The Role and Work of the NCCRI
And Implications of the Ceasing of Funding Announced in the Budget
The National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism (NCCRI) is an expert advisory body established in January 1998 arising from EU Year against Racism. Its role is to combat racism and to promote a more inclusive intercultural society in Ireland, issues which have gained in importance in because of the significant increase in cultural diversity in Ireland, building on the diversity that has always existed.
Over the past decade NCCRI remains a relatively compact organisation but one which has sought to make a significant contribution on limited resources. It has a staff of 12 and its core funding is €0.5m per annum.
The decision to axe funding to the NCCRI happens at a time of an economic downturn when more, not less attention and resources should be invested in anti racism and integration. Unless reversed the decision will result in:
- The loss of the collective expertise of the NCCRI built up over the past decade which has played key role in shaping government policy in anti racism and integration
- The loss of the bridge/space between Government and broader civil society provided by the NCCRI and the consensus building sought in such approaches
- Closure of the NCCRI offices and laying off of all staff (who will not be subsumed into the Office for Integration)
- The potential loss of a €4m EU funding programme which is at an advanced stage of development
The following are key dimensions of its role and work while recognizing that many migrant, Traveller and specialized bodies have also made a huge contribution.
1. Strategic Policy and Research Initiatives
- The Government’s National Action Plan against Racism (NPAR). The NPAR 2005-2008 was drafted by the Director of the NCCRI and the NCCRI was the lead non government agency in its implementation. The NCCRI had also organized the national consultation around the NPAR on behalf of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform in the months previous to its publication. While much has been good progress, much still remains to be implemented. But we can look back with some pride in the role NCCRI has played in implementing the plan as part of its steering group, including for example:
- The national intercultural health strategy
- The intercultural education strategy
- Intercultural/diversity strategies in policing; arts and culture; youth and sport
- The key action research projects
- Initiatives focusing on integration in the workplace
While these represent substantial projects, considerable work remains to ensure that they are firmly embedded and play a key role in the integration process.
- Monitoring and Responding to Racism in Ireland. NCCRI undertakes regular 6 month reports on racism in Ireland. We don’t have the role and resources to respond to individual cases but we respond to the policy issues raised. Examples include:
- Tackling racism on the internet
- Providing training to key agencies to help them combat racism
- Identifying gaps and weaknesses in our legislation
- Challenging myths and misinformation and increasing understanding of the contribution made by minority groups in Ireland
- The anti racism election protocol signed by all major political parties in Ireland which has be ratified prior to each election since 2001 when it was developed
- Major Research Projects. The NCCRI has both coordinated and has been commissioned to undertake research on a wide range of issues relevant to our work including from bodies outside of the Republic of Ireland for example:
- Good practice in public services in promoting integration (in three jurisdictions including Ireland, NI and Scotland). This research was commissioned by the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister in Northern Ireland with support from the Scottish Executive and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform
- Regular reports to the EU Fundamental Rights Agency, OECD and OSCE As part of the RAXEN initiative, NCCRI has been contacted to prepare regular reports for the purposes of international comparison by the EU FRA in Vienna
- Interpretation standards and Provision in Ireland. Commissioned by the Office of the Minister for Integration, this is an important and complementary area of policy to language provision
- The Role of Housing in Promoting Integration. Funded by the NPAR and the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government this forthcoming report will make a major contribution to policy development in this area
- Reviewing our legislation in relation to crime motivated by racism. An NPAR research project coordinated and edited by NCCRI and to be published shortly
NCCRI’s approach to undertake the above research is to involve key partners prior to, during and after the research. The ability to draw together and consult with a wide range of bodies in these research projects has only been possible after years of building up trust with both government and non-government bodies.
NCCRI is in a position to actively follow up on the recommendations arising from the reports in partnership with the relevant bodies to ensure that the reports remain relevant and recommendations implemented.
NCCRI’s detailed knowledge of the policy environment, its good relationships with civil servants and its constructive/forward looking approach are also strengths evident in this work.
NCCRI has also been to the forefront of work on a North/South basis within Ireland; public awareness and information; training and general support for government and non government bodies.
- Our North/South work. We are very active in undertaking work in Ireland on a north/south basis. We have undertaken major initiatives with the Equality Commission NI and OFMDFM. Our office in Dundalk is funded to develop north/south strategies and we have currently an application in for further work in the border/NI area under the PEACE initiative
- In 2008 NCCRI was asked by the Government to coordinate EU Year of Intercultural Dialogue in Ireland. The Year in Ireland has been deemed successful by the EU and Ireland is one of only two countries where an in depth case study evaluation will be undertaken as part of the year. Hundreds of events have taken place across the country and full information is available on our website www.nccri.ie
- Intercultural Week. Since 1999 NCCCRI has coordinated intercultural/anti racism week in March of every year in partnership with the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland. Again NCCRI is uniquely placed to do this work effectively with an extensive data base and personal contact with the many groups across the country that take part in the week. Our experience is that this is a much more effective approach to public awareness than simply spending large sums of public money on advertising
- Intercultural Training NCCRI is widely recognized as the foremost training body in our area of intercultural training. Recent training includes the training of all Garda at Inspector rank; training with senior health service managers and with the national broadcaster, RTE. The Equality bodies in Ireland commission NCCRI to undertake training with their staff. NCCRI is the leading agency undertaking ‘training of trainers’ courses for trainers in government departments. Many freelance trainers have undertaken our courses
- Supporting government bodies NCCRI has played a ‘hands on’ supporting role for key government integration and anti racism initiatives including the work of the Garda Racial and Intercultural Office, health policies, education policies and also non-government bodies such as the FAI and other sporting bodies. Key signs of this support include the forthcoming intercultural education strategy, the intercultural l health strategy, the Football Association of Ireland’s integration strategy
Bringing Together a Diversity of Sectors to Work Together
The NCCRI’s approach has always been constructive and forward looking and bringing together a wide range of government and non government bodies in every aspect of our work, from research to training to public awareness.
