By working together with our regional and international partners, we can help to ensure complementarity of activities and maximise the impacts of our efforts to promote and protect human rights across Europe. We have participation rights before various fora of European-level human rights mechanisms and facilitate European NHRIs’ engagement with these mechanisms, providing inputs from a regional perspective by bringing together relevant information from NHRIs at the national level. We also communicate key developments at the European level to our members to assist in the smooth functioning of the European human rights framework.
All Council of Europe member states are bound by the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (the Convention), a treaty designed to protect civil and political rights in wider Europe. The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), an international court set up in 1959, rules on violations of the rights and principles set out in the Convention.
Implementation of the Convention
NHRIs are core stakeholders in the Convention system, as expressed in Council of Europe’s Brighton Declaration. The declaration affirms the crucial role of NHRIs in ensuring the effective implementation of the Convention at a national level, as well as the importance of the collaboration between NHRIs and the Council of Europe.
“The Brighton Declaration .. expresses the determination of the States Parties to ensure effective implementation of the Convention at national level by taking specific measures, such as the establishment, if they have not already done so, of an independent National Human Rights Institution”(….) “The States Parties and the Court also share responsibility for ensuring the viability of the Convention mechanism. The States Parties are determined to work in partnership with the Court to achieve this, drawing also on the important work of the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe as well as the Commissioner for Human Rights and the other institutions and bodies of the Council of Europe, and working in a spirit of co-operation with civil society and National Human Rights Institutions.”
The 2015 Brussels Declaration focuses specifically on the implementation of the Convention as a shared responsibility and stresses the importance of involving the NHRIs throughout the different stages of the process. In order to maximise the impact of NHRIs’ work to ensure the implementation of the Convention and ECtHR judgments, we have developed Guidelines on the Implementation of ECtHR Judgments, for use by all NHRIs across the Council of Europe.
Participation in the development of standards
We have permanent observer status at the Council of Europe’s Steering Committee for Human Rights (CDDH), which develops recommendations with the aim of promoting human rights in Europe and improving the effectiveness of the control mechanism established by the Convention.
We participate in meetings of the CDDH and its subordinate bodies and have been actively involved in inputting in various areas, including: the reform of the ECtHR, accession of the EU to the Convention, the CDDH Draft Opinion on the issues to be covered at the Interlaken Conference, and he longer-term future of the system of the Convention and the ECtHR.
Through our Legal Working Group, we submit third-party interventions (amicus curiae) before the ECtHR in relation to cases that have a regional significance. We also liaise with the Court Registry, which provides legal and administrative support to the ECtHR in the exercise of its judicial functions, and are represented at the opening of the ECtHR.
Commissioner for Human Rights
We have a close working relationship with the Commissioner for Human Rights and her Office. The Commissioner has organised several round tables for European NHRIs over the past 15 years and liaises with us on various geographic and thematic human rights issues in Europe.
Members of the European Parliament work within several specialised committees and subcommittees, including the Committee on Human Rights of the European Parliament (DROI) and the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE). We often participate in these committees’ hearings and discussions on human rights issues to ensure that NHRIs’ expertise is taken into account.
- The LIBE Committee is responsible for the vast majority of the legislation and democratic oversight of Justice and Home Affairs policies. Whilst doing so, it ensures the full respect of the Charter of Fundamental Rights within the EU, the European Convention on Human Rights and the strengthening of European citizenship.
- The DROI Committee aims to ensure that human rights are at the forefront of European foreign policy and mainstreaming human rights across all policy areas. The committee may adopt reports and resolutions, thus contributing to the international debate on subjects such as the death penalty, torture or the fight against impunity.
We have several links with the European Commission, in particular with the Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers (DG JUST), Directorate-General for International Co-operation and Development (DG DEVCO), the Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion (DG EMPL) and the Directorate-General for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR).
Under its Justice programme, DG JUST provides a framework for mutual learning, exchange of good practices and cooperation, which includes an operational grant for ENNHRI. The objectives of the grant are, among others:
- Mutual learning and spread of good practice among our members in relation to European law and policy, and their national application
- Analysis and debate of European law and policy developments relevant to ENNHRI and their application at national level
- NHRI input to European activities in relation to fundamental rights
Also, our Project on the Role of NHRIs in Situations of (Post-)Conflict is funded by DG DEVCO.
EU Agency for Fundamental Rights
The EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), which was established to undertake research and data collection and provide expert advice to the EU and member states with regards to fundamental rights, is mandated to cooperate with the full spectrum of domestic human rights bodies. It has taken steps to integrate NHRIs into its activities, such as through its research on NHRIs and by convening meetings of EU NHRIs, national equality bodies and Ombuds institutions to promote coordination, peer exchange and strategic joint actions at the EU level.
FRA interacts with NHRIs on a regular basis with regard to the annual planning of its activities and programmes. It has the mandate to cooperate with ‘public bodies competent in the field of fundamental rights in the Member States, including national human rights institutions’.
European External Action Service
We work with our partners at the European External Action Service to strengthen and raise visibility of the role of NHRIs outside of the EU. This includes engagement with the following actors and policy instruments:
- The EU Special Representative for Human Rights helps make EU policy on human rights in non-EU countries more effective, coherent and visible.
- Through European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), the EU supports NHRIs worldwide to strengthen their role as key actors to promote and protect human rights in line with the UN Paris Principles.
- The EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy (2015-2019) provides an agreed basis for a collective effort by both EU countries and the EU institutions, stating, among others, that “the EU puts special emphasis on ownership by, and co-operation with, local institutions and mechanisms, including national human rights institutions.”
