Closing speech at the 2nd Annual FRA Symposium on fundamental rights indicators

Plenary closing by Morten Kjærum Director of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights,Vienna.
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Morten Kjaerum's closing remarks Symposium 2011

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Ladies and gentlemen,
I want to thank you for your contributions to our second annual Symposium. This
year, as last year when we examined the fundamental rights architecture in the EU,
we have pooled some of the most experienced minds in policy making, and we set
an ambitious agenda to address an issue of great importance to the implementation
of fundamental rights. Now we look at how we use this architecture more focused
and with great coherence.
I would like to make four points summing up some of the issues that have emerged
during yesterday and today, before moving on to tell you how the Agency will
follow up on the Symposium.

Firstly: The Symposium has confirmed that robust indicators – and particularly
those that measure practice on the ground – are essential tools for monitoring
compliance with, and abuse of, fundamental rights. Not believing that they in a
magic way change reality from one day to the next.
Secondly, several hurdles have been highlighted. It has become very apparent in
our discussions that we are talking about fundamental rights in a much more
focussed way than only a few years ago. The language of rights, obligations, dutybearers:
it is familiar to us in a way that was not the case. And this shows that
fundamental rights have become more mainstream. Especially with the
prominence of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the CRPD in EU
policy.
At the same time, we heard yesterday that fundamental rights are still a sensitive
and highly political issue for statistical offices, which could give rise to reluctance
to collect data. And this was contrasted to data on economic issues that are seen as
neutral or ‘boring’. Why is it that fundamental rights, which are about the dignity
of human beings, is more politically sensitive than the economy? The challenge
we face here is to depoliticise rights – to take them from high political norms into
a core and essential component of policy making. Not an optional extra. But a
‘must’.
Thirdly, we have also seen some very encouraging examples of where indicators
have been developed and used. At the international level we have the work of the
OHCHR. At the national level we have the work of the UK’s Equality and Human
Rights Commission. And at the research level we have the work of the TISCO, the
Tilburg Institute, that has carried out important work on measuring access to
justice.
And what strikes me here is that the EU finds itself sandwiched between the
international and national layers like a burger, with no fundamental rights
indicators of its own that are adapted to the regional level. The challenge is
obvious.
And this leads me to my fourth point. What was clear from the start, and what has
become even clearer during these days, is that we cannot move forward on
indicators without the contributions of all the different actors. From the local level
to the United Nations, from civil society organisations through to national data
collection agencies and governments.

So, specifically, how will the Fundamental Rights Agency follow up this
meeting, in terms of developing indicators?
As was mentioned this morning, for indicators to acquire a life and be used, they
need an institution to give them a heartbeat. And for EU fundamental rights
indicators the Agency will take up that institutional ownership.
Allow me to outline the future roadmap for the Fundamental Rights Agency –
from the short to the long term: [ppt slide]
1. Firstly, we will summarise the proceedings of the Symposium in the form
of a paper that will outline key discussion points, and will also include a
range of options for further development that are open to the Agency.
2. Secondly, within the next 12 months we will follow this up with a working
paper on how the Agency intends to work with fundamental rights
indicators.
3. Thirdly, we will be calling on you to give further input when we hold a
series of stakeholder and expert meetings on existing projects, with a view
to developing indicators on specific themes. We set such a first stakeholder
meeting for the autumn on indicators related to our current work on access
to justice.
4. Fourthly, we will begin integrating and applying indicators across a range
of our ongoing projects. To give some concrete examples:
a. The Agency has four upcoming surveys: on discrimination against
Roma, discrimination and violence against LGBT persons, on
violence against women - including violence in childhood, and on
discrimination and hate crime against Jews. These four surveys will
include elements to ensure that core aspects of the data we collect
can be developed as indicators in a fundamental rights context.
And of course, over time the Agency intends to repeat these surveys so
that we can identify trends. We have already done so with our legal
report on homophobia and transphobia which was updated last year.
b. We have other projects lined up for 2012, where the Agency will
explore indicator development, including further progress on
indicators on the rights of the child.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Developing indicators will allow us to improve the quality of data that is collected.
This, in turn, can then improve the quality of legislation and policy developed by
authorities. If we can accomplish this, it is my sincere belief that we will have
played an important part in helping to improve fundamental rights for everyone in
the EU.
I would, again, like to thank you for your engaged participation in this
Symposium. Let me also thank:
• All the speakers, moderators and participants for their valuable
contributions
• Symposium team under the guidance of Thomas Tschernkowitsch
• Jo Goodey and Jonas Grimheden
• Interpreters
On that note I wish you a great weekend and safe journey home.