The protection of human rights was in the focus of the conference “Advocacy for Human Rights and Non-Discrimination by National Human Rights Institutions in the Western Balkans” which was organized in Sarajevo by the European Union and the Council of Europe.
The conference was organized in the framework of the Action “Strengthening the Human Rights Ombudsman to Fight Discrimination”, as a part of the joint Programme between the European Union and the Council of Europe “Horizontal Facility for Western Balkans and Turkey”. The three-year Programme aims to assist authorities in South-East Europe to achieve greater compliance with European standards in three key areas: ensuring justice, fighting economic crime as well as combating discrimination and protecting the rights of vulnerable groups. The Horizontal Facility has a budget of 25 million euros, of which 20 million euros has been provided by the European Union and 5 million euros by the Council of Europe.
The event was an opportunity for representatives of Ombudsman and Equality bodies from the region to exchange views and experience on the role of the institutions in the promotion of human rights and non-discrimination in their countries.
Co-operation with civil society has been identified as the crucial element of the work of the National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) in the promotion of human rights. NGOs are recognized as the most natural ally of NHRIs, and participants agreed that co-operation between NGOs and Ombudspersons should be a part of everyday business. Emphasis was also placed on the interaction with the judiciary where it was concluded that, in the absence of formal links, regular exchange of views on main human rights issues in the country would contribute to the creation of better cooperation in the future.
The timing of the Conference coincided with the adoption by the Committee of Ministers of a Recommendation on the need to strengthen the protection and promotion of civil society space in Europe, which makes reference to the role of civil society organizations and NHRIs as promoters and protectors of civil society space. The speakers at the conference were the advisor to the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Ombudsperson of Bosnia and Herzegovina, international experts and representatives of NHRIs in the region.