#GPConf: New Green Party policy section focusing on Equality and Diversity
Last weekend, Green Party members voted to create a new section of policy focusing on Equality and Diversity.
So, why is this needed? Lots of Green policy talks about equality, discrimination, and encouraging diversity in areas from housing through to education. As one of the signatories of the motion, it was clear to me that the Party wants to do the right thing but is not taking the correct approach when proposing these policies in a piecemeal way.
It’s important that our policies on equality and diversity set out how these concepts relate to our values and philosophy, as well as dealing with their practical application. Today the ideas of equality, and in particular ‘fairness’ are used to justify systems which promote inequality and exclusion. Coalition Government Ministers talk about the ‘fairness’ of certain policies – mostly when the outcome of their ‘fairness’ suits their interests and ideology. The Greens need to challenge these ideas, and instead to champion our own vision of equality and diversity, set out in our philosophical basis:
“The legitimate interests of all people are of equal value. The Green Party rejects all forms of discrimination whether based on race, colour, sex, religion, national origin, social origin or any other prejudice. We accept the need for social institutions to protect the interests of the powerless against the powerful.”
So, what happens next? Well, the motion creates a ‘working group’ that will meet, consult experts, and propose a whole new chapter of Equality & Diversity policy within the next 18 months. In doing this, the Green Party can look at where there are gaps in policy, or make it more consistent. There were several motions to this conference addressing issues facing trans* people – an area where our existing policy was lacking. This process also means we can have conversations with groups inside and outside of the Party working on equality and representing groups in our society that experience oppression. The working group is open to all party members and individuals from outside who would like to give input.
Something which came out of workshop discussions was how the Green Party should embed an equalities perspective on all our policies. One idea was to require some form of equality impact assessment of new policies. Another idea is to conduct a parallel policy process through liberation groups within the Party, meaning they could create their own policy, based on previous models that have worked well for the Young Greens. This latter idea would result in liberation policies that were not binding to the national parties, but would presumably influence Green Party national policy and feed into the overall policy setting process.
The discussion is quite timely – the Party is currently reviewing how it creates policy. At present you need just a handful of party members to sign a motion to get it proposed to a conference, a somewhat problematic process when you have 55 000 members!
The next 18 months will be a lot of work, but the rewards are likely to be better policies and the opportunity to really engage with the issues of equality and diversity and with organisations working to promote them. If you would like to get involved in the working group, contact Fiona Costello firstname.lastname@example.org