Ombudsman’s Office Attends Geneva Session of UN Commitee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

The Office of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights and the staff of the Deputy Commissioner for Fundamental Rights, Ombudsman for the Rights of National Minorities attended and spoke at the Geneva session of the United Nations’ Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD).

The Commission monitors the implementation of the UN convention – in force since 1969 – on the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination in the member states; the latter prepare a report every two years about the performance of their obligations under the Convention.

One of the priority themes of the Committee’s 98th session held between 23 April and 10 May 2019 was the discussion of the periodical report submitted by Hungary. The Office of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights as the UN’s National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) accredited with “A” status was specifically invited to this meeting.

The staff of the Ombudsman’s Office was provided a 10-minute time slot in the agenda to present the situation of national minority communities living in Hungary. As they underlined in their talk, the cultural autonomy, organizations and self-governments of the 13 national minorities living in Hungary receive adequate support, and the legal environment meets the EU standards – a circumstance that is virtually unique in Europe. With reference to their reports and the theoretical conclusions of the latter, the Ombudsman and his Deputy responsible for the protection of the rights of national minorities living in Hungary called attention to several priority issues concerning the Roma integration process: although some progress has been made over the past years, longer-term actions are also necessary to ensure the complex handling of the situation.

In order to achieve this, the situation of the Roma must be improved by further developing, among others, the social inclusion strategy: most importantly, equal access to efficient education opportunities must be promoted or created in segregated areas, and the employment and livelihood of the Roma population must also be supported.  The above approach includes taking action against hate speech and other hate crimes, as well as the dissemination of knowledge related to the Roma and other national minorities.

As the delegation at the Geneva session of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination pointed out, the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights and the Deputy Commissioner for Fundamental Rights, Ombudsman for the Rights of National Minorities rely on the whole array of tools granted to them as Ombudsmen to combat all forms of racism and racial discrimination, including targeted inquiries and recommendations, and act in cooperation with the organizations of national minorities, complainants, churches, civil society organizations, legal and legislative bodies, and UN advocacy institutions.