FRA helps build critical mass for rights protection, says UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

f.l.t.r. Jonas Grimheden, Michael Wiener, Navi Pillay, Morten Kjaerum, Orest Nowosad
f.l.t.r. Jonas Grimheden, Michael Wiener, Navi Pillay, Morten Kjaerum, Orest Nowosad
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, acknowledged the agency’s role in helping to build a critical mass to promote and protect fundamental rights within the EU. Her comments were made during her visit to FRA on 3 July to talk of her experiences leading the global struggle for human rights.

The FRA Director Morten Kjaerum welcomed her to FRA and warmly thanked her for strong voice and leadership over the last six years. As her mandate draws to a close in August, he spoke of how FRA will miss her leadership as she has been a constant source of inspiration and guidance.

In her address to staff, Ms Pillay underlined how FRA and her Office shared common concerns. These include protecting the rights of migrants and children, privacy and surveillance, and combating all forms of discrimination. She also mentioned her concern over the rise of racist sentiment in Western Europe and the detrimental impact of budget cuts and austerity measures on the realisation of rights especially, for vulnerable groups, a point she previously made in her speech during FRA’s Fundamental Rights Conference 2012 on ‘justice in austerity’.

After a discussion of regional human rights systems, she outlined some positive developments: the recent decision to streamline and harmonise the work of international treaty bodies, the wider remit and new thematic mandates of special procedures under the Human Rights Council, and the success of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in encouraging States to recognise and resolve gaps in their human rights protection. She also mentioned how her Office - the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) - is working on how to further improve and cluster the various recommendations for each State flowing from the UPR and the treaty bodies, so that they become easier to grasp and implement. She pointedly made reference to how useful she finds FRA’s Annual report as it monitors the international obligations of EU Member States through the lenses of UN treaty bodies, special procedures and the UPR.

She then spoke of the ‘rewarding partnership’ between FRA and OHCHR’s Regional Office for Europe on themes such as migrants, Roma and people with disabilities as well as more horizontal issues such as the status of National Human Rights Institutions within the EU. She spoke of FRA’s ‘pioneering research on the human rights challenges faced by persons with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities’, pointing to the degrading conditions that people continue to face in care institutions.

In closing, she spoke of how ‘a coordinated approach to planning and programming creates clarity, drives more powerful achievements, and avoids not only overlaps and waste, but also, and most fundamentally, gaps in protection.’ In this, she is counting on FRA to continue to provide advice and support to her Office in the future: ‘Data is so important as it is figures that speak for themselves.