ENAR Extraordinary General Assembly 2021
On September 16th, ENAR kicked off its 3-day hybrid extraordinary General Assembly in Brussels. For the first time in nearly a year and a half, ENAR members were able to physically gather as a network and work together to strengthen the anti-racist movement in Europe.
ENAR Extraordinary General Assembly
Racial Justice in a New Era – The Power of Movement
Brussels – 16-18 September 2021
Board Election Results
Following the online voting by members, we warmly welcome Amiirah Salleh-Hoddin and Julie Jeeg as our new board members!
Amiirah Salleh-Hoddin, who represents the Anti-Racist Forum in Finland, joins us as the 2nd Vice-Chair.
Julie Jeeg, who represents SOS Racism in Denmark, joins us as an Ordinary Board.
We are also pleased to announce that Shaban Sidratu Jah Sesay, representing the European Network of Women of African Descent in Spain, has been confirmed as the ENAR Board Treasurer.
Thank you to all our members for voting, and congratulations to our board members!
Racial Justice in a New Era – The Power of Movement
Day One – Our event started off with the first of a two-part online session on Digital Organising by Social Movement Technologies: “Principles and Elements of Persuasive Graphic Design”. During the session, participants were taught about the fundamentals to creating impactful visual content and how it can be used to build up awareness towards a cause or movement.
Day Two – During the opening plenary session, Karen Taylor, ENAR Chair, delivered an energetic welcoming speech to all participants (online and in-person). The excitement of physically gathering the anti-racist movement for the first time in the same room was palpable. For a network like ENAR willing to embody and reflect solidarity in its actions, physical meetings are crucial.
Workshops led by members were then organised to open the space for discussions on key issues for our movement, such as:
- Doing Anti-Racist Work Outside Big Cities (Áltera represented by Claudio Tochi, Luciano Scagliotti and Licia Cianetti from the University of Birmingham) where we explored reasons and opportunities to increase advocacy work on anti-racism in small cities, especially discussing the importance of NAPAR and transnational networks for small cities.
- Movement Building (Apna Haq represented by Zlakha Ahmed) which focused on the importance of movement building and activism. Apna Haq’s own experience against the UK government’s funding cuts to essential services for Black and minoritised women was shared as a starting block to movement building.
- Improving our Advocacy Work (Czech Helsinki Committee represented by Lika Gogliashvili)
- Decolonisation (Hand in Hand tegen Racism represented by Nyanchama Okemwa)
- Artificial Intelligence (Lucy Michael, Consultant & Juliana Walhgren, ENAR)
During the sessions, members fostered solidarity by sharing their expertise, gained insight from different perspectives, and traded best practices to face key challenges.
As the workshops came to a close, participants returned to the plenary session to engage with the ARDI Members of the European Parliament: Cornelia Ernst (MEP, GUE/NGL), Pierrette Herzberger-Fofana (MEP, Greens/EFA), Romeo Franz (MEP, Greens/EFA), and Jelena Jovanovic (ARDI Coordinator). In these exchanges ENAR members were able to discuss how to strengthen their relationship with the MEPs and the EP’s upcoming priorities to increase EU action in the field of racial justice and equality.
We then welcomed Michaela Moua, the first ever European Commission Anti-Racism Coordinator, as our special key note speaker. Michaela’s speech stressed the importance of social justice movements, calling the last few years a time of reckoning in the EU. Recognizing the challenges ahead, the Anti-Racism Coordinator affirmed her mission to ensure the successful implementation of the Anti-Racism Action Plan, and the necessity of civil society cooperation to achieve that. She also touched upon the need to strengthen equality bodies, the hope of adopting binding legislation for equality bodies by 2022, and the importance of gathering equality data to guide the work that needs to be done. After her speech, Michaela took the time to answer questions from our members which ranged from the appointment of a new Coordinator on Anti-Muslim Hatred to the silence from the Commission after civil society voiced concerns over the dissolution of CCIF in France. The session closed with Michaela acknowledging that new challenges would still arise but that she believed in the support of civil society to keep EU institutions accountable and achieve change.
