Serving your community

Public officials have a duty the safeguard the fundamental rights of everybody in the community. Serving the community therefore entails reaching out to the most vulnerable groups to protect them from fundamental rights violations. Civil society organisations can play an important role as intermediaries to individuals who may be more reluctant to engage with public authorities.

Example

The Stockholm Police set up a specialised hate crime unit that carries out police training and serves as a point of contact in cooperating with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) groups. One focus of the unit’s work is to make sure that the police do not overlook a bias motivation when investigating offences directed at LGBT people.

The cooperation with LGBT groups allowed the unit to ensure that their fundamental rights concerns are considered in law enforcement. It has also been seen as having had an impact on increasing confidence in the police.

Information on the project available at:

http://www.polisen.se/en/Languages/Victims-of-Crime/Hate-crime-victims

Example

Cypriot authorities requested a list of people with disabilities from the association of people with disabilities to determine where they vote, so as to make the necessary arrangements for them, such as setting up access ramps at polling stations. The association confirmed that, as a result, in recent years their members had not lodged any complaints.

Source: FRA Report (2011) Fundamental rights: challenges and achievements in 2011, p. 187.

Learning Point

Meeting the needs of the entire community
The examples illustrates the value of identifying and reaching out to individuals with different needs and also to persons with particular vulnerabilities. Officials in The Netherlands in charge of asylum policies attach great value to meeting individual asylum seekers and having direct contact with them. This helps them to tailor activities and provides them with feedback about the situation on the ground.

Identifying individuals or groups in need of protection
Involvement of civil society organisations and individuals is key for public authorities for understanding fundamental rights challenges faced by members of the community.

Managing expectations
Fundamental rights initiatives often rely on community-based organisations, community leaders and individuals to be effective. Developing a cooperation strategy to manage the different expectations and roles when working together with civil society organisations and individuals is part of a joined-up strategy

Tip

Reaching out to vulnerable groups and making them more aware of their rights should be amongst the prioritities for public authorities when combating discrimination, as FRA statistical evidence suggests.

The FRA European Union Minorities and Discrimination Survey (EU-MIDIS) was the first EU-wide survey of immigrant and ethnic minority groups’ experiences of discrimination and victimisation in everyday life. It sought to understand the reasons behind the underreporting of rights violations. One of the survey’s findings was that respondents did not know how to report violations.

  • Four fifths (80%) of all respondents (23,500 across the EU) could not think of a single organisation that could support victims of discrimination – government, non-government or equality body.
  • When asked about the named equality bodies in their country, nearly two thirds (60%) had never heard of them.
  • More than one third (36%) of those who were discriminated against did not submit a complaint because they did not know how or where to do so.
  • Over one fifth (21%) of victims of discrimination did not report either because they considered the process inconvenient, bureaucratic or too time-consuming.

Source: FRA Report (2012) Access to Justice in cases of discrimination, p. 17.