Social Protection Roundtable participant
Systemic Justice is the first Black-led, majority Black people and people of colour (BPOC) organisation in Europe working on community-driven litigation for racial, social, and economic justice.
We were established to partner with and support communities in their fights for social justice, and our vision is of a society where organisations, movements, and collectives (OMCs) can leverage the courts through strategic litigation and community-led campaigns against racial, social, and economic injustice.
Surfacing Systemic (In)justices: A Community View shares findings from an extensive Europe-wide consultation undertaken by Systemic Justice that seeks to learn from the perspectives and experiences of affected community groups and organisations, in order to inform potential litigation and other strategies for change.
Taken together, the findings in this report provide a rich and multi-layered insight into the harms of inequality and injustice across Europe.
Nani Jansen Reventlow
Founder of Systemic Justice
organisations, movements, and collectives
1. A database developed by Systemic Justice of 1000+ organisations, movements and collectives (OMCs) operating across Europe, who are organising and resisting injustice alongside groups and communities affected by systemic harms.
2. A survey of nearly 100 OMCs, made available in English, French, German, Italian, Russian, and Spanish, distributed online by Systemic Justice and its networks.
participants from 33 countries
3. Six community-centred online roundtables comprising 83 participants representing 33 European countries, organised around each of the six thematic areas. The roundtables were designed to bring together and encourage collaboration between OMCs, as well as to identify opportunities for strategic litigation. Using an intersectional approach, roundtable participants working across issues, fields and disciplines provided community-centred insights into challenges and harms as contemporaneously experienced across Europe.
4. One-on-one conversations with 100 individuals and representatives who are engaged with the racial, social, and economic justice ecosystem across Europe.
Being in close proximity to the harms of societal inequality informs in-depth and at times visceral disclosures of injustice. The rich, detailed, and granular reflections of the racial, social, and economic problems that emerged from the survey data is therefore a result of Systemic Justice’s approach to surfacing harms through centring the narratives and discourses of local communities and organisations.
Local and community OMCs contend with a series of multiple and converging themes being experienced by individuals, groups, and communities who are in close proximity to systemic harms.
A central finding here is that it is precisely those local and community OMCs with reduced capacity and resources who are under additional pressure to respond to the multiplicity of communities’ needs.
In spite of this, an overwhelming majority of organisations that responded to the survey affirmed that they would be willing to work in partnership to develop legal cases to address the systemic injustices being experienced.
The main themes emerging for support around strategic litigation are:
Social Protection Roundtable participant
Establish a framework for redistributive reparations, redirecting resources to communities most affected by the harms of climate change and other interrelated systemic injustices.
Build legal challenges to hold institutions and corporations accountable for climate abuses that disproportionately affect marginalised groups and communities.
Disrupt the predominance of a white Eurocentric climate activism ecosystem with an intersectional approach, including by developing key messaging which recognises the systemic climate abuses and harms endured by invisibilised and socio-economically marginalised groups.
Collect evidence and raise awareness of the disproportionate health and wellbeing impacts of air, water, and soil pollution for racially, socially, and economically marginalised groups and communities.
Further demonstrate the interconnectedness of climate change with other systemic harms, paying particular attention to racism, Islamophobia, Afrophobia and anti-Blackness, as well as anti-gypsy and anti-Roma attitudes in laws and policies, alongside state violence through policing and the border regime which restricts freedom of movement.
Recognise the violence of policing, including surveillance, harassment, and deaths in police custody as part of institutional oppression rooted in racism, anti-gypsyism, Islamophobia, ableism, homophobia and transphobia, and more.
Mount a legal challenge against racial and ethnic profiling by the police, and the use of stop and search—in particular its disproportionate use against those who have been institutionally abandoned and are forced into irregular activities due to social (un)protection.
Challenge the racist and criminalising drivers of over-representation and disparities across European justice systems with particular attention to disproportionate incarceration of people who are racially, socially, and economically marginalised.
Facilitate and support campaigns to decriminalise sex work across the region, with a particular focus on resisting policing of sex workers of colour and undocumented sex workers.
Build understanding of and challenges against the racist use of technology in policing and the wider criminal legal systems across Europe.
This is only the beginning of Systemic Justice’s collaboration with communities in order to bring about the structural change that is needed in Europe when it comes to racial, social, and economic justice. Our community consultation was born from the intentionality of having our work be driven and led by communities; it was one piece of a large puzzle of figuring out where we should begin our work, faced with an endless range of injustices that all need to be urgently addressed.
Surfacing focus areas: climate justice and social protection
The urgent need to address injustices, and the absence of intersectional litigation work to address them has brought us to two initial areas of focus for our work: climate justice and social protection.
While the climate crisis affects us all, marginalised communities feel its effects the most. The struggle for climate justice and for racial, social, and economic justice are therefore inherently interconnected. For example, those lacking access to resilient or secure housing are the most adversely affected, as they often live in areas that are susceptible to floods and other impacts of the climate crisis. At the same time, disabled people are disproportionately affected by extreme temperatures, and people placed in polluted or toxic environments will experience illnesses that could have been avoided, and bear increased health costs as a direct consequence.
Relatedly, across Europe a pattern is emerging where social protection is being increasingly denied as a deliberate strategy to exclude groups and communities that are systemically discriminated against as ‘undeserving’ or ineligible for governmental assistance and support. These groups include people crossing borders and people seeking asylum, LGBTQI+ people, Roma communities, sex workers, members of religious groups, and more, who are blocked from accessing essential services and face barriers to health care services and labour markets. Structural efforts to challenge this approach and refocus the public debate are currently virtually absent; to help change this, we need to build litigation projects in this area together with community partners who are firmly in the driving seat.
We are deeply thankful to everyone who has engaged with us at this early stage of this journey, and excited about what American civil rights activist John Lewis described as the ‘good trouble’ we are yet to make together: the necessary disruption required for meaningful change.
We’ve only just begun.
This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike
4.0 International license. Our intention is that communities who took part, and those working on these issue areas across Europe, are able to use the findings to inform their organisational work, in whatever capacity suits them. This means that this document can be copied and redistributed in any medium or format, and that it can be remixed, transformed, and built upon, provided it is for non-commercial purposes and appropriate credit is given to Systemic Justice.
If you have any questions, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org