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Since September 2009, the Austrian Ombudsman Board is operating the General Secretariat of the International Ombudsman Institute.
  • International activities

    The Austrian Ombudsman Board (AOB) has been striving for democracy and the rule of law internationally for a number of years, actively supports human rights projects and uses bilateral contacts as a valuable opportunity to exchange information and knowledge with ombudsman institutions worldwide.

  • Cooperations

    The AOB is a reliable partner for the protection of human rights and the development of the rule of law at the European and international level. Accordingly, its members, but also its staff, have been actively participating in the most varied projects on the international level.

    OPCAT: The legal constitutional mandate for protecting human rights as a “National Prevention Mechanism” (NPM) is based on two significant legal instruments of the United Nations. The first instrument is the UN Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) and the second instrument is the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The standards developed by the UN Subcommission on Prevention of Torture (SPT) and the European Commission on the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) in particular must be complied with.

    As a natural consequence of its role as National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) the AOB is very eager to engage with other NPMs and human rights institutions. Since October 2013, the AOB as a  NPM has also been a member of the South-East Europe NPM Network (SEE NPM Network). This association of ombudsman institutions from Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovenia and Austria, which have been entrusted with NPM responsibilities, is a dynamic forum where knowledge and experiences are shared and mutual support is provided. In 2016 the Austrian NPM is chairing the network.

     

    After its reaccreditation that was completed in 2011 as a National Human Rights Institution (NHRI), the AOB is represented on the International Coordinating Committee (ICC) of National Human Rights Institutions with a B-status. As in previous years, former Ombudsman Kostelka attended the annual meeting of the ICC in Geneva in May 2013. Additionally, the AOB regularly provided expertise about areas relevant to human rights for reports and internal working papers of the OHCHR and participated actively in the preparations for the establishment of an ICC secretariat for the NHRIs in the European region. In April of 2013 former Ombudsman and Secretary General of the IOI Peter Kostelka met Debbie Kohner, the new director of the Permanent Secretariat of the European Group of National Human Rights Institutions at his office in Vienna. The Secretariat will coordinate 40 Human Rights Institutions all over Europe and cooperate with the International Coordinating Committee (ICC) of NHRIs, the UN, the Council of Europe, the institutions of the European Union, the OSCE and other regional partners.

    In January 2011, the human rights situation in Austria came under scrutiny as part of the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR). The subject of this evaluation was whether and how Austria has implemented its obligations along the entire human rights spectrum. The AOB played an active role in preparations for this review, both in Austria and at the international level, and was represented by former Ombudswoman Terezija Stoisits at the key meeting of the Human Rights Council in January 2011.

    The AOB has actively participated in the OSCE dialogue concerning the responsibilities, challenges and opportunities for further development of national human rights institutions. In May 2013, Ombudswoman Gertrude Brinek attended a meeting of the OSCE Human Rights Dimension Committee in Vienna where she talked about the experience of the AOB as national human rights institution and its development since 1977. She stressed the importance of preventive monitoring in order to exclude human rights violations.

    The goal of the EU-funded twinning project "Support for the Strengthening of the Serbian Ombudsman" (2009 – 2011) was to help Serbia’s ombudsman institution, which was only established in 2007, to improve its work. The AOB supported the two-year long twinning project, which was headed by the Greek and the Dutch ombudsman institutions, by sending experts several times to provide in-country assistance. On the occasion of a three-day study visit in Vienna, the sharing of information was focused on the AOB’s communication with the citizens and the media, as well as the reporting system. The AOB was also represented at the closing conference of the twinning project in September 2011 in Belgrade.

    International conferences and visits

    The AOB is regularly represented at numerous international conferences that are focused on the areas within its mandate. In April 2013 an expert of the AOB participated in the 9th International Human Rights Forum Luzern (IHRF) which dealt with "Human Rights and Persons with Disabilities". In addition the AOB took part in the 6th Fundamental Human Rights Platform Meeting of the European Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA).

