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14: Human Rights Under Pressure: The Role of Ombudspersons and National Human Rights Institutions

August-Friedrich-von Hayek-Saal
Breakout / Civil and Human Rights
in englischer Sprache

Human rights defenders are confronted with increasing pressure and even existential threats which jeopardise their independence. What risk situations do they face? How can democracy and the rule of law be strengthened so that institutions of ombudsmen and national human rights institutions find an enabling environment?

Director, FRA - European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, Vienna
Ombudsman, Information Commissioner, and Commissioner for Environmental Information of Ireland; President, IOI - International Ombudsman Institute, Vienna
Ombudswoman, Republic of Croatia, Zagreb
Spokesperson, FRA - European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, Vienna Chair


Director, FRA - European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, Vienna

1995-1996 Secretary, Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, UN Centre for Human Rights, Geneva
1996-1997 Expert Advisor, Human Rights under the Dayton Peace Accords, UN, Sarajevo
1997-1998 Independent Consultant, Human Rights
1998-2000 Chief, UN human rights programme in Sierra Leone, Freetown
2000-2002 Coordinator, Programmes in the Asia-Pacific region, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Geneva
2002-2003 Senior Research Officer (Child Rights), UNICEF Innocent Research Centre, Florence
2003-2013 Professor of Applied Human Rights and Co-director,Human Rights Law Centre, University of Nottingham
2004-2012 Member (latterly Vice-chair), United Nations Human Rights Committee, Geneva
2011-2013 Chief Commissioner, Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, Belfast
2013-2015 Established Professor of Human Rights Law and Director, Irish Centre for Human Rights, National University of Ireland, Galway
since 2015 Director, EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, Vienna


Ombudsman, Information Commissioner, and Commissioner for Environmental Information of Ireland; President, IOI - International Ombudsman Institute, Vienna


Ombudswoman, Republic of Croatia, Zagreb

 Lora Vidović, LLM, took over the duty of the Ombudswoman in March 2013 after the Croatian Parliament appointed her for a term of eight years as the Head of this independent institution with multiple mandates: Parliamentary Ombudsman, A status NHRI, National Equality Body and OP-CAT NPM. Prior to that, she worked as the Head of UNICEF Office in Croatia (2010 - 2013) and before that as Deputy Ombudsman for Children (2006 - 2010). Mrs. Vidović also worked with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration within the Human Rights Department and served as an attaché in charge of consular affairs and human rights in Oslo, Norway (1998 - 2006), as well as in the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare (1997 - 1998). She has actively participated on numerous international seminars, conferences and meetings related to human rights and democratization, and has published a series of expert papers concerning the status of women in employment and children’s status in society and family. From 2014 until 2019, she was a member of the Management Board of FRA; from 2016 she has been a European member of the Bureau of Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions, and from 2016 to 2019 she was the Chair of the European Network of National Human Rights Institutions (ENNHRI).
 She graduated from University of Zagreb, Faculty of Law in 1997; in 2001 obtained her Master’s degree and in 2006 passed the Bar exam.


Spokesperson, FRA - European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, Vienna

 Friso Roscam Abbing is Adviser on Communication and Spokesperson of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights where he previously headed the Fundamental Rights Promotion Department. He was previously a spokesperson on freedom, security and justice at the European Commission, Cabinet member, and headed the Sector in the Commission dealing with asylum policy. Before that, he led the EU Office of the European Council on Refugees and Exiles, a European network of 96 NGOs in 40 European countries protecting and advancing the rights of refugees, asylum seekers and displaced people. He holds a bachelor degree in law and a master degree in Public Administration at the University of Amsterdam.

