Discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, disability, age, race, ethnic origin, national origin and religion or belief continues to be widespread across Europe. By working together on these issues, parliaments and national human rights and equality bodies can act as a central force in combatting discrimination.
This is a particularly appropriate moment for consideration as to how engagement between parliaments and National Human Rights Institutions can promote greater equality and lessen discrimination, given that a number of member States have, or plan to integrate the functions of their national equality body and human rights institution (including Ireland, Belgium, France, Denmark, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom). In addition, the adoption in February 2012 of the Belgrade Principles set a benchmark for the improved interaction between parliaments and NHRIs.
In its Resolution 1910 (2012), originating from the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination, the Parliamentary Assembly recognised “non-governmental organisations (NGOs) as the natural allies of parliaments in the performance of their function of oversight, prevention and awareness raising” in combating intolerance, racism and xenophobia. NHRIs equally are key partners in this fight.
NHRIs established under the United Nations Paris Principles have a key role to play in monitoring equality and non-discrimination, including through legislative review, awareness raising and monitoring member States’ compliance with their international human rights obligations. Already, NHRIs are undertaking a wide range of activities in this area, from training civil and public servants to recommending changes in legislation and policy.
The Assembly should conduct an in-depth analysis of the relationship between NHRIs and parliaments on equality and non-discrimination issues in member States, and formulate appropriate recommendations with a view to promoting greater interaction between parliaments and NHRIs in promoting equality and combatting discrimination across Europe.