Council of the European Union
We participate in meetings held by the Human Rights Working Group of the Council of the EU (COHOM), which is responsible for human rights issues in the EU’s external relations. It is composed of human rights experts from member states and the European Commission. The agendas of COHOM’s meetings cover the various aspects of the EU’s human rights policy such as action in international fora, dialogues with third countries, thematic issues and mainstreaming.
Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe
The importance of NHRIs for the human rights architecture has been recognised in commitments of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). In Copenhagen, in 1990, participating States pledged to “… facilitate the establishment and strengthening of independent national institutions in the area of human rights and the rule of law…”.
At its Human Dimensions Implementation Meetings, OSCE invites European NHRIs to speak on the progress of the implementation of the OSCE Human Dimensions Commitments. In addition, ENNHRI and European NHRIs participate actively at the Human Dimensions Seminars and Supplementary Human Dimensions Meetings, which address specific challenges and opportunities in the promotion and protection of human rights. The 2015 OSCE Human Dimension Seminar, under the Serbian Chairmanship, was dedicated to NHRIs and their role in promoting and protecting human rights, including through implementation of the OSCE Human Dimensions Commitments.
OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights
The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) provides support, assistance and expertise to participating States and civil society to promote democracy, rule of law, human rights, and tolerance and non-discrimination. ODIHR seeks to strengthen the capacity of NHRIs in the OSCE region. It has stated that ‘active support for the establishment of strong and independent NHRIs, as well as building capacity of existing institutions, is instrumental for the implementation of the OSCE human dimension commitments’.
We collaborate annually with ODIHR to plan, design and deliver the NHRI Academy, which provides capacity building for NHRI staff in the key methodologies and characteristics of NHRIs, as well as a forum for exchange of good practice and networking among NHRIs.
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
OHCHR is a part of the UN Secretariat with the headquarters in Geneva and has a unique mandate from the international community to promote and protect all human rights. Strengthening international human rights mechanisms is one of OHCHR’s main priorities.
The National Institutions and Regional Mechanisms Unit of OHCHR supports the establishment and strengthening of NHRIs and works closely with NHRIs to support them in the implementation of their broad mandates to promote and protect human rights. It also acts as the GANHRI Secretariat.
In accordance with Human Rights Council resolution 5/1, NHRIs with A-status accreditation, GANHRI and the regional networks of NHRIs (speaking on behalf of A-status members) are entitled to participate, make an oral statement, or submit written documentation such as statements, reports and policy papers to the UN Human Rights Council.
OHCHR Regional Office for Europe
The OHCHR Regional Office for Europe works to facilitate the integration of the UN’s human rights standards at EU level, with the joint goal of helping address human rights challenges in Europe. It also seeks to ensure the integration of the UN’s human rights perspective in external EU policies and activities. We work closely with the OHCHR Regional Office for Europe through collaboration in thematic conferences and projects and by sharing information on issues arising in our shared geographic remit.
United Nations Development Programme
The mission of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) is to help achieve the eradication of poverty and the reduction of inequalities and exclusion. Thus, UNDP works, among others, on to protect the rule of law, justice, security and human rights.
UNDP supports and collaborates with NHRIs in the following areas:
- addressing institutional, architectural and operational challenges faced by NHRIs;
- NHRIs and democratic governance;
- business and human rights;
- information and knowledge management;
- the Universal Periodic Review process, Treaty Bodies and Special Procedures;
- the consolidation of the Capacity Assessment and Gap Analysis methodologies;
- the role of NHRIs in conflict and post-conflict situations.
Tripartite Partnership of GANHRI, UNDP and OHCHR
The strategic Tripartite Partnership between GANHRI, OHCHR and UNDP in support of NHRIs worldwide aims at better coordinating and leveraging knowledge, expertise and capacity to strengthen the effectiveness of NHRIs. This strategic partnership has enabled the UN system to provide more efficient and effective support to NHRIs, which has been recognised by the UN Secretary General and the General Assembly as a good practice on the way the development pillar can work with the human rights pillar and advance efforts toward peace and security.
As NHRIs bridge the gap between the state and civil society, we encourage our members to develop partnerships at national, regional and international levels civil civil society, in line with the UN Paris Principles.
We support constructive working relations between our members and non-governmental organisations by:
- Informing of the role of NHRIs
- Identifying current and concrete areas of cooperation and collaboration
- Strengthening and promoting information exchange
We have established strong working relationships with a variety of NGOs and other partners from civil society, including the following:
- A11 Initiative
- AGE Platform
- Amnesty International
- Centre for Economic and Social Rights
- European Council on Refugees and Exiles
- European Disability Forum
- European Network on Statelessness
- European Women’s Lobby
- Front Line Defenders
- International Commission of Jurists
- International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association – Europe
- Participation and the Practice of Rights Project
We work closely with other networks of national bodies working on human rights throughout Europe in order to share information, ensure complementarity of action and maximise impact. As our membership overlaps with those of other networks, we communicate with other networks’ Secretariats to ensure coordination.
We collaborate with the following networks:
Equinet, the European Network of Equality Bodies
Equinet is a membership organisation bringing together 49 equality bodies from 36 European countries including all EU Member States. Equinet promotes equality in Europe by supporting and enabling the work of national equality bodies. It supports equality bodies to be independent and effective catalysts for more equal societies.
European Network of Ombudsmen
The European Network of Ombudsmen connects the European Ombudsman, national and regional ombudsmen with the aim of ensuring complainants can get help at the appropriate level. The network helps to share information about EU law and its impact in EU Member States. It facilitates cooperation between ombudsmen, with a view to safeguarding the rights of EU citizens and individuals under EU law.
International Ombudsman Institute
The International Ombudsman Institute is a global organisation for the cooperation of more than 190 independent Ombudsman institutions operating on a local, regional and national level from more than 100 countries worldwide.