Back Germany: Follow through with human rights commitments and improve access to social rights

Germany: Follow through with human rights commitments and improve access to social rights

Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, published today the report following her visit to Germany from 27 November to 1 December 2023, with recommendations regarding the available structures and legal frameworks to protect human rights, and on access to social rights, in particular the protection from poverty and the right to adequate housing.

The government has taken welcome steps to render the social welfare system more accessible and increase social security provisions. However, more efforts are required to address growing inequality in Germany, remove the existing barriers to accessing social rights, and minimise the negative long-term impacts of poverty on individual health, education, and employment prospects. “Increased attention must be paid in this context to addressing the high rates of poverty particularly among children, older persons and persons with disabilities. All relevant actors should cooperate at an inter-agency and inter-ministerial level to improve access to social rights and rights-holders should be provided with timely information and advice about their entitlements,” the Commissioner points out.

The Commissioner also considers that urgent steps are called for to address the acute affordable housing deficit particularly in urban centres through all available means, including appropriate interventions in the housing market. “Comprehensive and long-term measures, such as relevant changes to the tenancy law, are needed to prevent and eradicate homelessness, particularly among children, young people, older persons and other vulnerable groups”, she emphasises and calls on the authorities to develop a human rights based housing strategy and adopt the National Action Plan on the eradication of homelessness without delay.

The government has committed itself to strengthening children’s rights within the legal order, but little progress has been made towards ensuring that relevant authorities and administrative entities know of their obligation to give primary consideration to the best interests of the child. “There is no central authority that could effectively coordinate measures aimed at the protection and promotion of children’s rights at all levels and across all portfolios. As a result, the rights and needs of children and young people often remain overlooked in relevant policymaking, such as during the pandemic”.

Progress on the rights of persons with disabilities has been limited overall and accessibility remains elusive in many areas of life. Lack of political commitment and persistent resistance to change among the well-financed exclusionary structures, including special schools, sheltered workshops and residential facilities, still hinder the achievement of an independent life in the community for persons with disabilities. “The authorities should invest in inclusive structures and accelerate the transition from segregated lifestyles to inclusion in high-quality mainstream settings” says the Commissioner.

Despite the growing number of reported cases of discrimination, insufficient political attention and resources appear to be devoted to the promotion of full and effective equality across all sectors. “I welcome that the government has committed itself to improving the effectiveness of the equality legislation, which is widely considered to be deficient, but no timetable has been set yet. Particular attention should be paid to the mounting levels of xenophobia and racism which have the potential to undermine social cohesion and destabilise democratic institutions,” she stresses.

The Commissioner welcomes the increase in resources made available to the national human rights institution and efforts made to strengthen the independence of the national equality body, but notes that both have limited powers in comparison to other such structures in Europe and that human rights awareness is generally low. The authorities should accelerate the reform of the equality law and engage in comprehensive awareness raising and training activities of applicable standards.

 Read the Commissioner's report on Germany

 Read the comments of the German authorities on the Commissioner's report (in German)

Commissioner for Human Rights Strasbourg 19 March 2024
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