Presentation of Results of the Survey on the Attitudes of Representatives of Public Authorities towards Discrimination
It is critical to instill a policy of zero tolerance for discrimination in public institutions in Serbia. There is no significant difference between how citizens and representatives of public authorities perceive discrimination, but there are differences between regions of Serbia: discrimination is more likely to be recognized, i.e. there is greater understanding among the respondents about what is discrimination in Vojvodina, West Serbia and in Belgrade, than in Eastern or Southern Serbia. Also there are no differences in how representatives of three branches of power in Serbia recognize discrimination.
These are but a few notable findings of a nation-wide survey on the Attitudes of Representatives of Public Authorities towards Discrimination, organized by the Commissioner for the Protection of Equality and UNDP in cooperation with IPSOS. At a press conference in Media Centre in Belgrade on 31 January 2014, the three partners presented the results.
Professor Nevena Petrušic, the Commissioner for the Protection of Equality of Serbia explained that her Office has a pretty good understanding of how general population in Serbia perceives discrimination, but, since 40% of complaints to her office allege discrimination in the interaction with state bodies, it was necessary to ascertain causes of such situation and whether employees and representatives of public authorities can tell discrimination better than ordinary citizens. "The representatives of public authorities have poor knowledge of the regulations on discrimination, with one in five lacking knowledge that discrimination is prohibited", said Commissioner Petrušic.
Irena Vojačkova-Sollorano, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Serbia reiterated UN’s value based approach and expressed great pleasure that years of excellent cooperation between the Commissioner and UNDP in Serbia have resulted in such an excellent knowledge product – first of its kind in Serbia, which will help further the work of the Commissioner. Despite excellent achievements, however, "One should not be complacent, the society should build up a policy of zero tolerance for discrimination. […] we all want to live in a fair society with equal opportunities for all", she stressed.
Marko Uljarević, IPSOS researcher highlighted most notable results. "Persons with mental disability, Roma, representatives of sexual minorities are universaly perceived as the most discriminated against. Discrimination is by far the most perceived in the area of employment. Also, as much as 29% of public authority representatives stated that they have personally been victims of discrimination, which is astounding information. The Commissioner for the Protection of Equality is one of the rare state institutions which the citizens perceive more positively than negatively", said Marko Uljarević.
Finally, Ivana Krstić, IPSOS expert consultant and a professor of the Belgrade Law Faculty highlighted that there is still significant lack of knowledge that discrimination always need to include some personal capacity as grounds for discrimination, which diffuses the understanding of discrimination. Also, there is only a declaratory support to the special affirmative action measures and that those discriminated against are responsible for such a position, themselves. Both prof. Krstić and Commissioner Petrušic were struck with the expectation of representatives of public authorities that the responsibility for fighting prejudices and discrimination lies significantly on citizens themselves, which testifies to a certain evasion of responsibility of state institutions.