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At the IOI Board of Directors meeting, which was held in Pretoria, South Africa, from November 8 to 10,1999, Sir Brian Elwood, Ombudsman of New Zealand, has been elected new president of the IOI.
The 8th Annual Meeting of the European National Ombudsmen in Georgia has been, after postponement from October 1999, planned to be held at the end of March 2000. Further details about the preparations were presented in the previous issue of the Newsletter. At the end of December we were reassured by the organizers in Georgia that they are still decided to organize the meeting at the end of March and that they will send out invitations immediately at the beginning of January 2000. On January 31, 2000 we received from the organizers information that there have been a number of developments which make the proposed date at the end of March 2000 impractical.
Firstly, it has been announced that Presidential elections in Georgia will take place in early April as a result of which there will be a considerable disruption to normal activities in Georgia in the weeks leading up to the elections. Secondly, the President has announced that there will be no decision before the elections about the appointment of a successor to Mr. David Salaridze, who resigned as Public Defender of Georgia in September last year. Finally, it has been brought to the attention of the organizers that an international congress for ombudsmen is to be held in Ghent in March and this may clash with the proposed meeting in Tbilisi.
Despite that, the organizers have stressed that Georgia is ready to host this important event and proposed to postpone the meeting until the second half of the year, possibly to September. Any suggestions about this matter are welcome.
Under the Stability Pact for South East Europe, the Council of Europe, in its capacity as sponsor of the Task Force on Good Governance of Working Table I, took the initiative to hold a Regional Meeting on Independent National Human Rights Protection Institutions (including Ombudsman Institutions), which took place in Budapest from 13-14 December 1999. It was organised in co-operation with the Office of the Parliamentary Human Rights Commissioner of Hungary, and was co-sponsored by the governments of Greece and Hungary. Eighty-nine officials from 28 countries participated.
The objective of the meeting was to identify concrete steps to further the process of establishing and reinforcing independent national human rights protection institutions in the countries of South East Europe. In particular, the meeting sought to launch a range of concrete projects and initiatives aimed at achieving the overall objective of ensuring strong and effective national human rights protection institutions throughout the region.
At the meeting participants were guided by the fact that several initiatives were already being taken to foster and develop institutions in the region by the international community (notably the Council of Europe, as well as others such as the OSCE, OSCE-ODIHR and UN agencies), by individual national institutions and by Governments from outside the region, and that a number of exchanges and support activities were also taking place among institutions in the region and immediate neighbourhood. It was considered important to capitalise on these different initiatives, to develop synergy between them, and to give them added value by placing them under the umbrella of a coherent and visible strategy for the region.
At the meeting the Council of Europe encouraged the submission of practical and concrete projects and ideas to be taken forward under the Stability Pact for South East Europe and in the context of the overall aim of furthering the establishment and consolidation of strong, independent national human rights protection institutions throughout the countries of South East Europe. As a result, a number of proposals have been put forward which have been incorporated into an Action Plan on Independent National Human Rights Protection Institutions intended to form the basis of the work of the informal network proposed at the Budapest meeting in December. It was presented by the Council of Europe at the meeting of the Stability Pact Task Force on Good Governance which took place on 24 January 2000 in Budapest.
The Action Plan is practical, experience- and expertise-based, with an emphasis on capacity-building and training. The main types of planned activities are development of the links between institutions in the region, continued informal working-level contacts, thematic meetings with the participation of experts, preparation of a region-wide analysis of the main problems and challenges faced by the countries in South East Europe, training for the staff of the national human rights protection institutions, study visits, etc.
A preliminary regulation has been drafted in co-operation with the Council of Europe (Directorate of Human Rights, The Commission for Democracy through Law "Venice Commission"), UNHCHR, the UN Interim Civil Administration, the Office of the UN SRSG and the OSCE.
It is foreseen in the draft regulation that the Ombudsman will have jurisdiction over the protection and promotion of human rights, abuse of authority and mal-administration committed by the Interim Administration or any emerging local institutions or non-state actors claiming or exercising authority in Kosovo.
The Ombudsman Support Section was created to support the establishment of the institution in Kosovo. One of the Ombudsman Support Section's challenging tasks is to organize the future work of the Ombudsperson's office.
Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Mission in Kosovo
Rule of Law Division
Pirkko K. Koskinen
Coordinator of the Ombudsman Support Section for the OSCE/Kosovo.
Rr. Beogradi 29, 38000 Pristina
Tel. +381 38 500 162; Fax +381 38 500 188 and 500 358
The round table and the meeting will be held in Strasbourg from 16 to 17 March 2000 in Palais de l'Europe, Room 9. The themes will be protection and promotion of economic and social rights, fight against racism and related discrimination and co-operation between National Human Rights Institutions and between them and the Council of Europe.
The Ombudsman Committee of the American Bar Association's Administrative Law & Regulatory Practices and the Dispute Resolution Sections will be sponsoring a panel presentation on its work, Setting Standards for Ombudsmen in the United States, in London on July 19, 2000 at 9:30 a.m.. There is no fee for attending this presentation. The Committee is completing its work on a resolution and report defining the essential characteristics of the ombudsman institution in the United States. This two year project has involved a number of different ombudsman organizations, practitioners, consultants and researchers. The application of the term ombudsman in the United States has taken on a variety of different meanings and the resolution and report identifies and prescribes those essential core characteristics encompassing the variations of ombudsmanship which have developed. In conjunction with the American Bar Association London meeting it is the hope of the Committee to share its work with ombudsmen in Europe and the panel participants look forward to that opportunity. Questions may be directed to Committee Chair Sharan L. Levine at her email: email@example.com, by phone at: 1.616.382.0444, or by fax: 1.616.382.0464.
At the meeting which was held in Pretoria, South Africa, from November 8 to 10,1999, IOI Board of Directors members decided to hold an international conference from October 30 to November 3, 2000 in Durban, South Africa. This decision is a sign of recognition of and encouragement for South Africa's considerable achievements made as it consolidates its democratic processes