Human Rights and Equality Institutions in Europe: Increasing Efficacy by Finding a Balance between Centralisation and Fragmentation

  • Antonija Petričušić University of Zagreb, Faculty of Law, Croatia
  • Lora Vidović Office for Social Protection, Health, Veterans and Persons with Disabilities in the City of Zagreb
Keywords: human rights protection and promotion, National Human Rights Institutions, human rights commissions, equality bodies, ombuds institutions, Paris Principles


National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) are state bodies mandated to protect
and promote human rights. Their mission is to identify and tackle systemic
problems while raising fundamental rights awareness in countries in which they
have been established. Human rights institutions at the national level include
Ombudsman (some specialising in particularly vulnerable groups), Equality
Bodies, National Preventive Mechanisms, National Monitoring Mechanisms,
Data Protection Agencies, and more. In this article, we analyse the strengths
and weaknesses of both centralised and fragmented systems of human rights
institutions. Using examples from several European countries, we particularly
examine how the fragmentation of institutions affects their resilience to pressures
which can adversely impact the promotion and protection of human rights and
equality at the national level. We argue that opting for a certain NHRIs’ system
might exert significant influence on the independence and effectiveness of
individual institutions, as well as on the overall comprehensiveness of a nation’s
human rights infrastructure.