The NCCRI’s Partnership Board is made up of a mix of government departments, statutory bodies, NGO’s and social partners. There is extensive expertise on the partnership not least in the form of its Chair, Anastasia Crickley who is also chair of the EU Fundamental Rights Agency, a member of the Council of State and an OSCE Special Rapporteur on Racism, but also from the many other bodies represented around the table.
The members of the NCCRI partnership includes government departments; social partners including NGO’s and representatives from key communities, including from Poland, Asian and Africa. We have also undertaken a considerable amount of work with faith communities in Ireland, including the Muslim community. This has required the building of trust over many years.
NCCRI has brought added value by facilitating dialogue on important policy issues, sometimes at the request of a Government Department. For example the DJELR asked NCCRI to organize a meeting with NGO’s on the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill in 2008.
While there are many differences there are also many commonalities with the work NCCRI does with new/migrant communities in Ireland and the work that is undertaken with Travellers. NCCRI has sought to be a bridge in this work by bring added value to the work of other bodies.
Flexibility and Dedicated Staff Team
The NCCRI is very flexible in its approach and can respond to urgent issues that larger bodies sometimes find difficult engage with or beyond their remit. A good example includes the commissioning of NCCRI to undertake research, organize consultations and to undertake public awareness programmes such as EU Year of Intercultural Dialogue; intercultural week and the ‘Know Racism’ strategy.
A key factor in our ability to do this work is our dedicated and experienced staff team which includes staff from Ireland, north and south, Congo, Nigeria and Poland. Some of the staff has had experience in working abroad on relevant work in previous jobs, including in Australia and Argentina, the United Kingdom, Canada and France
The building up of such an expert staff team took many years and the range of expertise and the mix of nationalities is not apparent in any other government body or state agency.
Value for Money
NCCRI represents good value for money. Our core annual budget is less than €500,000, which often surprises many people who know the extent of our work.
From this and other Government and EU funding NCCRI has been able to sustain 12 staff in our head office and a further 2 staff in our regional office in Dundalk (which is solely funded through EU funding).
Approximately one third of our budget is drawn from outside the Office of the Minister for Integration/Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. This is ‘programme funding’ drawn down for a specific purpose/project and which cannot substitute for core funding. If NCCRI was an ineffective or inefficient body it would not be able to draw down such funding on a regular basis. Salaries and expenses within NCCRI are considerably below the equivalent in the public service.
Other funders have included:
The NCCRI has always operated within its budget and its accounts are rigorously audited externally on an annual basis in the frame of financial governance procedures consistent with government policy. We pride ourselves in the quality of work produced, which has been recognized at a national and EU level and we are able to draw together a range of testimonials to this effect.
Summary of Why NCCRI’s Functions Cannot Be Simply Allocated to Other bodies
The NCCRI’s functions cannot be simply allocated to other bodies by a stroke of the pen, because:
The expertise we have built up is the result of ten years of work on integration and anti racism in Ireland. This expertise has been recognized at national level and internationally by the United Nations, OSCE, Fundamental Rights Agency and many international bodies that have visited.
The staff team has been built up over many years and is drawn from different nationalities including Congo, Nigeria (2), Poland, and Ireland North and South. No such diversity exists in other government bodies or agencies working in the area and is vital to our work and credibility
We bring together a multi-skilled approach to our work which includes policy work, training, public awareness, information, and education. Some government agencies may have some of these functions but few to our knowledge have this full range
We have built up trust, personal contacts and consensus building across all sectors over many years which cannot simply be allocated to another body
We bring in additional resources in a way that we know that no other governmental body department has is likely able to do and with a core grant of less than 0.5million, we therefore represent excellent value for money for the work we do
Background to the Recent Budget Decision
Prior to the budget decision to axe funding, NCCRI had actively sought to engage with the Office of the Minister or Integration to ensure that we continued to bring added value in changing circumstances. This had met with positive though unspecific responses going forward. In September 2008 the OMI informed NCCRI that it was part of the review of agencies in the ‘Justice family’ and asked NCCRI to make a submission to the review. Meetings with the Minister and senior officials also took place at this time. While the NCCRI knew it was part of the review process, the budget decision came as a major surprise. NCCRI remains willing to play its role in reducing its budget, even to the extent of the cutback experienced by the Office of the Minister for Integration (26%)but the present decision if mot reversed or if alternative funding is not found will result in the ending of all NCCRI’s work and the laying off of all staff.
Impact on anti racism, interculturalism and integration
There are specific and general implications arising from this decision
The loss of the collective expertise of the NCCRI built up over the past decade which has played key role in shaping government policy in anti racism and integration
The loss of the bridge/space between Government and broader civil society provided by the NCCRI and the consensus building sought in such approaches
Closure of the NCCRI offices and laying off of all staff
The potential loss of a €4m EU funding programme which is at an advanced stage of development