On 29th October 2018, the Albanian Commissioner for Protection from Discrimination organized the Third Regional Conference of Equality Bodies, by topic “Independence of Equality Bodies”, at the Palace of Brigades, in Tirana, Albania. The Conference was partly financially supported by the OSCE.
This Conference was organized following the tradition of two previous joint activities of Equality Bodies, based on the Statement on Cooperation, signed in Belgrade 2016, between South-East Europe Equality Bodies. The first Regional Conference was organized in 2016 by the Serbian Commissioner for the Protection of Equality in Belgrade and the second one in 2017 by the Ombudsman for Gender Equality of the Republic of Croatia, in Zagreb.
The Third Regional Conference brought together South-East Europe Equality Bodies from Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, as well as special guests: the People’s Advocate of Kosovo and the People’s Advocate of Albania. The Conference was welcomed by Mrs. Vasilika Hysi, Deputy Speaker of the Assembly of the Republic of Albania and Chairperson of the Parliamentary Sub-Committee for Human Rights in the Assembly of the Republic of Albania, Ambassador Bernard Borchardt, Head of the OSCE Mission in Albania and Mr. Tamás Kádár, Head of Legal and Policy Team at Equinet. Present were also different Albanian national public institutions and other independent bodies, as well as many international organizations for the protection and promotion of the human rights, operating in Albania.
The aim of the Third Regional Conference of South-East Europe Equality Bodies was to discuss on the new standards approved at the European level (ECRI General policy Recommendation No.2 on Equality Bodies and European Commission Recommendation of 22 June 2018 on Standards for Equality Bodies); challenges to achieve EU standards on the independency of Equality Bodies; incitement of regional cooperation between equality bodies and the presentation of a large variety of experiences from across the participating South East-Europe Equality Bodies, aiming to share and convey best practices and reflect on the value that carry these standards.
Key learning outcomes:
From the discussions of the representatives of Equality Bodies participating in the Conference, it turned out that some of the issues or common problems faced by the Equality Bodies, in exercising their mandate and powers independently, resulted as follows:
- South-East Europe Equality Bodies are in the process of reviewing their national legislation on the protection from discrimination, reflecting among other issues their institutional aspect;
- Equality Bodies, in exercising their activity, face the problem of insufficient financial resources, a fact that violates the independent exercise of their mandate and the competences that these institutions have been attributed to their national legislation;
- They also have no guarantees regarding the approval of their budget and the Parliaments have non limitations in reducing the entity of the budget. Frequently the Equality Bodies suffer restricted procedures in operational activities during the spending of their financial resources;
- Equality Bodies face administrative or other bureaucratic restrictions, such as the inability to determine by themselves the way of organization and the institutional structure, the approval of the structure of these institutions by other organs or aspects related to employee salaries and categories, which affect the administrative independence of these institutions;
- Equality Bodies, in exercising their activity, face constraints or pressure such as, the control of the activity of these institutions with the obligation that the annual reports of their activity have to be approved by other state organs;
- Equality Bodies face the problems of lack of sufficient and appropriate infrastructural capacities and premises, aspects which not only affect their independence but also the right of citizens to have effective access to these institutions.