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FRA conducted research through focus group discussions at local, regional and national levels of government, expert interviews and feedback meetings in eight EU Member States. Participants and interviewees included: public officials; independent experts; civil society representatives; and individual beneficiaries of projects. This evidence base was brought together in a first pilot toolkit. To test the transferability of the advice given, the pilot toolkit was applied and reviewed by public officials in seven EU Member States, working on a range of different fundamental rights issues. The present toolkit is the result of this research and piloting.
Who was involved?
The driving force behind the project was the collaboration established between FRA and national ministries, regional authorities and municipalities in eight Member States from across the EU.
- Czech Republic
- The Netherlands
- United Kingdom
FRA set up an International Advisory Group to bring in the views of international organisations and experts from national and local governments in developing this toolkit. These included representatives from the following organisations:
- Centre for Equal Opportunities and Opposition to Racism, Belgium
- City of Utrecht, The Netherlands
- Council of Europe
- European Commission Directorate General for Regional Policy
- European Union Committee of the Regions
- Ministry of Justice, United Kingdom
- Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions
- United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
The research team
The research, led by FRA, was conducted by Prospex and the European Council on Refugees & Exiles (ECRE).
In addition to the qualitative field research in eight EU Member States, a review of the literature on multi-level governance in fundamental rights and related fields was conducted. The purpose of the review was to identify good practices, models and tools being used by other organisations, both in Europe and globally, that could inform and complement the research.
How were the practical experiences from public officials brought together?
FRA approached five interested Member States for suggestions on projects or activities that they recognised as ‘good practice’ examples of cooperation across government levels in fundamental rights. A total of eight test cases were identified. All the test cases involved a degree of coordinated action between the national and local levels in designing and implementing activities.
- Discrimination Complaint Offices in Flanders (Meldpunten Discriminatie).
- Social Cohesion Plans in Wallonia (Plans de Cohésion Social).
- Anti-discrimination Bureaus (Anti-Discriminatie Bureau)
- Seeking asylum in Utrecht
- Strategic Plan for Citizenship and Integration (PECI – Plan Estratégico de Ciudadanía e Integración)
- Programme for Sustainable Gender Equality
- Making the Universal Local
Focus groups and expert interviews
A series of participatory and exploratory focus group discussions were organised as one-day events. The purpose was to map the needs and expectations of the participants as well as to allow for and exchange views on selected topics. The results were analysed based on the common characteristics of the group (gender, age, ethnicity, social-economic status, but also professional experience).
For each test case, focus group discussions were held with:
- Municipal staff and key partners responsible for implementing activities;
- Regional authorities involved in coordinating the test case;
- National officials involved with the test case;
- Civil society organisations and project beneficiaries.
Each Member State organised one additional focus group discussion bringing together government officials from the municipal, regional and national levels to review and comment on the preliminary results.
In addition to the focus group discussions, interviews were conducted with a smaller number of individuals at the national level that were either involved in managing the test case or advising the government on fundamental rights issues.
The focus group discussions encouraged debate and reflection between the participants. The main themes addressed in the focus group discussions and individual interviews were:
- Mapping and in-depth discussion of the key factors that influenced the outcomes of the test case classified by positive, negative and determining elements;
- Clustering similar key factors into themes or groups;
- Identification of external factors (beyond the control of the public officials) that had a significant impact on the test case;
- Reflection on which key factors should be kept, left out, changed or added to future fundamental rights activities;
- Reflection on the specific role of the European Union;
- Reflection on the relevance and potential of joined-up governance approaches for the respect, protection and fulfilment of fundamental rights.
Individual reports were written up for each focus group discussion and interview. The reports were used to undertake a comparative analysis.
A preliminary analysis of the field research was shared with participants from the focus group discussions at a workshop in Utrecht at the end of 2011. Participants commented and expanded on this initial analysis. This was then used to produce a pilot version of the toolkit.
How was the toolkit piloted and tested in practice?
In a second project phase, FRA approached public officials to test and apply the toolkit contents. The objective was to ensure that the recommendations from the focus group discussions and interviews were practical, useful and transferable.
A total of seven partners volunteered to pilot the draft toolkit. Of these, three had participated in the first research phase and four were new to the process. The seven partners were asked to review sections of the toolkit and pilot some of the recommendations in their ongoing activities.
- Municipality of Novi Pazar working on Roma integration
- Municipality of Ostrava working on Roma integration
- RE.A.DY network with the national secretariat currently hosted by the City of Turin, working on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues
- City of Utrecht working on human rights application
- City of Roquetas de Mar, working on citizenship and integration
- Västra Götaland Region, working on human rights education
- London Borough of Tower Hamlets, working on human rights application
At the end of the pilot phase, a one-day evaluation meeting was held with each of the partners. The feedback and input from the partners were used to update and improve the toolkit.