A two day regional conference “Advocacy for human rights and non-discrimination by national human rights institutions in the Western Balkans” took place on 29-30 November 2018 in Sarajevo and brought together the representatives of Ombudsman and Equality bodies from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo*, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovenia and “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” to exchange views and experience on the role of the institutions in promotion of human rights and non-discrimination in their countries.
The discussions at the Conference touched upon several important issues, including the role national human rights institutions play in societies and the need for a better public outreach.
Stronger co-operation with the civil society was identified as the crucial element of the work of national human rights institutions to promote human rights: civil society organisations are the most natural ally of national human rights institutions, and co-operation between civil society organisations and Ombudspersons should be a routine business. Likewise, interaction with judiciaries should be welcome: in the absence of formal links, regular exchange of views on main human rights issues in the country would strengthen the cause.
The timing of the Conference coincided with the adoption by the Committee of Ministers of a Recommendation on the need to strengthen the protection and promotion of civil society space in Europe, which makes reference to the role of civil society organisations and National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) as promoters and protectors of civil society space. The Recommendation was prepared by the Drafting Group on Civil Society and National Human Rights Institutions of the Steering Committee for Human Rights (CDDH-INST), whose member Mr Jose Antonio Jurado Ripoll presented its work.
The Conference speakers included the advisor to the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Ombudsperson of Bosnia and Herzegovina, international experts and representatives of NHRIs of the region.
The event was organised within the action “Strengthening the Human Rights Ombudsman to fight discrimination”, which is part of the "Horizontal Facility for the Western Balkans and Turkey", a joint programme co-funded by the European Union and the Council of Europe, and implemented by the Council of Europe.
* This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo Declaration of Independence.