INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION
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INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION

The Protection against Discrimination Act requires the Advocate of the Principle of Equality to exchange research results and other data on discrimination with international institutions, which then use such data in their research and analytical work.

Cooperation also takes place in the opposite direction: The Advocate learns about foreign good practices from international institutions and their representatives in Slovenia and includes them in its work.

International cooperation includes bilateral cooperation, data exchange within the European Union and active participation in the working bodies of the European umbrella network – Equinet.

In addition, the Advocate also cooperates with the bodies of the Council of Europe (Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Council of Europe Commission against Racism and Intolerance, Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities) and the United Nations.

The European Commission, as the guardian of the EU legal order, is responsible for the drafting of legislative proposals and policies of the European Union and correct and full implementation of the acquis. Within the European Commission, the area of combating discrimination falls within the competence of the Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers. In the field of combating discrimination, the European Commission adopts a variety of measures aimed in particular at:

  • improving knowledge of discrimination by raising awareness among the population on the rights and obligations and on the positive effects of diversity;
  • support of indirect stakeholders (non-governmental organizations, social partners, equality bodies), regarding the improvement of capacities in combating discrimination;
  • supporting the development of equality policies at national level and promoting the exchange of good practices between EU countries;
  • bringing about changes in the field of anti-discrimination through anti-discrimination training activities;
  • promoting the development of diversity and inclusion policies in the workplace.

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The European Union established the Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) in 2007 to provide independent assistance and expertise in the field of fundamental rights to the EU institutions and Member States. Headquartered in Vienna, it operates with 113 employees and has a budget of €21.2 million; while 73% of the budget is spent on operational activities.

In addition to the supportive role of the FRA, it also conducts several pan-European surveys in individual areas (violence against women, discrimination based on different personal grounds, hate speech, etc.). This research makes an important contribution to understanding and addressing negative social phenomena, such as hate speech or discrimination.

The FRA’S field of work includes a variety of issues related to numerous personal grounds such as gender, religion, political belief, sexual orientation or identity, disability, etc. The FRA also issues handbooks for lawyers on European Union legislation and case law. Topics such as asylum, border control, immigration, data protection and the fight against discrimination are included in the handbooks published.

The Agency organises annual conferences on fundamental rights, attended by hundreds of experts and other stakeholders representing both EU institutions and national authorities. Every year, one of the issues such as hate speech, immigration, children’s rights is at the forefront.

Within the EU, FRA cooperates with the European Parliament, the European Commission, the Council of the EU and EU agencies. Outside the EU, cooperation with the Council of Europe, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the United Nations is fostered. At the national level, the FRA cooperates with government bodies, connecting and organizing the exchange of good practices between representatives of Member States.

The Fundamental Rights Platform (FRP) is used to build dialogue with civil society. Within the FRP, around four hundred civil society organisations from across the EU participate, meeting once a year and including various actors from different fields of activity.

The FRA’s multiannual framework of work areas includes: access to judicial protection, assistance to victims of crime, including compensation, digital society and respect for privacy and personal data protection, Roma inclusion, judicial cooperation (except in criminal matters), children’s rights, discrimination, immigration and integration of immigrants, visas and border controls, racism, xenophobia and intolerance.

Giving opinions to the European Parliament, the Commission and the Council of the EU also falls within the FRA’S areas of work. This includes research and opinions on specific areas that are not necessarily in the FRA work programme. Moreover, member States may also request comparative data, e.g. to be used in the preparation of national policies. States and other institutions often refer to data provided by FRA.

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Equinet is an international non-governmental organisation that seeks to enhance efforts to eliminate discrimination, promote equality and, in particular, strengthen the position and capacity of equality bodies. This is achieved through the comprehensive mutual cooperation of 46 members from 34 European countries, as well as through cooperation with various international stakeholders, in particular the European Commission, which significantly supports its operation, as well as with the EU Agency for Human Rights, the bodies of the Council of Europe (Commissioner for Human Rights, ECRI, etc.) and the United Nations.

Equinet represents an important junction as regards the work of equality bodies at the international level. Additionally, Equinet seeks to actively contribute to the development of legal practice and standards of protection against discrimination.