Political and Legal Symposia

show timetable


17:00 - 18:45Opening of the Political SymposiumPlenary
19:45 - 20:45Promoting Stability in Wider Europe: The Role of the EU and the OSCEPlenary
20:30 - 21:00POLITICO Happy HourSocial


08:00 - 09:00ABGESAGT POLITICO Morning BriefingPlenary
08:00 - 09:00DER STANDARD Morning BriefingPlenary
09:00 - 13:30An Update on European Union LawBreakout
09:00 - 12:00Alpbach Mindfulness HikeBreakout
10:00 - 12:00Breakout Session 01: Promoting the SDGs in Europe with a Global MindsetBreakout
10:00 - 12:00Breakout Session 02: Experimental Government and the Story of Basic Income in FinlandBreakout
10:00 - 12:00Breakout Session 03: Demography and DemocracyBreakout
10:00 - 12:00Breakout Session 04: Digital Diplomacy vs Digital ColonialismBreakout
10:00 - 12:00Breakout Session 05: How We Benefit from Empowering the Young in PoliticsBreakout
10:00 - 12:00Breakout Session 06: Lost in Translation? The EU’s Struggle to Speak with One Voice on Foreign PolicyBreakout
10:00 - 12:00Breakout Session 07: Extremism, Disinformation and the Role of New TechnologiesBreakout
14:00 - 18:00Democracy BootcampBreakout
14:00 - 15:30Opening of the Legal SymposiumPlenary
14:00 - 16:00Liberty and Responsibility: Two Sides of the Same Coin?Partner
14:00 - 16:00Security Radar 2019: Wake-up Call for Europe!Partner
16:00 - 17:00Growing Sustainably: Africa on the MovePlenary
16:00 - 17:30Ideology in the Courtroom: How Impartial Are Judges?Plenary
17:30 - 18:30What Can Be Done against the Climate Crisis?Plenary
18:00 - 19:30How Free Is the Press Across the EU?Plenary
19:00 - 20:00What Does the World Think? A Conversation on Fundamental Philosophical QuestionsPlenary
20:00 - 23:30ReceptionSocial
20:00 - 22:00European-Israeli DinnerSocial
20:30 - 21:30Less Freedom for More Security?Plenary


08:00 - 09:00DER STANDARD Morning BriefingPlenary
08:00 - 09:00POLITICO Morning BriefingPlenary
09:00 - 12:00Alpbach Mindfulness HikeBreakout
10:00 - 12:00Breakout Session 08: Emissions Trading: an Effective Way to Reduce EmissionsBreakout
10:00 - 12:00Breakout Session 09: When Machines Judge PeopleBreakout
10:00 - 12:00Breakout Session 10: How Free Should Trade Be? The Development of European Standards for Trade and Foreign Direct InvestmentsBreakout
10:00 - 12:00Breakout Session 11: International Arms Trade Regulations: A Call for ActionBreakout
10:00 - 12:00Breakout Session 12: Does More Digital Freedom Automatically Mean Less Legal Security?Breakout
10:00 - 12:00Breakout Session 13: New Wars – New EpidemicsBreakout
10:00 - 12:00Breakout Session 14: Human Rights Under Pressure: The Role of Ombudspersons and National Human Rights InstitutionsBreakout
10:00 - 12:00Breakout Session 15: Security through Liberty: About the Will for Public OrderBreakout
10:00 - 12:00Breakout Session 16: A Pathway to Sustainable Business TransformationBreakout
14:00 - 15:30‘Soft Power’ or Defence Union? Military Cooperation in the European UnionPlenary
14:00 - 15:30The Struggle for the Rule of Law: Is the EU Fighting a Losing Battle?Plenary
14:00 - 18:00LAW Working GroupsBreakout
14:00 - 18:00Let’s Talk!Breakout
16:00 - 17:30Freedom of Speech at Universities: What Is (Still) Acceptable?Plenary
16:30 - 17:45Liberty and Security in the Context of International RelationsPlenary
18:15 - 19:15How Much Courage Does the Law Need?Plenary
20:30 - 22:00Speakers’ NightPlenary


09:00 - 12:00Alpbach Mindfulness HikeBreakout
09:30 - 11:00Brexit: Departure into the UnknownPlenary
11:30 - 13:00Tackling Complexity: Insights from the Alpbach Learning MissionsPlenary