There we went… Forum 2018 here we come!
Every morning when I enter the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, the ‘countdown’ in the hall reminds me how many days remain until the Fundamental Rights Forum (FRF) 2018 starts. In 4 months from now the second FRF will kick off in Vienna, in the promising venue of an old former factory, Metastadt.
At this second Forum we expect to welcome more than 400 people from all over Europe (and beyond) from different human rights communities, politics, international organisations, EU Member States, civil society, and businesses, to name just a few. Together we will discuss what we can collectively do better, through respecting human rights, to remove barriers and create drivers towards a more widely shared sense of belonging for everyone in our societies.
I have the honour and responsibility to steer a dedicated team of colleagues into making this Forum a big success, building on the 2016 Forum. We have intentionally chosen a ‘forum’ concept –and not a conference. We consulted widely in 2017. It showed overwhelming support for a forum format which brings together a wide variety of communities, including artists and communication creatives. More than ever, we need to open us as human rights community for new perspectives and learn from tools, methods and disciplines. At the Agency, we are beginning down this road by working on ‘communicating rights’.
So what does this concretely mean for the Forum? First, we are proud to have representatives from the global human rights leadership at the Forum: EU Commissioner for Justice and Consumer Protection, Věra Jourová, the Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner, Dunja Mijatović, and Kate Gilmore, UN deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, for example. Austrian President Van der Bellen will also be the Forum’s High Patron.
Secondly, the Forum offers five FRA working groups and over 50 ‘open sessions’, hosted by NGOs, businesses, international organisations, communication creatives and artists. By way of example, one session will look at the human rights implications of the increased use of algorithms; another session will discuss how to concretely deal with the ‘shrinking space of civil society’, an issue the Agency recently published a report on.
We start each day with two inspiring speakers, including the author Ivan Krastev and UNHCR Global Youth Advisory Council Member, Aya Abdullah. Young people will participate actively and meaningfully at the Forum. And we offer some interactive methods including a ‘living library’ and a ‘virtual zone’. This series of blogs will elaborate more on what these sessions will bring so keep tuned.
While the choice of topics and work methods is broad, we will maintain a high quality of debate. The Forum needs to be relevant, keeping in mind that the Forum takes place 8 months before the next elections for a new European Parliament. The outcomes need to be an inspiration for all of us working on human rights. They should help governments and civil society address the human rights challenges they face. They should help European Parliament members prepare for their election manifestos, as well as the incoming European Commission and next EU Member States holding the Presidency of the EU’s Council get ready for the future. I am glad to see that all these institutions will also be active throughout the Forum.
Overall, I look forward to an engaging Forum. Information on how to participate will be published on the Forum website soon.
Dennis van der Veur