Equality bodies are independent organisations that assist victims of discrimination, monitor and report on cases of discrimination and advocate equality. Their statutory tasks include promotion of equality and combating discrimination in relation to one or more of personal grounds covered by the EU law – gender, race, ethnic origin, age, sexual orientation, religion, belief and disability.

Equinet also states that EU equal treatment legislation imposes on Member States the obligation to establish equality bodies. Most Member States have already implemented measures related to Directive 2000/43/EC (implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of racial or ethnic origin) and gender equality directives (2010/41 on the self-employed, 2006/54 recast directive and 2004/113 on goods and services), or by supplementing or transforming existing or establishing new institutions to carry out the tasks set out in the new legislation. European anti-discrimination law requires the establishment of bodies in the areas of race, ethnic origin and gender. Nevertheless, a number of countries have special bodies dedicated to addressing discrimination also based on other grounds.

The Advocate of the Principle of Equality was one the equality bodies to assume membership in the European Network of Equality Bodies – Equinet. Cooperation between members is primarily aimed at strengthening the ability to work effectively and develop their full potential (in education, transfer of knowledge and experience as well as good practices, discussing the effective implementation of the EU acquis, effective policies, development strategies, communication approaches, etc.), as well as supporting the individual organisations in ensuring their independence and autonomy.

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Within the Council of Europe, there are three bodies with which the Advocate of the Principle of Equality established closer cooperation. In 2017, the Advocate of the Principle of Equality met in Ljubljana with the members of the Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and with the Commissioner for Human Rights.

Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights is a political body responsible for ensuring the respecting and promoting human rights, fostering human rights education and awareness-raising, and ensuring respect for the human rights instruments provided for by the Council of Europe. The Commissioner’s role is mainly preventive and complements the roles of the European Court of Human Rights and other convention bodies. Protocol No. 14. to the European Convention on Human Rights introduces the intervening of the Human Rights Commissioner before the court as a third party and allows them to submit written opinions and participate in the procedure.

European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) operates in the field of human rights. It is made up of independent professionals and monitors issues relating to racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, intolerance and discrimination based on race, nationality or ethnic origin, skin colour, citizenship, religion or language. ECRI issues reports and recommendations for action to Member States in these areas. The Commission against Racism and Intolerance is convinced that equality bodies play an important role in preventing discrimination at the national level. In its general recommendations, the Commission encourages the establishment of such bodies and support of the existing ones. In the fight against racism and intolerance, the Commission on Combating Racism and Intolerance considers national equality bodies to be strategic partners and strengthens its working relations with them.

Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities monitors the implementation and enforcement of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities of the Council of Europe. As a party to the Framework Convention, Slovenia is obliged to report to the Committee every five years on the situation within the country borders related to the protection of minorities. The members of the Advisory Committee then visit Slovenia following which the Advisory Committee gives an opinion on the improvement, stagnation or deterioration of the situation in the country, as well as proposals to address the pressing issues. On the basis of the opinion of the Committee, the Committee of Ministers then issues a resolution, the recommendations of which are politically binding on the state party. Since the Advocate of the Principle of Equality has the statutory competence of discrimination investigation also with regard to the personal ground of nationality and ethnicity, the operation of the Advisory Committee and its recommendations represent key guidelines in this area for the Advocate as well.

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Respect for and protection of human rights, based on the principles of non-discrimination and human dignity, represent one of the main priorities of the United Nations. Hence, in addition to maintaining international peace and security, promoting friendly relations between nations, advocating international cooperation and functioning as a platform of global coverage, human rights are one of the key areas for the development of the United Nations and its structures.

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The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights represents the world’s commitment to universal ideals of human dignity. It is a part of the United Nations Secretariat and operates mainly in Geneva. The priorities of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights are primarily the consolidation of international mechanisms for the protection of human rights, the promotion of equality and anti-discrimination, efforts directed at supporting the rule of law, integration of human rights into development issues and the economy, and coordination of human rights education. In carrying out its work, the Advocate of the Principle of Equality also relies to a certain extent on the recommendations and guidelines of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and also cooperates with their regional office.

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