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#RightsForum21 - Where do we go from here?

Michael O'Flaherty, FRA Director, giving the Forum closing speech
© FRA/Voglhuber, 2021
Two days of stimulating discussions, over 145 different sessions, 6 locations – that was the Fundamental Rights Forum 2021 in a nutshell. With over 3,000 people joining the Forum in Vienna and online, it was the biggest human rights event in Europe this year.

It brought together people from very diverse backgrounds – the thought leaders, decision makers, civil society, artists, businesses, young people, faith and non-confessional communities and many more.

They were all united by one ambition – to build a vision of hope.

And according to Michael O’Flaherty, Director of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights and Forum Chair, they delivered.

“The human rights community is a strong community, it is a large passionate, committed and determined group of people across the world and together we can make a difference,” said Mr. O’Flaherty in his closing speech.

The many discussions and exchanges during the Forum have made him believe that there is a reason to remain hopeful.

“I have a sense that my hope for a future built on respect for human rights is entirely justified,” he added.

In his closing remarks, Director O’Flaherty identified five main takeaways:

  1. WAKE UP – we need to wake up from our complacency and acknowledge that no system or organisation is permanent and infallible, guaranteed to live into the ever future. The eroding of the whole system of human rights protection can happen without us even noticing it.
  2. JOIN UP – we need to bring everybody who cares about human rights to engage and work with each other on our common concerns. And bring those who are normally excluded from decision making into the discussions. We have to develop a mutual literacy, a vocabulary to speak to each other.
  3. WISE UP – we have to acknowledge the skills of the adversary and be equally smart. We need to improve our tools, get better at data gathering and making a business case for our claims. Smart communication is about finding new and different voices to deliver the message, as do music and drama – highly effective in delivering human rights messages.
  4. CATCH UP – it is imperative that we meaningfully engage with the digital world and new technologies, especially artificial intelligence. We need to acknowledge the complexity at the technical levels, at the legal levels and the ethical levels.
  5. LISTEN UP – we need to listen and engage the voices of young people; they need to be at heart of our discussions. This requires that we stop working for people and that we always insist on working with people. They must be our partners in our effort for the promotion and the protection of human rights.

Building on these takeaways, we can chart a new way together towards a better protection of fundamental rights in Europe.

We will continue publishing information about the main outcomes from the Forum here.