This year, ECRI's annual seminar, held on Friday, 27 October, focused on ways of 'enhancing the independence and effectiveness of equality bodies'. The High Commission, participating online in this event, drew from it a critical reflection on the issue of communication between institutions promoting equality and the authorities.
The various speakers raised questions about the neutrality of the Ombudsmen and the difficulties associated with the role, particularly when it comes to protecting the rights of minorities while respecting the rule of law. It was specifically noted that, in these situations of underlying conflict, communication between authorities and users is sometimes so fraught with tension and confusion that it becomes difficult to act fairly as a mediator and advocate of equality.
More generally, the High Commission shared the speakers' critical view of the lack of follow-up to the recommendations made by equality organisations. The fact that these institutions have no enforcement powers or, at the very least, no follow-up to their notices, considerably weakens their effectiveness. Preserving the efficacy of equality bodies while respecting their independence therefore requires genuine willingness from the national authorities. In this respect, the High Commission was impressed by the debates that called for the lack of response from the authorities to be replaced with productive communication and a healthy dialogue with equality organisations, to effectively guarantee the rights of users.