EQUAL was a programme of the European Union that supported projects combating discriminaton and inequality at work. It ran from 2000-2007 and was part of the European Social Fund (ESF). While 95% of ESF spending was decided by the EU's member states separately, the remaining 5% was devoted to this 'Community Initiative', which worked on a transnational basis. It acted as a laboratory, experimenting with new methods and thus improving the impact of the funds in the future.
EQUAL had nine themes organised in five main areas:
- employability - especially with regard to diversity and ethnic minorities
- entrepreneurship - business creation and social economy
- adaptability - lifelong learning and age management
- equal opportunities - reconciliation of work and family life and breaking down horizontal and vertical segregation
- asylum seekers
Human trafficking was added as a theme in the second half of EQUAL.
EQUAL worked according to the principles of partnership, transnationality, empowerment, innovation and mainstreaming. Its budget of some €3 billion aas been split among some 3,400 development partnerships. By obliging organisations from different institutional sectors - for instance local authorities, co-operatives and voluntary bodies - to work together, these "DPs" were designed to ensure that EQUAL has a lasting impact.