EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) gathered more than 700 experts, artists and human rights NGO representatives as well as representatives of the European and international organisations at the Fundamental Rights Forum, held from 24th until 27th September 2018. The Forum’s goal was to address the challenges present in the time of fractured and polarised societies, in which human rights are being challenged by austerity, digital disruption, globalisation, a migration crisis and rising populism across Europe.
FRA Director Michael O'Flaherty opened the Forum and the Austrian President, Alexander Van der Bellen, welcomed the participants in his video message. The key note speech was delivered by Véra Jourová, European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers Protection and Gender Equality. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres addressed the Forum in his video message, too.
Ombudswoman and ENNHRI Chair Lora Vidović and Deputy Ombudswoman and Equinet Chair Tena Šimonović Einwalter were speakers at the panel dedicated to reaching out to the most vulnerable members of a society, whose voice often remained unheard. „That is why we must be present among the citizens, what we try to do in our field work accross the country, by media work and cooperation with the civil society organisations“, emphasised Ombudswoman Vidović, speaking from the role of NHRIs. Deputy Šimonović Einwalter, from the equality body perspective, added that the very presence of the institutions, their visibility and accessibility was the key for giving support to the victims of discrimination.
During the Forum the publication for human rights activists „10 keys to effectively communicating human rights“, was also presented. As one of examples of good practice, it presents the video thematising the 2015 refugee crisis in Croatia, made by the Office of the Ombudswoman.
At the end of a three-day meeting, FRA Management Board Chair Sirpa Rautio highlighted that its closing did not mean the end but the beginning of the work on delivering the discussed commitments. FRA has committed to, among other, protecting the human rights architecture and standing alongside civil society; going local and encouraging others to find human rights solutions in cities, towns and villages; and acting as a strong bridge between governments, institutions and society by bringing together diverse voices and then reflect their human rights concerns to EU governments, especially in light of the upcoming European elections.