Israel's Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) will get a welcome boost next month when it officially joins forces with the Northern Ireland Equality Commission (NIEC) under a special European Union twinning project aimed at bringing together EU and non-EU nations for mutual cooperation and social development, Bob Niven, who will act as the resident advisor to the project, told The Jerusalem Post Wednesday. The main goals of two-year joint venture, which is only the third such EU-sponsored project in Israel, are to encourage companies to foster equal opportunities for employees of all types, to raise public awareness about the benefits and importance of such fair practices, and to create a national database and generate statistics on equality trends here, Niven said. Experts from the NIEC, which began operations in 1999, will share their experiences in reducing gender, race, age and other forms of discrimination in the workplace. Northern Irish representatives will work closely with officials at Israel's two-year-old EEOC. "We have high expectations for this twinning project," EEOC Commissioner Tziona Koenig-Yair told the Post Wednesday. "We are confident that the Northern Irish and British experience will greatly enhance and strengthen the capacity of our work here in Israel." "I think sharing experiences between us and them will be of great benefit to both sides," she said. NIEC CEO Evelyn Collins will oversee the project from Northern Ireland. She is in Israel this week to meet with Koenig-Yair and Industry, Labor and Trade Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer. Collins said she was very familiar with working in a culturally diverse and religiously mixed environment. "We also have the experience of dealing with religious discrimination," she said, comparing racism against Catholics in Northern Ireland with religious biases here. Collins said her commission also had worked hard to combat discrimination based on gender, race, sexual orientation and age. "I strongly believe that working for equality is about improving lives for all people regardless of their background," she said. "It is important to highlight that there are no borders on this issue, and these are similar concerns all across the EU." "Promoting fairness brings all sorts of benefits for people, regardless of their background," Collins said. Promoting equality in any guise could only improve Israel's international image, she said. While workplace biases are a global concern, Collins and Niven acknowledged that specific cultural sensitivities exist in Israel compared to many European countries. "Although there are similarities, Israel is a very unique place, and it is important that everyone working on this project is aware of such sensitivities," Niven said. "We plan to work closely with the local population to get their perspective on what is happening," he said. "We are aware that some ideas simply can't be imported, and we will be careful not to impose these models."