Representatives of relevant Ministries; institutions at the State, Entity, Cantonal and Brčko District levels; civil society organisations; national minority advisory bodies; international organisations, and other relevant stakeholders gathered together to learn more about the new initiative aiming to promote anti-discrimination and protection of the rights of vulnerable groups.
Ambassador Drahoslav Štefánek, Head of the Council of Europe Office in Sarajevo pointed out that protecting national minorities, combating discrimination against LGBTI persons and fighting hate speech have been high on Council of Europe agenda, as indispensable part of the system of protection and promotion of human rights. “The European Union and the Council of Europe will jointly, with its partners from relevant authorities, address these issues under the new Action that has gathered us all here today.”
Krassimir Nikolov, Head of Section “European Integration, Political, Press and Information” said: “Combating discrimination and promoting inclusion and integration are among EU top priorities, as well as the countries in the region and worldwide. We believe that this project will help BiH’s efforts to improve functioning of anti-discrimination mechanisms and their accessibility by vulnerable groups in line with European standards and best practices”.
“The implementation of the Action begins in the year when we are celebrating the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the Anti-discrimination Law of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is a challenge to review the achieved in the implementation of the said Law. The practice, and especially the complaints received by the Ombudsmen, shows a high degree of weaknesses and concerns regarding the application of the Law, especially in cases of indirect discrimination, especially when it comes to exercising the rights of persons belonging to minority groups, and in cases of hate speech when freedom of expression is used as a justification for verbal violence” stated Jasminka Džumhur, Ombudsperson for human rights in BiH.
The Assistant Minister of Human Rights and Refugees of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Saliha Đuderija, said that this Action represents a good mechanism that offers regional exchange of experiences, but it is especially valuable because of the support provided for Bosnia in terms of embedding European standards when it comes to the protection of rights of vulnerable groups. It enables relevant institutions on all levels to get acquainted with the EU acquis, COE standards, therefore improve laws, policies and obtain knowledge and experiences on how to further advance in the process of integration in the filed of improvement of human rights protection of vulnerable groups in the country.
The Action “Promotion of diversity and equality in Bosnia and Herzegovina” worth 650.000 euro is funded by the European Union and the Council of Europe and is implemented by the Council of Europe. It is part of the joint programmatic framework “Horizontal Facility for Western Balkans and Turkey II” with the overall budget of 41 million euro.
The Action builds upon the work of the Horizontal Facility I project on strengthening protection and promotion of national minorities in Bosnia, while introducing two additional thematic components preventing and combating discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and/or gender identity and combating hate speech.