Why a Fundamental Rights Forum?

Global threats are eroding human rights progress and commitments.

This is despite 70 years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the EU’s very own Charter of Fundamental Rights.

The EU and its Member States are struggling to find effective answers to problems people face. Security concerns, economic worries and changing global migratory patterns are fuelling worries. In addition, the blurring of facts with fiction and mounting fears in public debate are feeding growing polarisation and ‘othering’. Populist movements are exploiting all this for their own gain. As a result society is being fragmented with some groups increasingly feeling separated, excluded and marginalised.

People in the EU risk losing their sense of belonging to the societies they live in and the values on which the EU is built. That said the 2017 EU Citizenship report shows that Europeans expect more to be done to promote common values. The Forum will be a catalyst to (re-) discover the means to ignite in our societies a passion for fairness, justice and equality.

The Forum is a unique space for dialogue on the pressing human rights challenges in the EU. Leading global and European voices from politics, human rights, international and regional intergovernmental organisations, civil society, faith communities, the arts, business, trade unions and others meet in Vienna to engage in new conversations and shape critical human rights agendas.

What can I expect from the Forum 2018?

The Forum promotes problem-solving through interactive work methodologies, hands-on workshops and a series of ‘open sessions’.

There will be workshops, inspiring talks, panel debates with people from different walks of life. Participants can engage in a ‘Living Library’ and try out innovative tools in a ‘Virtual zone’.

A global network of strategic high quality partners will help shape the programme. The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals will be promoted throughout the Forum acknowledging how they can drive inclusive and thriving societies. They will serve as a reminder of how the EU fits into the global community. Young people will meaningfully participate at the Forum.

So what will the Forum create?

The Forum will lead to concrete and sustainable initiatives by and with policy makers, civil society, faith communities, the arts, academia, business, trade unions and others. For example, the Agency will work with EU Member States holding the EU Presidency to bring innovative ‘promising practices’ to complex discussions on the EU policy agenda. The Forum will invite Members of the European Parliament to inspire them for the 2019 European Parliament election campaigns.

The Agency will present the Forum’s evidence-based advice to the European Commission to help them prepare for the new legislature as the new European Commission takes office in the second half of 2019.

The results from the workshops and panel debates, will also provide a solid basis for action by local, national, European and international human rights communities.

How can I follow the event?

Due to the capacity of the venue, participation is upon invitation only. To ensure lively and engaging discussions, FRA will select a broad range of fundamental rights concerns from around the world which you can follow live. We will also keep the website updated with blogs, video recordings and more. And don’t forget to follow the debate online #RightsForum18!

FRF programme

The Forum is an interactive event. Both the venue and programme reflect this approach. The Forum offers a varied programme including a high level opening ceremony, Connect-Reflect-Act talks, Reality Bites panel discussions and a series of FRA working groups and over 50 ‘open sessions’.  There is no prior sign up to sessions. Participants can build ‘their own programme’ based on their interests.

The five FRA working groups are:

  1. Belonging in today’s diverse, polarised and fragmented societies – the role of education and employment in fostering inclusion 
    This working group will reflect on the role education and employment can play in creating belonging to make societies more inclusive. The findings will be brought together to create synergies and consistent approaches across both areas.
  2. Local action as a driver of human rights and belonging
    This working group recognises the important role cities play in the human rights landscape. With examples of local practices, it will show how cities act as ‘hubs’ for ideas and social development. It will allow discuss how they can enable people to advance socially and economically.
  3. Boosting trust in institutions – a critical dialogue
    This working group seeks to explore with rights holders and duty bearers how trust in public institutions can be boosted.
  4. WG4: Securing social rights through equal opportunities and access to the labour market
    This working group will reflect on how equal opportunities and access to labour market can help secure social rights. It will particularly focus on young people. It will at labour market changes and the implications for social rights.
  5. Turning up the volume: no voice unheard!
    This working group will explore ways of strengthening the voice and raising awareness of the plight of those most excluded. It will showcase positive practices, strategies and tools to ‘turn up the volume’ and amplify the voice of those that remain unheard.

The Forum and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

FRA is highly committed to contributing towards implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It is inspired by the EU Treaties ‘The Union shall work for the sustainable development of Europe‘ and the EU’s Council Conclusions (June 2017) ‘A sustainable European Union: The EU response to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’.  

FRA’s work is guided by the core SDG principle of ‘leave no one behind’. It delivers unique data and information that can be used by the EU, and, especially, Member States for their voluntary national reviews.

Fundamental rights form an integral part of the SDGs. They are interlinked with several international human rights treaties, as the UN’s Human Rights Office (OHCHR) has pointed out. In parallel, the European Commission’s Communication ‘Next steps for a sustainable European future European action for sustainability’ (November 2016) links several SDGs to the EU Charter for Fundamental Rights, as well as the rights and principles of the new European Pillar of Social Rights.

The FRF will provide a forum for exchange of relevant experience and best practices across sectors and at the local, regional, national and EU levels. SDGs will be systematically discussed in all thematic working groups hosted by FRA, in two dedicated open sessions organised in cooperation with various partners and stakeholders as well as in other initiatives organised within the FRF. One of these open sessions will look at the importance of raising awareness about SDGs, and how to communicate human rights and SDGs.

In line with the principle of inter-connectivity among all SDGs, the FRF will address all SDGs in the various discussions. Particular attention will be devoted to the SDGs on education and lifelong learning, gender, economic growth and employment, equality within and among countries, climate change, peaceful and inclusive societies, access to justice, effective accountable and inclusive institutions, global partnership for sustainable development and poverty.

The outcomes of all discussions at the FRF will be made available to the EU Institutions and all stakeholders involved on the implementation of the SDGs at the EU level. Relevant outcomes will be shared with the EU Council Working Party on Agenda 2030; with the European Commission as it draft a Reflection paper on Sustainable Development; with stakeholders involved in the Multi-Stakeholders Platform. They will also feed into the FRA Fundamental Rights Report 2019 dedicated focus chapter which with look at the SDGs.  

The FRF also aims to develop key messages and recommendations that will be conveyed to the High Level Political Forum 2019 ‘Empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality’. For this forum, FRA will contribute to the EU’s efforts to report on SDGs by collecting data and analysis that populate a range of SDG indicators.

The fundamental rights dimensions of the SDGs will help raise awareness and the visibility of the SDGs within the EU. They will also underline the EU and its Member States’ efforts to meet these goals.

Who is coming to the Forum?

Participation is by invitation only and free of charge. The Forum can host 400 people per day. FRA’s aim is to bring in diverse voices from many different walks of life. It will at the same time ensure balanced representation from its various stakeholder groups while respecting different diversity grounds and thematic coverage across different areas of fundamental rights, etc.

Key criteria for being invited to participate in the Forum are:

  • You have to be active in a field of work relevant to the FRF 2018
  • Geographical balance 
  • 1 person per organisation

Registration has started (invitation by email). FRA has limited possibilities to cover the travel and accommodation costs of some participants.

Keep in touch!