PAMECUS – Positive Action Measures

The PAMECUS project on Positive Action Measures in the European Union, Canada, United States & South Africa was very timely and is significant in gauging how far we have to travel to establish a shared understanding of and a broad commitment to positive action in order to achieve equality. The study provides the impetus for positive action for equality at Member State level during the current economic situation.

Definition used in the study

In the context of the PAMECUS project, the phrase “positive action measure” should be regarded as an umbrella term covering all kinds of activities, initiatives, strategies and interventions which seek to achieve one or more of the goals identified for positive action. The specific objectives of this project included assessing perceptions, understanding and the rationale for developing and implementing strategies for positive action covering equality strands of age, disability, race, religion and belief and sexual orientation. Aspects of gender which intersect with other strands were also considered in this study.


This study was carried out to help the EU develop a framework for better understanding the role that positive action measures can play in preventing or remedying discrimination, and to gain an insight into the kind of practical positive action measures already being taken in the EU (and in the EFTA-EEA countries), as well as the possible costs and benefits of positive action measures. The study also sought to examine how legal frameworks, policies and practices of positive action in the European Union compare with Canada, the United States and South Africa.

It sought views from individuals who are responsible for designing and implementing positive action measures e.g. Directors of Human Resources, Equality and Diversity Leads and Senior Managers with responsibility for equality, and its specific objectives included:

  • Assessing perceptions, understanding and the rationale for developing and implementing strategies for positive action covering 6 strands of age, disability, gender, race, religion and belief, and sexual orientation.
  • Identifying types, range of positive action measures and how widespread they are across the private, public and third sectors, and the lengths of time these have been in operation.
  • Examining the outcomes and impact of positive action measures in participating organisations.
  • Obtaining the views of organisations about the actual or perceived benefits, including relative success, and main obstacles and barriers of implementing positive action (focusing on best practice) and lessons learned
  • Exploring mechanisms used for evaluating the effectiveness of positive action.
  • Exploring perceived (cost-)effectiveness of the actions undertaken and how this could be improved.
  • Exploring the historical, social and political context within which positive action have been developed.

Research questions

The following research questions were addressed:

  • What role can positive action measures play in preventing or remedying discrimination, building on the knowledge of the existing legal framework in the Europe Union?
  • How do policies, practices and effectiveness of positive action measures including and mechanisms for evaluating the impact of the measures differ between Member States in the European Union, and how do these compare with Canada, United States and South Africa?

Project report

The project report on ’International perspectives on positive action measures: a comparative analysis in the European Union, Canada, the United States and South Africa is available here:


The project, which was funded by the European Commission, ran from December 2007 to March 2009.

More details

For further information, please see the project’s website:  or contact Professor Uduak Archibong, Director of the Centre for Inclusion and Diversity at:

Thanks to PAMECUS for the above information.

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