On 25 April, the Ombudsman, together with the House of Human Rights, organised a conference to celebrate ten years of application of the Anti-Discrimination Act in Croatia. The conference brought together local communities and civil society organisations, as well as all the Ombuds institutions in Croatia.
Collaboration with local communities and civil society organizations is crucial to citizens’ awareness of discrimination and the right to be protected by the Convention on “10 Years of the Anti-Discrimination Act” held on April 25, organized by the Ombudsman and the House of Human Rights, held at the House of Europe in Zagreb. See the full Agenda here
Local units have direct contact with their locals and know best local needs and challenges. It is precisely here that there is a chance to improve the system of protection against discrimination: cooperation, exchange of information, experience and education of state and local actors are crucial not only for the implementation of the Act but also directly contribute to improving the quality of life of all citizens – said Ombudswoman Lora Vidović.
Program Director Human Rights House Ivan Novosel outlined the slow pace of justice as the biggest problem in combating discrimination. The importance of the media in promoting information on combating discrimination was emphasized by former Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor. Equinet’s Executive Director Anne Gaspard spoke at the beginning of the conference to highlight Equinet’s support to all of its members in Croatia, and encourage their continued contribution to bringing change to Croatian society. See her full speech here.
After the welcoming speeches, the panel “The role of the ombudsman institutions in the implementation of the Anti-Discrimination Act” followed. Chaired by our Deputy Director Tamás Kádár, it brought together all the Croatian equality bodies and the Ombudswoman for Children.
The Ombudsperson for Persons with Disability, Mrs. Anka Slonjšak, pointed out the problem of lack of reasonable adjustment, which is also the most common issue of complaints to her office. This directly leads to discrimination as it creates an obstacle to the use of remaining abilities, but also disables the inclusion of people with disabilities in the community.
A representative from the Gender Equality Ombudsperson, Mladenka Morović, pointed out that the largest number of complaints on gender related to direct discrimination, so indirect discrimination of victims does not seem to be recognized. Helens Pirnat Dragičević, Ombud for Children, stated that in recent years there has been an increase in the number of complaints pertaining to possible discrimination of children in the field of education, social welfare, access to goods and services, sports and health care.
Deputy Ombudswoman, Mrs. Tena Šimonović Einwalter briefly clarified the overall scope of work of the Ombudsman, focusing on the role of the central body responsible for combating discrimination. Although the number of complaints throughout the years of application of the Act is on a slight rise, a special challenge is bringing the institution closer to the particularly vulnerable groups that are most often unfamiliar with the system of protection against discrimination. Therefore, new ways of receiving complaints are being drafted, regional offices are opened, and field visits are also organized for citizens. Similarly, close cooperation with non-governmental organizations was established as anti-discrimination contact points.
In the next panel, Goran Barać Ručević, Judge of the Supreme Court, Snježana Horvat-Paliska, Judge of the Administrative Court in Rijeka and lawyer Natalija Labavić, spoke about the application of the Anti-Discrimination Act in the courts.
In the third panel, entitled “Experiences in the Application of Anti-Discrimination Law in the Republic of Croatia”, moderated by a journalist and member of the People’s Advocate of the People’s Advocate Barbara Vid, the participants exposed their views of discrimination and its meaning as well as the future foreseen by the Act and the phenomena of discrimination in the Republic of Croatia in general.
In the last panel on combating discrimination at the regional and local level, representatives of the cities of Vienna and Graz, Shams Asadi, Daniela Grabovac and Hans Putzer, shared good practice experiences for which these cities have the title “Human Rights Cities”, while Lana Golob talked about the example of the City of Rijeka and emphasized that the introduction of civic education into the school program is a step towards breaking the vicious cycle of exclusivity in valuables.
Niall Crowley spoke of the importance of the prevention of discrimination as an independent equality expert and Clara Horvat presented the experiences of the project “Network of Cities and Civil Society to Combat Racism and Discrimination in Croatia” in front of the Human Rights House, where six Croatian cities exchanged good practice, and has improved cooperation with civil society organizations in the field of promoting equality and respect for human rights.
The conference was concluded by Ivan Novosel and Tena Šimonović Einwalter. Ivan Novosel emphasized the importance of cities and local levels, as well as the key role of civil society organizations, as well as cooperation with public authorities in achieving the best results in the implementation of the Anti-Discrimination Act. Tena Simonovic Einwalter discussed the challenges facing people working in the field of protection and promotion of human rights, mechanisms to improve the fight against discrimination at the local and regional level and ultimately to all citizens. Cooperation between all stakeholders in the field of human rights, in particular the work of decision-makers who are in the position of the principle of equality, is very important in all areas of their jurisdiction.