Strengthening human rights and gender equality in the Western Balkans
On 8th of October 2019, the Westminster Foundation for Democracy launched the HUGEN project. HUGEN stands for human rights and gender network. The project aims to support Western Balkans parliaments in reaching international standards for human rights and gender equality. Members of parliament and parliamentary staff will have the opportunity to share and learn from each other. They will also be able to improve, adapt and adopt best practices related to human rights and gender legislation, helping improve parliaments’ oversight of how related laws and policies are being implemented.
HUGEN is a thirty-month programme which will run until November 2021. It will establish a human rights and gender equality network of parliamentary committees in the Western Balkan region.
Close to 40 participants from eight parliaments in the Western Balkans gathered in Montenegro alongside academics, journalists and our network of partners for a conference on 8 October to launch the network. They discussed regional cooperation to support efforts to improve governance, political institutions, rule of law, gender equality, and post-conflict reconciliation.
As the vice-president of the Parliament of Montenegro, Mr. Genci Nimanbegu, greeted MPs and opened the conference:
“The the problem of past conflicts between the countries should be overcome through projects such as HUGEN, where WFD is supporting a closer cooperation between countries especially in the areas of human rights and gender equality.”
Nada Drobnjak, an MP from Montenegro who is a member of the gender equality committee, commented:
“We are happy that this project is starting to be implemented and that WFD has involved us in its work – and in some way in its family. We wish and will engage for the work for this network to continue well beyond the project.”
Through this programme WFD aims to:
- Create a network of parliamentary committees from eight parliaments;
- Develop ways for regional parliaments to cooperate on human rights and gender issues in the Western Balkans region;
- Make training resources for conducting and improving committee oversight practices;
- Make training resources for establishing post-legislative scrutiny mechanisms and gender law audit practices;
- Run a training programme for MPs and parliamentary staff to build capacity for parliamentary oversight and monitoring the implementation of gender laws and human rights;
- Conduct audits of gender laws and human rights policies and share case studies and best practices among the network participants and with a wider audience.
The HUGEN project office prepared an initial assessment of the work of human rights committees from Western Balkans parliaments.
The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs supports and funds the project and WFD’s regional office in Belgrade implements it in cooperation with country offices throughout the region.