One key issue related to training on fundamental rights is the need to make public officials understand why it is important that they attend.
Mandatory training in Sweden
"The fact that training and education was mandatory created problems. Many people feel forced to attend and they do not see how the training is related to their work or how they can benefit from it. The educational approach, which is often used in Sweden, is not so productive if one wants to achieve real change. Gender equality will not be reached thanks to a one-day training session in gender awareness. Other less conventional approaches are needed."
Source: Interview Paul Lappalainen, Head of Equality Promotion, Swedish Equality Ombudsman, 2011, Sweden.
Should it be mandatory or voluntary?
Both approaches have their advantages and disadvantages. Experience with voluntary training shows that staff with an interest in fundamental rights will attend. Staff that are not interested or do not see how it is relevant to their work tend to stay away. It is precisely this second group of people that mandatory training seeks to draw into the process.
However, experience also shows that mandatory training can create resistance to fundamental rights issues. One suggestion is to map the staff that could benefit from training and persuade them to participate.
Involving people in fundamental rights education requires making a link between training and expectations in the work environment. Taking fundamental rights training should be encouraged and rewarded within the organisation as part of career development.
Incorporating fundamental rights issues into general staff training
Embedding fundamental rights in general staff training has important advantages:
- Fundamental rights are not limited to the scope of one activity or service but should be mainstreamed into all areas of work, including professional standards and codes of conduct.
- Embedding fundamental rights into general staff training achieves greater continuity, impact and outreach. It also saves funds and resources.
- Public officials are also individuals entitled to rights and may therefore be interested in how to claim these rights – whether it is in the work environment or outside.
Follow-up on fundamental rights training! Moving from theory to practice is difficult. Staff clearly benefits from on-going mentoring and supervision to ensure the application of what has been learnt in the working environment.