An Equality Impact Assessment (EQIA) is a process which is meant to ensure that all government functions - policies, projects, and spending promote equality. In Northern Ireland EQIAs are a statutory obligation which arose from our peace agreement (Section 75 (1) of the NI Act, 1998). EQIAs are a recognition that persisting inequality fuels division and conflict and that equality must be the cornerstone of a peaceful and democratic society. EQIAs are also participatory processes, as noted by the first guidance produced by the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland:

“Equality schemes, and equality impact assessments, are intended to increase participation and inclusion, to change the culture of public decision making, and to place a more proactive approach to the promotion of equality at the heart of public policy.” Practical Guidance on Equality Impact Assessment, Equality Commission February 2005, p.3

Unfortunately, EQIAs have not put the “promotion of equality at the heart of public policy”, nor have they altered existing patterns of social and economic inequality. As opposed to participatory and democratic mechanism, EQIAs have become technical processes which exclude the meaningful and effective participation of people experiencing inequality.

PPR’s use of EQIAs aims to change this.

We work with people experiencing inequality to:

  • identify how they can demand EQIAs be carried out on policies affecting them
  • gather and analyse data on inequality and present reports to government bodies who have legal responsibilities to promote equality
  • develop strategies to ensure that government bodies address inequalities and include people affected by inequality

And our approach has been effective.

PPR’s organising with the Girdwood Residents’ Jury led to the first ever EQIA being carried out on an urban regeneration project in Northern Ireland.  Our work with the Lower Shankill Regeneration Board forced the government to carry out an EQIA, and then through community organising in this process managed to have the government sponsored masterplan abandoned and a new equality based regeneration process, with community participation, initiated an announcement that 'Nothing about us, without us, is for us!'

In 2008, a delegation of PPR group members travelled to Geneva to provide testimonies and evidence to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights during their examination of the UK government. Following evidence provided, the Committee concluded:  “31. The Committee is concerned about the persistent levels of deprivation and inequality throughout Northern Ireland, despite the adoption of the Northern Ireland Equality Impact Assessment. (art. 11)

''The Committee recommends that the human rights framework, including the Equality Impact Assessment, be effectively implemented in Northern Ireland, particularly in the context of urban regeneration programmes by ensuring the participation of the affected populations and the development of adequate policies and targeted measures to promote substantive equality, provide for improved health care, as well as an increase in skills training and employment opportunities for young people and adequate housing programmes for the poor and, in particular, Catholic families.” Examination of UK Government, 2009 Concluding Observations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.