ENNHRI’s Annual Report 2020 highlights NHRIs’ crucial role in promoting and protecting human rights during COVID-19
Against a backdrop of ongoing challenges to rule of law, the COVID-19 pandemic and associated public health measures continued to impact greatly on human rights across Europe. ENNHRI’s latest Annual Report outlines the key achievements of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) throughout 2020, whilst showing how NHRIs continued to provide human rights monitoring, reporting and support to rightsholders through innovative adaptations in their work practices.
With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, ENNHRI and its member institutions had to adapt their ways of working considerably. Despite conditions that were difficult at times, they rose to the challenge and continued to promote and protect human rights.
As NHRIs’ collective voice at the European level, ENNHRI continued to provide expertise on the establishment of NHRIs in Europe, positioning itself as the leading actor in advising governments, NGOs and other relevant parties in this area. The need for stronger and more effective NHRIs was underlined by numerous reports and policies adopted by the Council of Europe and the European Commission: both repeatedly recognised how crucial NHRIs are in advancing human rights for all.
In its new Charter Strategy, the European Commission stressed the importance of Paris Principles-compliant NHRIs to address the accountability gap in securing rights for individuals across Europe. This came following input that ENNHRI was invited to submit by the Commission – this set out ENNHRI’s insights and experience on the Charter and its implementation, integrating information from NHRIs.
As part of continued collaboration with the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), ENNHRI contributed to FRA’s report on NHRIs – a milestone document for the increased recognition of NHRIs in the EU and its Members States, it advocates strongly for the establishment of A-status NHRIs.
At the same time, the draft Council of Europe Recommendation on NHRIs, adopted in March 2021, promoted NHRI strengthening and their cooperation with the Council of Europe. ENNHRI engaged in different stages of the Recommendation’s review process, including participating in a high-level consultation meeting in February 2020 in Brussels.
2020 saw major developments in NHRIs’ contribution to monitoring the rule of law at the European level. ENNHRI produced a comprehensive report on the state of the rule of law in Europe. A collaborative effort across ENNHRI’s membership, it brought together individual NHRIs’ perspectives on the situation in their countries.
In collaboration with the European Implementation Network and the Council of Europe Department for the Execution of Judgments, ENNHRI hosted a series of webinars helping to strengthen NHRIs’ capacities in the implementation of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights. ENNHRI also published a guide for NHRIs on third-party interventions before the Court.
Work on economic and social rights focused on the impact of COVID-19 and promoting a human rights-based approach to recovery. In April, ENNHRI issued a statement calling on the EU to put economic and social rights at the heart of its economic response to the pandemic. A series of webinars were also organised, including on the human rights dimensions of poverty, the economic recovery from the pandemic, and the European Pillar of Social Rights.
In the area of asylum and migration, ENNHRI focused on supporting NHRIs’ work to monitor the rights of migrants at borders, particularly in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. In January, a report was published outlining the work of European NHRIs in this area. Later releases complementing this included guidance on monitoring human rights at borders and a resource on monitoring challenges in the context of COVID-19.
In 2020, ENNHRI also concluded its three-year project on the human rights in (post-)conflict with the launch of its ‘Guide on the Role of NHRIs in (Post-)Conflict Situations’. This collated the outcomes of the workshops, meetings, research and other activities carried out in this area from 2017-2020. The Guide provides resources for NHRIs and other stakeholders on different topics, including internal displacement, economic and social rights, human rights and counter-terrorism, and peacebuilding.
In spite of the unique difficulties that 2020 posed, ENNHRI and NHRIs adapted admirably to continue promoting and protecting human rights across Europe. The resilience gained places both in a better position to face ongoing challenges and new ones coming their way.