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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

1998, Vol. 1 No. 1 .


Anti-Discrimination Law Enforcement: A Comparative Perspective
Edited by Martin MacEwen.

(Aldershot: Ashgate, 1997).
39.96; ISBN 1-85972-404-3.



This excellent book comprises a collection of essays on enforcement agencies in the area of discrimination law. Included are the major UK bodies (Equal Opportunities Commission, Commission for Racial Equality, Fair Employment Commission), as well as the recently formed National Disability Council. There are also a number of international examples, looking at anti-discrimination law enforcement in Canada, South Africa, the Netherlands, and Australia. Finally, the contribution of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is assessed.

The theme running throughout this book is that essentially anti-discrimination laws may provide, at best, protection against the worst abuses and a remedy where a wrong has been identified. However unless they are accompanied by government policies and strategies which imbed the legislative provisions in a more holistic approach to discrimination, substantial change is unlikely to be effective. Certainly, there is little doubting the scale of the problem in the countries identified. In post-apartheid South Africa for example, the earnings of male-headed households are more than seven times those of female headed African households. As this book points out however, unacceptable racial imbalances are not exclusive to South Africa. For example, in Britain, ethnic minority women earn a staggering 63% less than the weekly male wage.

With such a wide remit one might have thought that breadth of analysis was supplanting depth. Certainly, from a Fair Employment perspective, the chapter at seven pages, is brief. Notwithstanding this however it still manages to cover the significant points around the debate in Northern Ireland, with references to the need for more effective affirmative action provisions in the legislation and Government action around PAFT and TSN. Perhaps it is the fact that the contributors are all senior practitioners in their respective fields which facilitates the user friendly style of the text, combined with a concise account of the issues. The strength of many of the chapters is that they provide an analysis of the respective enforcement agencies, whilst at the same time almost incidentally critiquing the relevant legislation. Whatever area of discrimination one is interested in, it is unlikely that this study will fail to provide something with which to engage the reader.


Tim Cunningham, Committee on the Administration of Justice, Northern Ireland



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