Next up, a panel discussion on racial justice in a new era- challenges and opportunities ahead moderated by Shada Islam, and featuring:
- Naomie Pieter, Anti-Racist Activist in The Netherlands
- Rina Rosenberg, Adalah the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel
- Srdjan Amet, Roma Lawyers Association in Macedonia
- Tufyal Choudhury, Associate Professor, University of Durham and Senior Research Fellow on Rule of Law and National Security, Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law, and Author of ENAR’s report ‘Suspicion, Discrimination, and Surveillance: The impact of counter-terrorism law and policy on racialized groups at risk of racism in Europe’
Shada began by talking about the many challenges faced due to COVID-19, and the ways the pandemic only further revealed the inequalities, discriminations, and lack of protections that racialized communities faced. Despite authorities trying to use the pandemic as an excuse to further control those communities, George Floyd’s murder was a catalyst for many to take to the streets. Naomie mentioned the significance that many white-majority people participated, as seen in the Netherlands and elsewhere. The value of organizing on the ground became more essential. The mobilization that took place allowed for real conversations to happen around topics that would have otherwise been dismissed altogether, such as institutional racism in state policies and practices reflecting legacy of past oppressions. During her intervention, Rina talked about the weaponization of antisemitism to delegitimize the Palestinian struggle for rights. “Antisemitism must be fought hard, but criticism of Israeli policies does not represent antisemitism”, she stated.
For Srdjan, there was a clear feeling that Europeans could do more to support the rights of Roma people, saying “these issues are not sparking real debate, especially not in the Balkan region. We must raise more awareness and build more capacity”. As an expert on counter-terrorism policies, Tufyal brought up the weaponization of citizenship, with European states taking them away from women and children in the name of security and counter-terrorism. “The labelling of people as security threat, which has been the crust of CT policy for decades now, has changed society and allowed for racialised groups being dealt with as such, not as people”, he concluded. The panel concluded with the confirmation that one of the biggest challenges moving forward is to maintain pressure on the EU to deal with these issues.
We then opened the floor to members to share their thoughts about this new era for anti-racism. Participants re-iterated the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement: “BLM ripped a plaster off a sore wound, and now there are discussions on racism, decolonization and other sources of oppression”. This transitioned into a need to talk about decolonization beyond a geo political sense: “Who were these perpetrators? Only a small cluster of the elite: royal hose/church/traders. They lied to their own people, the workers did not get any advantages out of the colonization…”. The conversation then moved towards the aim to strengthen solidarity to effectively influence the institutions, and that the anti-racist movement needs their support. The CCIF dissolution in France was mentioned again along with the notable lack of response from the institutions, bringing the topic back to the need to decolonize the narrative of the “Islamisation of Europe”. Members expressed a serious need to end the criminalisation of civil society for daring to criticize state governments, and called for a public reaction against Islamophobia and negative narratives framing Muslims as always being suspicious, including in the anti-racism movement (our statement here).
Karen Taylor concluded the session and day by stressing the importance of fostering solidarity, and creating more safe spaces where different communities can come together and talk about their needs.
Day Three – Welcoming everyone back to the plenary session, Karen Taylor started the day off by presenting the ENAR secretariat staff to the membership and recognizing their daily efforts to drive the anti-racist movement forward.
After a round of applause, Juliana Wahlgren, ENAR Senior Advocacy Officer and interim Director, delivered a brief presentation of ENAR’s 2022 priorities and work plan. Upon the work plan’s approval, the plenary session went into breakout spaces for a World Café with ENAR staff members introducing their work along with a supporting board member:
- Rebranding and communications (Nabil Sanaullah, Xavier Donker)
- Admin and finances (Ines Boudghene, Anne-Sophie Marchant, Sidra Jah)
- Equal@Work platform (Magda-Sarah Boulabiza, Giulia Frova)
- Networking (Nadia Asri)
- Advocacy (Juliana Wahlgren, Julie Pascoët, Karen Taylor)
During the exchanges, members were divided into smaller groups, both online and in-person, giving each a more direct and informal opportunity to interact with staff members and ask their questions on specific aspects of the secretariat’s work.
For the final session of the General Assembly, we had staff-led parallel workshops, along with the second part of the Digital Organising workshop:
- Policing and Transformative Justice (Ojeaku Nwabuzo) which explored the concept of going beyond policing as a social mechanism of punishment and imagining new ways and mechanisms to address existing issues in society.
- Brainstorming on ENAR’s governance: needs and structures (Mahmoud AbuRahma, Anne-Sophie Marchant, Myriam De Feyter)
- National Action Plans against Racism (Julie Pascoët). A continuation of ENAR working group on NAPAR, this was the opportunity to update participants about EU and national developments and plan upcoming joint actions, such as advocacy around the Member States’ guiding principles on effective NAPAR and coalition building at national level.
- Session on Digital Organising by Social Movement Technologies Part II: ”Templates, Brand Kit, and More for Non-Designers on Your Team and Memes!”
When all participants returned, each workshop delivered a brief presentation back to the plenary before handing back to Karen Taylor to deliver the final words and bring this inspiring gathering to a close. We thank everyone who joined us for this extraordinary General Assembly, and hope to see you all very soon!