    Furthermore, the AOB is visited frequently by international delegations and thus, promotes the transfer of knowledge between the Ombudsman Institutions. In April 2013 Sir Nigel Rodley was informed on the new role of the AOB as National Human Rights Institution. Sir Nigel is chair of the Human Rights Center at the University of Essex (GB), currently chair of the UN Human Rights Committee and president of the International Commission of Jurists. Further persons and institutions visiting the AOB in 2013: Salla Saastamoinen (European Commission), a Delegation of the Petitions Committee of the German Bundestag, Catherine De Bruecker and Guido Schuermans (Federal Ombudsman of Belgium), as well as representatives of Zulu Natal (Petitions Committee from South Africa).

  • International Ombudsman Institute

    The International Ombudsman Institute (IOI) links currently 175 independent public sector ombudsman institutions worldwide that monitor and control public administration at the national, regional, and local level. The IOI has six regional groups in Africa, Asia, Australasia and the Pacific, the Caribbean and Latin America, as well as North America and Europe and has members from more than 90 countries.

    Structure

    The International Ombudsman Institute (IOI) links currently 175 independent public sector ombudsman institutions worldwide that monitor and control public administration at the national, regional, and local level. The IOI has six regional groups in Africa, Asia, Australasia and the Pacific, the Caribbean and Latin America, as well as North America and Europe and has members from more than 90 countries.

    Since September 2009, the Austrian Ombudsman Board (AOB) has been operating the IOI General Secretariat. Designated Secretary General is Günther Kräuter, Member of the AOB. Peter Kostelka was the first Secretary General to be appointed to the IOI following the transition to Vienna from Canada and has served in this function from 2009 to June 2013.

    At the IOI World Conference 2012 in Wellington, New Zealand, a new Board was elected which consists of 21 Ombudsmen from all six world regions. Dame Beverley Wakem is IOI president. Furthermore, new IOI By-Laws were approved by the General Assembly in Wellington. They enable the IOI to have an even more inclusive approach to the admission of new members.

    The cooperation with other international organisations was also intensified. In November 2012 a Memorandum of Understanding with the International Anti-Corruption Academy was signed. In April 2013 a Memorandum of Understanding with the African Ombudsman and Mediators Association (AOMA) was signed, in May 2013 the contacts with the World Bank were intensified and an application for consultative status with the UN was filed.

    Regional Projects

    Using membership fees Executive Committee of the IOI is able to grant subsidies for regional projects based on a transparent tender procedure. Out of numerous project proposals six applications from five regions were selected in 2011. They concerned an e-learing platform, trainings and workshops. In 2012 five projects from four regions were subsidized. A webinar, training courses, a capacity building workshop and a fundamental rights campaign for detainees were financially supported by the IOI. Selection procedure for regional subsidies 2013 is under way. Several promising project proposals were submitted by members.

    Trainings

    Since 2009 the IOI has promoted the transfer of knowledge. Beside supporting the informal exchange of information, the IOI developed trainings for Ombudsmen and their staff. This range of trainings is constantly expanded. The IOI General Secretariat held already twice a so called "Sharpening Your Teeth" training programme for investigation experts of ombudsman institutions in Vienna. This programme was developed by the Ombudsman of Ontario (Canada). In autumn 2012 a seminar in cooperation with the renown Queen Margaret University (QMU) was held for more than 30 participants from around the world. Effective inquiries, communication with citizens and reporting were main topics of the seminar. Due to the huge success, a similar training was offered in cooperation with the Ombudsman of Thailand and the Asian Ombudsman Association in Bangkog in April 2013. For the second half of 2013 the following trainings are planed: In September 2013 the IOI will offer a anti-corruption training in cooperation with the International Ani-Corruption Academy. In November 2013 two "Sharpening your Teeth-Programm" trainings in English and French will take place in Lusaka, Zambia. All mentioned trainings are free of charge for IOI member institutions. In addition sholarships can be granted.

    Science and Research

    The IOI also intensified its activities in the areas of science and research. A regional research project commissioned by the IOI to the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Human Rights was dedicated to the comparative analysis of ombudsman institutions in Australasia and the Pacific Region. Together with the results of a similar research project about European ombudsman institutions by Prof. Gabriele Kucsko-Stadlmayer it will be part of a series about ombudsman institutions worldwide. A new project will analyse the Asian ombudsman institions.