According to its founding legislation, UNAR’s competences include providing independent assistance to victims of discrimination in pursuing their complaints, carrying out independent surveys on discrimination, promoting the adoption of specific measures aimed at eliminating or compensating for disadvantages incurred by people of a certain race or ethnic origin, issuing opinions and proposing legislative reforms concerning racial and ethnic discrimination, issuing recommendations on matters relating to racial and ethnic discrimination and disseminating information on the rules on equal treatment irrespective of racial or ethnic origin.
UNAR has two different units, one primarily oriented toward legal assistance and dispute resolution and the other toward study and research. It reports every year to Parliament and the executive. It has been operational since November 2004, and according to its annual reports to the Government it offers significant assistance to victims of discrimination through the free telephone number that can be called by alleged victims of discrimination. After a preliminary check on the relevance of the claim, the operators give preliminary advice and, when necessary, refer the victims to local NGOs that can give them support. Besides legal assistance, UNAR has cooperated with external lawyers to issue several opinions on the status of illegal immigrants. UNAR has run seminars and workshops to disseminate information and provide training to lawyers and NGOs. Its website provides a certain amount of legal information, although in recent years the amount of information included has decreased.
In its reports to Parliament and the Government, UNAR has comprehensively analysed the shortcomings of present anti-discrimination legislation and proposed that its own role in the legal system be strengthened through extending its competences to other grounds of discrimination, stronger powers of intervention (with, for instance, the power to issue binding orders for the disclosure of documents or the cessation of discriminatory activities) and the introduction of at least some form of standing in judicial proceedings. Despite such proposals have not had any practical follow up at the political level, thanks to a wide interpretation of the Decree setting it up the remit of UNAR has been extended to every ground of discrimination since 2010. Moreover in 2011 two internal offices have been set up dealing with sexual orientation and gender, age, disability, religion and personal belief.
Over the last year UNAR has increased its contacts and enhanced coordination with regional and local authorities, thus creating a network within Italy.