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IBA Officers participate in anti-discrimination event held by National Bar Council of Italy

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In late 2020, the National Bar Council of Italy (known as the Consiglio Nazionale Forense, or ‘CNF’), the public institution that represents lawyers in Italy, launched a project to study and combat discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or race. The project marks the first major institutional drive by the CNF to focus on this area in Italy.

At the invitation of the CNF, two IBA Officers spoke at the conference held to launch the project on 6 November 2020. Horácio Bernardes Neto, IBA President for 2019–2020, spoke to express the IBA’s support for the project, and Robert Ellison, Co-Vice Chair of the IBA’s LGBTI Law Committee, presented the work of the IBA and the LGBTI Law Committee in this area.[1]

The CNF’s Anti-Discrimination Project is co-sponsored by the following organisations:

  • The Italian Association for Juridical Studies on Immigration (Associazione per gli Studi Giuridici sull’Immigrazione, or ‘ASGI’), an association of lawyers, academics, consultants and representatives of civil society, which focuses on the legal aspects of immigration.
  • Rete Lenford, the Italian Association for LGBTI Rights Advocacy (Avvocatura per i Diritti LGBTI), a lawyers’ association set up to combat discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • EDGE – LGBTI+ Leaders for Change, the first group of LGBTI+ entrepreneurs, managers, professionals and allies established in Italy, which works to increase LGBT diversity in business.
  • Parks – Liberi e Uguali (Parks – Free and Equal), an association of Italian employers (named after Rosa Parks) that aims to promote LGBTI diversity in business.
  • Unione Forense per la Tutela dei Diritti Umani, a professional association of Italian lawyers that focuses on human rights.

The launch conference on 20 November 2020 featured presentations by the following individuals and institutions:

  • Maria Masi, President of the CNF.
  • Francesco Caia, coordinator of the CNF’s Commission on Human Rights.
  • Elena Bonetti, Italian Minister for Equal Opportunities and the Family.
  • Triantafillos Loukarelis, Director General of the Italian National Office Against Race Discrimination (Ufficio Nazionale Antidiscriminazioni Razziali, or ‘UNAR’).
  • Francesca Bagni Cipriani, Italian National Counsellor for Equality, appointed by the Minister for Labour and Social Policy.
  • Fabrizio Petri, President of the Italian Interministerial Committee for Human Rights (Comitato Interministeriale per i Diritti Umani, or ‘CIDU’).
  • Horacio Bernardes Neto, IBA Immediate Past President.
  • Stefano Chinotti of the CNF’s Commission on Human Rights.
  • Hilarry Sedu of the Naples Bar Council.
  • Professor Marzia Barbera, University of Brescia Faculty of Law.
  • Margherita Graglia, psychologist, psychotherapist and writer.
  • Lorenzo Trucco, President of the ASGI.
  • Vincenzo Miri, President of Rete Lenford.
  • Robert Ellison, Co-Vice Chair of the IBA LGBTI Law Committee.
  • Mario di Carlo, President of EDGE.
  • Dario Longo, President of Parks – Liberi e Uguali.
  • Professor Anton Giulio Lana, President of the Unione Forense per la Tutela dei Diritti Umani.

Following the launch conference, the CNF Anti-Discrimination Project will consist of a one-day training course and a series of ten further courses, focusing on the inclusion of individuals at risk of discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity or race. These courses will cover the following areas:

  • Defining diversity; factors of discrimination; invisible discrimination; capacities and competence regarding inclusion.
  • Language and stereotypes.
  • Ethical considerations in relation to discrimination and inclusion.
  • Anti-discrimination within law firms: case studies from law firms and business.
  • Anti-discrimination and inclusion in relation to legal professional bodies; guidelines regarding individuals in transition.
  • Competitive advantages of inclusion in the law; valuing and attracting talent, and understanding changes in the market and the legal client base: case studies from law firms and business.
  • Inclusion, discrimination and conflict: inclusion in the context of litigation and ADR.
  • Inclusion as a factor of sustainable development and protection of human rights in the professional, social and economic spheres.
  • Legal theory and procedure in relation to discrimination.

IBA President Horácio Bernardes Neto concluded his introductory remarks at the launch conference with the following words:

‘The IBA believes that the right not to suffer discrimination is a fundamental human right, grounded in the universal principles of justice, respect, human dignity and equality. As lawyers, we can and should defend these rights by ensuring that non-discrimination is enshrined in national laws, properly enforced by the judicial process.  At the IBA, we have an LGBTI Law Committee which was set up to focus on the legal challenges suffered by LGBTI individuals in matters of employment law, asylum, migration, family law, and in their interactions within society in general. You will be hearing more about the work of our LGBTI Law Committee during this conference from Robert Ellison, one of our LGBTI Law Committee Officers. Any IBA member can join this committee, and I encourage you to do so.

Equally, however, we as a profession need to take a look at ourselves, and address the inequalities and discrimination that still exist within our own workplaces.  We need to recognise that in the legal profession, our own record against discrimination has been less than perfect.

This is why the IBA applauds the initiative taken by the CNF in organising this conference and the Anti-Discrimination Project.  We applaud all the work carried out daily by the organisations from Italian civil society that are participating today.  And we applaud the presence and support of the Italian Minister for Equal Opportunities.

The IBA wishes you an excellent conference. You can count on our support.’


[1] A video of the event, which was held in Italian, is available on YouTube, in which Neto’s speech can be seen from 0:42 to 0:49 and Ellison’s presentation from 2:26 to 2:33. See https://youtu.be/yCCPQb7raOQ.