National human rights institutions and access to justice

This project will examine the roles that National Human Rights Institutions in Europe do, and should, play in dispute resolution.

Throughout Europe, attention continues to be paid to devising appropriate forms of dispute resolution beyond the traditional courts in large part to reduce costs and alleviate pressure on the judicial system. The widening of forms of dispute resolution encompasses agreement-based processes (e.g. mediation) and adjudicative-based processes (e.g. arbitration). A more recent manifestation of this debate is the proposition that National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) - broadly defined to include equality bodies and ombudsmen – should play a role in dispute resolution. This is supported by the UN Principles relating to the Status of National Institutions (‘Paris Principles’) and has recently been promoted by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA). However, very little is known about the role NHRIs already play in dispute resolution; how effective and legitimate this role is; and how they deal with the due process requirements of international human rights law.

The project methods will include desk research, six case studies (which will include some non-European comparators), qualitative interviews and an expert meeting to discuss the project’s report and recommendations prior to publication.