The second annual cycle will be devoted to the protection and promotion of human and minority rights, a core value that has been accepted and is reflected in the legislation and institutions of all WB countries.

Political leaders have mostly adopted the rhetoric of human rights and a more sensitive language in public discourse. However, practice shows that these basic principles still commonly fail to be upheld and translated into support for concrete policy options. In areas ranging from gender equality to the rights of persons with disabilities, these countries are taking significant reform steps, but the reforms often remain surface-level. All too often daily politics takes over and immediate short-term political gains are placed above the proclaimed highest values. As evidenced in countries where Gay Pride Parades have been held or attempted, it is clear that the broader political elite still has difficulty grasping the complexities of human rights and lacks the knowledge necessary for truly investing in a continuous promotion of rights. Without a deeper understanding of the meaning and significance of human rights on the part of political leaders, the institutions set up to guard rights will continue to face difficulties in functioning, while citizens will both feel the adverse effects of partial protection and fail to recognise and punish the abuse of rights.

This yearly cycle is designed to get the participants acquainted with the broader scope of human rights, the different and sometimes contesting interpretations of rights, and the often quite complex mechanisms for ensuring they are upheld in all domains of life.

Seminar 1: Human Rights in the 21st Century

Preliminary topics: Constitutional guarantees and legal mechanisms for human rights protection and anti-discrimination; European legacies of individual vs. collective rights; Human rights in the age of global insecurity; Needs and context of particularly vulnerable groups (LGBT rights, persons with disabilities, refugees and IDPs); Struggling against various forms of discrimination; Migration trends and integration policies; Role of the ECHR; Civil society as a promoter and protector of human rights; Protection of human rights defenders

Seminar 2: Social and Economic Rights in the Western Balkans

Preliminary topics: Third generation rights – background; EU Social inclusion policy; Poverty Reduction Strategies in the Balkans – What results?; Social rights in times of economic crisis; Equal access to education; Post-socialist reforms in social policy; The role of non-state actors in the provision of social services; Access to housing

Seminar 3: National and Religious Minorities – Managing Diversity in Today’s Western Balkans

Preliminary topics: Historical and theoretical introduction to nationalism; Institutional frameworks for the protection of national minorities in the region; Position of the Roma and experiences of the Roma Inclusion Decade in different countries; Linguistic rights; Minority education; Religious Diversity in WB; European examples of differing approaches to minority rights protection

International Study Visit: Northern Ireland

Preliminary themes: Post-conflict reconciliation and community integration efforts; Peace-building on the local level; Managing religious diversity; Decentralised social policy provision; Non-state actors in service provision; Gender equality

Seminar 4: Towards the Equal Participation of Women: Gender Equality in the Region

Preliminary topics: History of feminist political thought and women’s movements; Gender and development – Towards the achievement of Millennium Development Goals; Equal participation in political life – achievements and challenges in WB; Gender equality mechanisms in WB and EU; Gender sensitive language; Equal access to the labour market; Combating violence against women and domestic abuse; Gender budgeting