Economic crisis threatens the implementation of human rights

Sep 25, 2014

PHOTO: UNDP CROATIA

A roundtable discussion on the UPR mechanism for the protection of human rights was held 

Zagreb, 25 September 2014 – The Croatian Parliament hosted a round table discussion on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of human rights, which the United Nations introduced in 2006 as a mechanism to monitor the conditions of human rights in member states every four years. Participants discussed the human rights situation in Croatia, including recommendations from the UPR report, they also gained insight into the reporting process in front of the Human Rights Council.

„An overview of the fulfillment of obligations and commitments for the protection of human rights of all 192 UN member states was carried out through periodic reports, as well as their progress, challenges they faced and their need for improvements,“ said Ljiljana Stancic from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The first cycle of the UPR for Croatia started in 2000, and the Croatian Government and People’s Ombudsman will report the new one in May 2015. 

Even though Croatia has a relatively good legal and institutional framework in the field of human rights, the implementation of directives and public policies is still lagging. Contributing to that is the economic crisis that has hit the most vulnerable groups of society hard, and reduced the possibilities of receiving assistance from public institutions. 

„It is essential to ensure sufficient funds in the state budget for the work of the Ombudsman, and special ombudsman's offices and all institutions in the system of human rights protection, especially in the areas outside the capital city,” emphasized Lora Vidovic, Croatian People's Ombudsman in her presentation.

Citizen complaints indicate that the inefficiency of the justice system still remains a significant problem, furthermore, it was mentioned that there is still the inability of getting free legal aid. Protection of social rights represents a huge challenge especially in the area of social housing, enforcements and employment.

There is a noticeable slight trend of improving the positions of homosexual persons in the area of gender equality, but on the other hand the situation of women in the labor market is deteriorating, especially when it comes to pregnant women or elderly women. Women continue to be the victims of domestic violence and the number of such offences is not declining, but remains more or less constant.

In the area of rights of persons with disabilities there is a lack of access to goods and services, the labor market and education cited for persons with disabilities. Involuntary medical treatment and the protections of the rights of national and ethnic minorities remains a sensitive area.

„Croatia complies to the highest international legal standards for the protection of the most vulnerable groups, but I am sure that our local partners agree that more must be achieved in the implementation of standards in everyday reality,“ said Sandra Vlasic, Head of Office of UNDP in Croatia. The objectives of the UNDP for the next two years include further work on combating discrimination of vulnerable groups, promotion of social integration of Roma; recognizing the needs of victims of domestic violence and victims of wartime sexual violence as well as improving the efficiency of the social welfare system through the analysis of existing structures and practices, she added.

The UPR report was prepared by the Ombudsman of the Republic of Croatia, acting as the "A" status accredited NHRI, in cooperation with the Ombudsman for children, for persons with disabilities and the Ombudswoman for gender equality. It is based on the assessment of human rights situations within the scope of work of these institutions as well as a result of received citizens’ complaints, research and the cooperation with relevant social stakeholders. Also, the report refers to the implementation of the recommendations from the first UPR cycle.
The office of the Ombudsman handed its report to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, but the submission of the report of the Croatian Government and independent institutions are yet to come.