Reflections about rights holders and rights compliance

This week I spent four inspiring days in Vienna. The first day I participated in a Hackathon and opening reception of the Fundamental Rights Forum (read my blog), and the second day was about rights governance (read my blog). In this last post I will share a few highlights from the two last days, about rights holders and rights compliance.

How do we globalise the local and how do we localise the global?’, asked Hausa Ibrahim, a Nigerian human rights lawyer the Forum to discuss. She called on business women and men to overcome fear by investing in youth, education, and most importantly in moral economy, and to not underestimate each and every owns power to make a difference. Another inspiring speaker was Steve Howard, Chief Sustainability Officer at IKEA who made a convincing argument that businesses can lead from principles and fast track change. He spoke about how IKEA is working for equal pay, decent jobs and fair wages, gender balanced management, and marketing material that is diverse and inclusive of all persons and families. IKEA Foundation is the largest private sector supporting refugees.

In order for rights holders to feel empowered they need to feel hope, and hope comes from participation, said Nils Muiznieks, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights. Mr Muiznieks spend much time visiting migrants, Roma people, institutions for persons with disabilities and squats. He engage with NGOs and human rights defenders and reminds duty bearers about their it responsibilities.

The American political theorists Benjamin R Barber made the point that ‘rights are in trouble because democracy is in trouble’, people no longer believe in democracy because they do not see their rights being protected. Mr Barber argued that states has outlived its usefulness in an interconnected world we live in. Instead it is cities that have the bottom-up sovereignty and political muscle to jointly make a difference and uphold rights. Movements such as ‘Black Lives Matters’ bring more meaningful change than lawyers, because they engage thousands of people and can have the power of becoming mass movements, said James L. Cavallaro, President of the Commission of Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. While Max Schrems is often praised for claiming his digital rights when bringing Facebook to court, he himself made the point that most people do not have the means to put a case forward, as it requires both expertise, financial means and support. He also questioned how much European policies are really based on fundamental rights or ruled by other interests, such as businesses and industries.Astrid Thors from the High Commissioner on National Minorities reminded that marginalised people and people without citizenship are deprived of their rights. The issue of the rights of undocumented migrants where unfortunately fairly absent from most of the debates.

How can e-health improve rights fulfilment through innovation, was a workshop that intrigued me. Although it wasn’t so much about innovative ways to enable access to health care services, which l was hoping for. Overall, e-health is about for example apps reminding about doctors appointments, digital medical records, and electronic devices to monitor patients health. EU data regulations for e-health lags behind as it does not apply consistently to medical devices and neither does it cover all the apps (that anyone who knows how can create), which advise and monitor health and wellness, explained Claudia Prettner from the European Commission. Heiden Mollekopf, Vice President of AGE Platform Europe made the point that developers has to involve older people in the design of new technology that can increase their independent living. Younger, healthier, better educated and wealthier older people profit the most from technology development, which further contributes to marginalisation and digital iliteracy. Laurène Souchet, Secretary General of the European Patient Forum concluded that what is needed is meaningful patient involvement. Acknowledging a patients own expertise leads to their empowerment. Participants raised concerns about the risks of data being misused for ethnic profiling.

Unfortunately l had to leave the Forum in the middle of a well-attended session about the European Pillar of Social Rights, where Allan Päll spoke on behalf of Social Platform. Before heading off to Council of Europe where l will speak on ‘is NGO solidarity with migrants and refugees an offence?’ I took with me an interesting remark made by Mr Regis Brilliat, Executive Secretary of the Council of Europe’s Social Charter. Mr Brilliat said that the reason why people do not understand their rights is because they get mixed messages: the way EU laws are implemented do not match with what the European Social Charter commit states to.

Read Jana Hainsworth, our Presidents take aways from the Forum and check out the many tweets at #rightsforum16

Read also my blog post from the first day and day two.