4.5 Initiatives promoting social inclusion and raising awareness
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In Poland, central authorities do not carry out campaigns or other activities to promote the fight against discrimination and racism or to support multiculturalism. These areas remain primarily the domain of non-governmental organisations and, to a lesser extent, some local governments (e.g. Warsaw, which created and financially supported the Multicultural Centre, which has been active since 2017 and entrusted by the local government to local NGOs). The State body that takes action in this regard is the Ombudsman, who actively opposes various types of discrimination and is responsible for the understanding and protection of human rights. Due to a limited budget, which has been cut back by the ruling coalition, the Ombudsman does not, however, carry out any promotional activities and social campaigns.
In 2016, the Council for the Prevention of Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (Rada do spraw Przeciwdziałania Dyskryminacji Rasowej, Ksenofobii i związanej z nimi Nietolerancji) (established in 2013) was abolished by decision of the Prime Minister. Its task was to “co-ordinate activities undertaken by public administration bodies to combat racial, national and ethnic inequalities, and to combat racism and xenophobia”. In the opinion of the government, the Council had been ineffective, and its field of activity was already covered by the Government Plenipotentiary for Civil Society and Equal Treatment. Currently, those two functions have been split and the Government Plenipotentiary for Equal Treatment (Pełnomocnik Rządu ds Równego Traktowania) serves at the rank of Secretary of State in the Ministry of Family and Social Policy. In 2022, the government passed an act to establish a National Programme for Equal Treatment for years 2022 –2030 (Krajowy Program Działań na rzecz Równego Traktowania na lata 2022 – 2030). The programme has eight priority areas which include 35 tasks. None of them directly address the youth, though age as a potential cause for discrimination is mentioned in the document proper – but with regards to the elderly or children. Young people are chiefly mentioned in the IIIrd priority area (education), in the context of equal treatment of special needs children (including education), as well as preparation of teachers for school work, including children with migration experiences. General recommendations regarding school children are, of course, also directed towards young people aged 15-19 in middle and high schools. The Programme stresses focusing on “building positive relationships within the school environment, teaching pro-social attitudes of altruism and respect for all people in their diversity.”
Polish schools, in cooperation with social partners and local authorities, undertake activities aiming at fulfilling the obligations stemming from the Paris Declaration of 17 March 2015. It obliges ministers of education to promote, through education, citizenship and common values such as freedom, tolerance and non-discrimination. As of 2019 these issues have been included in the school curricula. Among the goals of civic education in Poland there are: solidarity and social relations based in respect and openess towards the world and other people. Moreover, the curricula state that xenophobia, racism and antisemitism shall not be tolerated.
The rights of young people do not constitute a separate category of rights in Polish law or public discourse, as is the case with respect to the rights of children (Poland has a separate Office of the Ombudsman for Children (Rzecznik Praw Dziecka) as enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations). The word ‘youth’ does appear in the Constitution of the Republic of Poland, for example in Article 68.5, which states that “public authorities support the development of physical culture, especially among children and youth”. However, it is unclear who exactly this refers to as the Constitution does not provide any definition of the term ‘youth’. A definition of ‘youth’ is also not to be found in any international convention that Poland is a party to. Basic regulations concerning youth generally relate to limiting the rights of minors, such as being away from home after 11pm or purchasing and using alcohol and cigarettes. Furthermore, restrictions are imposed on their right to intimate life, online shopping, obtaining a driver’s licence, entering night clubs, and unassisted doctor visits – which are possible from the age of 16. The actual rights of persons under 18 years of age include mainly limited criminal liability and various discounts on public transport (a privilege that continues beyond that age if the eligible person continues to study). Public campaigns organised by State institutions and aimed at young people to promote good behaviour included (no new campaigns have been organized for several years), for example, a campaign , “Drugs kill” (“Narkotyki i dopalacze zabijają”): an educational campaign showcasing the dangers of psychoactive substance use or an information-education campaign directed at pre-school and school children meant to inform them about train travel safety called Railroad ABC (Kolejowe ABC).
In 2019, an income tax deduction for people up the age of 26 has been introduced, allowing them to avoid paying the income tax until the deductible limit is exceeded.
Polish schools are not centrally initiating any efforts to fulfil the obligations arising from the Paris Declaration of 17 March 2015 on the commitment of ministers of education to promote – through education – citizenship and common values of freedom, tolerance and non-discrimination. (Its main objectives are “preventing rapid radicalisation of views and promoting democratic values, fundamental rights, intercultural understanding and active citizenship” and “fostering the inclusion of disadvantaged learners, including persons with a migrant background, while preventing and combating discriminatory practices”.)