One of the most fundamental human rights principles is the equal dignity and rights of all people. This equality is established in Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in Article 7 of the Austrian Federal Constitution. Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights also prohibits discrimination, stating that persons should not be treated unequally or discriminated based on personal characteristics such as sex, race, colour, national or social origin, religion, language or opinion.
Based on this principle of equality of all people, the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination of 1965, to which Austria is a state party, calls on all states to take concrete measures to combat discrimination against persons based on their colour or ethnic origin. A Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination was established to monitor state activities to combat racial discrimination. The combined 18th/19th/20th 14th Austrian state report was sent to the Committee in December 2011 and examined in August 2012 in Genf with the presence of a large Austrian delegation. The recommendations of the Committee after this examination have been published in December 2012.
The United Nations declared 21 March as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and has organised three world conferences against racism (1978, 1983, 2001). Most recently in 2009 a Review Conference of the UN World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Intolerance, that took place in Durban, South Africa in 2001 has been organised in Geneva. The outcome was a new declaration reaffirming the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action to combat racism, discrimination and intolerance worldwide. Within the United Nations and other international organisations Austria is actively engaged to combat racism and always works for concrete and constructive outcomes during conferences and meetings.
Also internally, Austria puts high emphasis on the fight against racism and xenophobia, taking concrete measures on all levels, i.e. promotion of equal-treatment, fight against stereotypes and promote integration. As an example it can be said that the criminal protection against discrimination and hate crimes has been strengthened considerably over the last years. The principle of equal-treatment is established in the Austrian Constitution. Based upon this a comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation has been adopted, which is being constantly improved. In the field of administrative and civil law the implementation of EU Guidelines on the enforcement of anti-discrimination legislation has further strengthened the Austrian legislature.
Furthermore non-legislative measures are being taken as well, in particular in the field of education, training and awareness-raising. These measures will be further increased and strengthened with the existing National Action Plan Integration. Finally the new government programme (2013-2018) foresees the elaboration of a general National Action Plan on Human Rights, which will lead to further progress in this field.
In 2002 the Council of Europe established the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) with the task of monitoring legislation and other measures by Member States regarding racism and intolerance and of making proposals for improvement. For this purpose, independent experts also conduct country visits. Austria was last visited by ECRI in 2004 and the report on the visit was published in February 2005. The next visit is programmed for November 2014.
The OSCE Human Dimension also combats all forms of racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and discrimination under the auspices of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) in Warsaw. Data and information on racism and discrimination are collected by means of a tolerance and non-discrimination information system. In addition three special representatives are working in the framework of the OSCE in the field of tolerance:
- Personal Representative on Combating Racism, Xenophobia and Discrimination, Catherin McGuiness
- Personal Representative on Combating Anti-Semitism, Rabbi Andrew Baker
- Personal Representative on Combating Intolerance and Discrimination against Muslims, Ömür Orhun,
The OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, Astrid Thors and the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatovic also contribute with their work to the fight against racism and xenophobia.
Within the EU, Austria has offered continuous support to the European Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) that was built upon the former European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) in 2007. As the central focal point for human rights questions within the EU the FRA is giving recommendations to the EU-Institutions and Member States in the compliance with human rights standards during all stages of the EU legislation process and policy development. The main tasks of the Agency are to collect, record, analyse and disseminate relevant, objective, reliable and comparable information and data on the fundamental rights situation in the EU Member States, to carry out, scientific research and surveys, preparatory studies and feasibility studies, formulate and publish conclusions and opinions on specific thematic topics, for the Union institutions and the Member States when implementing Community law, either on its own initiative or at the request of the European Parliament, the Council or the Commission and to promote dialogue with civil society, in order to raise public awareness of fundamental rights and actively disseminate information about its work.