The goal of the Fundamental Rights Forum 2021 was to build a vision of hope for the protection of human rights across the European Union.
Did it succeed?
We asked Forum participants to tell us!
“This Forum gathering now after these extraordinary two years is a moment of hope. It is an expression of hope. A hope that we can ever better build societies that are grounded in respect for human rights,” said Michael O’Flaherty, Director of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, when opening the Forum.
This was echoed by many Forum participants, including Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. She told the Forum that there is a reason to remain hopeful about the future of human rights.
“I believe that human rights and all human beings being respected will lead us to a world where we want to lead for a better future for all of us,” she explained.
The sentiment was the same among the many young people attending the Forum.
Silja Markkula, President of the European Youth Forum, expressed hope for the young generation in Europe. She highlighted that even though young people were hit hard by the pandemic, they never gave up.
“We never stopped caring and fighting for the things that matter to us and we keep on trying to get our fundamental rights realised,” Markkula said.
Luisa Neubauer, climate activist from Germany, was optimistic about the future.
“We’ve seen that youth is in a way unstoppable. As soon they have opened their eyes to inequalities and opportunities that lie ahead, they have seen that a just and equal world is possible and necessary,” said Neubauer.
European Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders, told the Forum that he finds hope in the involvement of young people. “To see the reaction of the young generation, it's a very important element to have hope in the future,” he added.
Others highlighted that we cannot give up – even if things seem hard.
Noomi Anyanwu, Spokeswoman of Black Voices Volksbegehren Austria, stressed that young people must have hope that the situation can get better.
“When talking about racism, it is really hard to have hope, especially if you're negatively affected by racism,” Anyanwu said.
“So, what we're trying to do and what we're focusing on is an empowerment of young people and trying to give them a stage voice their opinions and have them feel that what they're saying is valid,” she added.
Similarly, David Lega, Member of the European Parliament, stressed the need for role models.
“The most important thing to generate hope is to have a role model, someone to be inspired by, someone to look up to,” he told the Forum.
“I knew for a fact that when I was a child, I found my role models maybe within the Paralympic and sporting movement to show what could be possible.”
Looking at what is possible was also the motto of Sarah Cooke O'Dowd, Head of Communication and Marketing at Equinet Europe.
“We just need to remember the power of community and how all of us working together can really make change happen,” said Cooke O’Dowd.
Friso Roscam-Abbing, FRA’s Adviser on Communication, reminded Forum participants that hope can be quite practical. “Hope – it is not a romantic feeling. It can really deliver results ultimately so that our societies are better, fairer, and more equitable.”
But it was Eva Schloss, a Holocaust survivor and campaigner, who delivered the ultimate message of hope.
Reading from a book she wrote for her brother who did not come back from the concentration camp, she said: “In life, you must always hope for a better future or you won’t be able to carry on. Like a mountain climber who does not surrender to the treacherous cliffs on the right and left, one should move forward and keep climbing.”
Are you interested in learning more about the topics discussed at the Forum?
You can watch the Forum session recordings online.
Simply click on the session you are interested in watching in the programme.