The overall objective of this Twinning project was to establish an efficient and effective system for combating discrimination, thus raising the level of protection against discrimination in the Republic of Croatia. The project has strengthened the capacities of the beneficiary institutions – the Office of the Ombudsman as the central body responsible for combating discrimination and the Office for Human Rights and the Rights for National Minorities as the state body most directly involved in combating discrimination. An efficient system for monitoring reported and prosecuted cases of discrimination, for collecting data on court cases and for collecting and monitoring equality data has been developed. Finally, a comprehensive system for supporting victims of discrimination in gaining access to justice has been elaborated.
The Twinning project consisted of three components:
Within the first component, experts have prepared and conducted trainings tailored to the needs of different key actors in the institutional set up responsible for the implementation of anti-discrimination legislation. The trainings targeting judges, state attorneys and other relevant stakeholders in the field of anti-discrimination focused on Croatian anti-discrimination legislation in force and the EU legal framework for protection against discrimination. The staff of the Office of the Ombudsman and the specialized Ombuds responsible for gender equality, children’s rights and persons with disabilities have further developed their mediation and discrimination complaints handling skills. Furthermore, NGOs and social partner organizations have together with the Office of the Ombudsman and the specialized Ombuds improved their capacities as regards their roles as interveners and potential joint legal action.
In the frame of the second component, EU Member State experts together with the employees of the Office of the Ombudsman and the Office for Human Rights and the Rights of National Minorities have drafted recommendations for the development of databases for collecting data on discrimination complaints, court cases on discrimination and equality data. The experts have furthermore prepared guidelines and conducted trainings targeting the users of these databases. The institutional capacity of the Office of the Ombudsman and the specialized Ombuds related to reporting and collecting data for statistical monitoring of discrimination has been enhanced.
Finally, the third component aimed to establish a telephone assistance service within the Office of the Ombudsman providing potential victims of discrimination with initial information and support, to improve the system for handling individual discrimination complaints and to enhance the co-operation between the Office of the Ombudsman and NGOs. Recommendations on how and what kind of telephone assistance service could be established within the Office of the Ombudsman and training materials targeting staff members that will be in direct contact with callers have been drafted. Recommendations on how the telephone assistance system could be promoted among specifically vulnerable groups, relevant stakeholders and the wider public have been developed. Round tables in Pula, Rijeka, Split and Osijek supporting the outreach work of the Office of the Ombudsman targeting NGOs were implemented in May and June 2013, which contributed to strengthening the resources of the Office of the Ombudsman and heightening its visibility also at the regional level.
Results of the project (see also attachments below):
• Increased awareness for and recognition of discrimination among key stakeholders responsible for the implementation of anti-discrimination legislation (e.g. lawyers, prosecutors, coordinators for human rights, etc.),
• Possibilities for establishing easy access for potential victims of discrimination to the Office of the Ombudsman in gaining access to their right to non-discrimination and therefore justice,
• Further improved competences of the Office of the Ombudsman to solve cases e.g. by intervening in court cases or by participating in associational action (i.e. strategic litigation) or by way of mediation,
• Further developed systems for collecting data on reported cases of discrimination, court cases and equality issues,
• Possibilities for increasing the visibility and strengthening the outreach work of the Office of the Ombudsman among marginalized groups and at the regional/local level in order to overcome under-reporting,
• Recommendations for further improving and strengthening the cooperation between the Office of the Ombudsman and NGOs in order to increase the efficiency of the Croatian anti-discrimination system in a sustainable way.
The project forms the basis and sets the framework for possible future developments of the Croatian equality body, the Office of the Ombudsman, as many ideas, procedures and products have been developed within the project that can serve as a large pool of resources from which the management can choose and which can be tested in everyday work. The further development of the equality body along these lines will contribute to a significant improvement of the protection level for victims of discrimination.
The Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Human Rights as leading Member State Partner has been supported by
• the Austrian Ombud for Equal Treatment
• the Austrian Ombudsman Board
• Labour and Social Court, Federal Ministry of Justice
• Federal Social Welfare Office
• City of Vienna – Department for Integration and Diversity
• Federal Province of Salzburg – Department for Women and Equal Treatment