Some 180 civil society organizations and 25 representatives of National Human Rights Institutions attended the 5th annual FRA’s Fundamental Rights Platform (FRP) meeting in Vienna on 19 and 20 April 2012.
The Fundamental Rights Platform is the premier channel for the European Union Fundamental Rights Agency’s engagement with civil society, more than 300 NGOs participate to the Platform. The European Muslim Union has recently become a member of the FRP and participated for the first time at the meeting.
The meeting focused on how to improve the fundamental rights protection in Europe, good practice exchange and the FRA’s work.
Two specific themes have been discussed this year:
1. Cooperation between national human rights institutions, equality bodies and civil society protecting victims rights, access to justice and under-reporting violations of human rights.
2. Multiple discrimination : intersectionality into fundamental rights work. Very often discrimination takes place on multiple grounds but there is not yet a legal framework in European countries for so-called multiple discrimination. The discussion aiming to improve civil society organisations work on multiple grounds discrimination, highlighted the vulnerability resulting from the intersection of ethnic origin, gender, age, religion, disability, sexual orientation.
A session of the meeting was dedicated to presentations by some participants on issues and projects important to them and linked to FRA work. The workshops have been an opportunity to share experiences, discuss ideas and learn about other participants work.
Two workshops focused more in particular on hate speech. The first one on European laws about hate speech and the necessity to improve the legal framework and the second one about the Human Rights Watch’s research and advocacy in Europe. In the discussion were highlighted the difficulties to define a crime about hate and the lack in data collection about hate crimes in most European countries.
During the meeting, six members to the Advisory Panel 2012-2013 of the Fundamental Rights Platform (FRP) have also been elected by the participants.
In his opening address, FRA Director Morten Kjaerum stated that despite the important progress made in human rights protection within the EU during the last years, « deplorable shortcomings » continue to exist. « It is against this backdrop that we all do our work on fundamental rights. But it is also against the backdrop of the economic crisis, and indeed it is in such times that we need an even stronger civil society, as well as strong and independent fundamental rights institutions, to counter cutbacks and the possible erosion of fundamental rights » he noted.
The FRP meeting was therefore a unique opportunity to share experiences and ideas that are important to the fundamental rights debate in Europe among NGOs working on different aspects of human rights protection as well as to better know the FRA’s work and specific projects.