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On 7-8 October 2013 in Vienna, representatives from national, European and international human rights and equality bodies reiterated their commitment to work together to strengthen rights protection in Europe.
It was the first time that National Human Rights Institutions, Equality Bodies and Ombudsperson Institutions across Europe had come together in one place with the Council of Europe, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, the UN and the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. While acknowledging the close ties for mutual support, communication and cooperation among Europe’s human rights and equality bodies, they also recognised that greater efforts are needed to safeguard people’s rights and equality in Europe under the current economic crisis. Strong, independent and effective national, European and international human rights and equality bodies play a key role in this.
This landmark meeting has set the scene for closer cooperation among national bodies and between national and international bodies. The next steps will focus on establishing platforms for collaboration on pressing topics such as asylum and migration, Roma integration, combating hate crime, and advancing social and economic rights and socio-economic equality.
FRA and the Council of Europe, as well as the European Network of Equality Bodies (Equinet) and the European Network of National Human Rights Institutions, are well placed and committed to facilitating enhanced collaboration in the coming years. The aim is to achieve a joint thematic approach. This will help reinforce the effectiveness of the standards for national bodies and contribute to finding responses to fundamental rights challenges in Europe, including coordinated action on regional policies. Pilot projects will be initiated to explore and test new ways of inter-institutional collaboration and communication.
The meeting was an important step for strengthening the European human rights and equality architecture and promoting concerted action for individuals’ human rights throughout the region. It will also help ensure Europe’s decision makers receive coordinated input to help shape the legal framework for fundamental rights in Europe.