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FRDS - Programul Dezvoltare Locala > News  > Practitioners and human rights experts from Romania, Norway, Bulgaria, and Slovakia gathered in Bucharest in March to share experiences and best practices in the field

Practitioners and human rights experts from Romania, Norway, Bulgaria, and Slovakia gathered in Bucharest in March to share experiences and best practices in the field

On Thursday, March 7, 2024, the Romanian Social Development Fund (FRDS) organized an international conference in Bucharest on best practices in human rights protection. Hosted under the Local Development Programme and funded by its Bilateral Fund allocation, the event aimed to facilitate the transfer of best practices in human rights protection applied in beneficiary states through projects financed by the EEA and Norway Grants 2014-2021.

The conference enjoyed significant national and international representation, with guests including the Ambassador of Norway to Romania, the Ombudsman, representatives from the Ministry of Investments and European Projects (MIPE), UNICEF Romania, the Council of Europe (CoE), the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities (KS), and the Norwegian National Institution for Human Rights.

In her address to the participants, Her Excellency Siri Barry, the Norwegian Ambassador to Romania, emphasized the importance of respect and promotion of human rights, within the EEA and Norway Grants: “It is not a coincidence that human rights have a prominent place within the EEA and Norway Grants. To create fertile ground for social cohesion and economic development, fundamental rights must be respected“.

Mr. Ovidiu Cîmpean, State Secretary at the Ministry of Investments and European Projects (MIPE), noted the significant contribution that the EEA and Norway Grants have made to Romania’s development over time and appreciated the progress of the Local Development Program. The series of opening speeches continued with a contribution from Ms. Ana Riatti, UNICEF Representative in Romania, who highlighted the need to protect and promote children’s rights, emphasizing the importance of ensuring the right to education for all children in projects financed by the EEA and Norway Grants.

Ms. Sheena Keller, Senior Sector Officer at the Financial Mechanism Office (FMO) and responsible for implementing the Local Development Programme in Romania, remarked in a video message to conference participants that “the EEA and Norway Grants support important values such as democracy, the rule of law, good governance, and the protection and promotion of human rights. As it is necessary for the rights of each individual to be protected, the theme of this conference, promoting the best practices resulting from projects financially supported by the Local Development Programme, is important.”

Structured around four thematic sessions, the conference served as a platform for sharing challenges on protection of rights for vulnerable social groups, challenges that both Romania, and other represented states, are facing. Discussions following the plenary presentations focused on the results achieved in projects financed by the EEA and Norway Grants 2014-2021, which included measures aimed at facilitating access to justice for persons with disabilities, combating domestic violence and discrimination against Roma and LGBTI community members, ensuring the right to quality education for all children, and promoting and protecting the rights of detainees, including through improving correctional services.

The bilateral nature of the event was reinforced by interventions from representatives of the National Institute of Education and Youth in Slovakia and the Youth Center Vratsa in Bulgaria, highlighting how projects they carry out with the support of the EEA and Norway Grants ensure respect for the rights of children and young people. Also, Norwegian representatives shared Norway’s experience in promoting human rights at both central and local levels.

As Mrs. Mihaela Peter, the Executive Director of RSDF, emphasized in her closing speech at the conference, “The event presented a wide range of interventions, projects, and approaches, full of consistency and especially innovation in the field of promoting human rights. It resulted from all interventions that there is still much to be done, especially regarding implementation mechanisms. However, what needs to be changed primarily is the attitude and mentality of those involved in implementing specific measures to defend human rights. Collaboration and inter-institutional partnership with civil society were found in all examples of good practices presented, demonstrating that not only the state but also local authorities and citizens must feel responsible for ensuring respect for human rights, the pilot projects funded in programs within the EEA and Norwegian mechanisms representing only the basis for moving to another subsequent phase, with structural impact.