’s and legal practitioners in Europe using strategic litigation in the context of ethnic discrimination. Litigation is known to need extensive legal experience and sufficient time and resources to be successful before the courts. Legal instruments, not only at State and EU level, but also within the Council of Europe and, to a limited extent, the UN, offer the possibility to litigate. Concrete examples (Nachova vs Bulgaria, etc) show that Human Rights Court (CoE) sentences can clarify provisions in international conventions or laws. The more cases fought through in court, the more guidance is provided.


After having worked intensively on the ‘Race Equality Directive’ in 1999, ENAR has monitored and influenced the transposition of the ‘Race Equality Directive’ at national level since 2000. ENAR has understood that the time has come to make use of the laws drawing from the Directive. Within its work programme for 2005/2006, one policy focus is on strategic litigation.


ENAR is furthermore involved in the SOLID project, in cooperation with NICEM, Interights, ERRC and others, to offer training to NGOs supporting victims of racism in their attempt to receive justice through the courts system. Within its work programme, activities are proposed such as sensitising for strategic litigation and disseminating information on litigation at national level. Those activities intend to complement the training offered by SOLID and not duplicate them.



Aims of the Conference


Historically, NGOs have not made extensive use of laws in enforcing justice. Legislation appears in most cases to be far removed from the activities of NGOs. A proper understanding is needed of how laws and international conventions can support the fight against racism and, in the long run, change perceptions of ethnic discrimination in society.


The aims of the conference are as follows:




Planned Outcome


The conference will seek primarily to raise awareness and disseminate information, but will also aim to achieve the following outcomes:



Structure of the Conference


The conference will take place over two days. The first day will be structured in three parts, of which one will take place before lunch and two after. The second day will include a morning session dedicated to workshops, split by a coffee break, while the afternoon session will be used to report back from the workshops and to conclude the conference with key suggestions for the future.


Day 1: Presentations aimed at understanding the principles and practices of strategic litigation


Day one will focus on awareness raising and information-sharing regarding strategic litigation. Overviews of legal structures and frameworks, and examples of successful court cases will illustrate the options and potential in this regard. A closing session on day one will outline the roles of various stakeholders in the litigation process and underline how cooperation and alliances are key to successful litigation.


Day 2: Promoting NGO participation in litigation


Day two of the conference will focus on the role of NGOs in the process of litigation. There will be four breakout sessions exploring a number of issues including what legal expertise is needed to carry out successful litigation. In addition, it will provide participants with the opportunity to discuss what support roles anti-racism NGOs can play before, during and after concrete court proceedings – e.g., disseminating information, collecting evidence and supporting victims. A moderated closing session will provide an overview of the outcomes of the workshop discussions.



Logistics of the Conference


Target Group

The target audience for the conference will be ENAR members. NGOs working directly with victims of ethnic deicrimination or in the context of legislation could take preference in the selection of paid particiants. Participants could include regional or national organisations with some basic legal expertise with the intention to intensify their efforts in this specific sector of anti racism work. Lawyers sympathetic to anti racism work should also be invited via legal umbrella groups. It is estimated that there will be 70 participants at the conference, ten of which will serve as facilitators.


Bursaried participants should be chosen by national coordinations following a criteria of track record of expertise in directly working with victims of ethnic discrimination; some understanding of anti-discrimination legislation and legal procedures; commitment and ability to contribute actively to the expected outcome of the conference; and a commitment to invest sufficient time for conference participation preparation.