Forgotten Friends. ODIHR and Civil Society in the Struggle to Counter Hate Crime in Poland

44 Pages Posted: 17 Dec 2015 Last revised: 18 Dec 2015

Date Written: 2015


The report provides an overview and comparison of key developments in two areas of hate crime policy in Poland: data collection and criminal law. By doing so, it seeks to shed light on the role of international organizations in developing national hate crime measures. It is the first report of its kind with a particular focus on the role of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) – the most specialized of all international institutions dealing with hate crime.

The purpose of this report is to develop concrete policy recommendations, based on an analysis of ongoing efforts, to key stakeholders involved in the work on advancing the response to hate crime in Poland.

Key findings include: - International organizations, through periodic reviews and other mechanisms, have a significant influence on Poland’s response to hate crimes. - This influence is visible in the area of hate crime data collection. While a number of actors have been active in this domain, creating an effect of synergy, the influence of supranational bodies seems instrumental. - Despite on-going debates, the legal framework on hate crimes has not changed. - The lack of progress in this area can be linked with the fact that the bulk of the efforts was on the shoulders of civil society organizations, which lack the leverage that supranational bodies have. - Cooperation between Polish civil society organizations and supranational bodies, aimed at amplifying civil society demands with regard to hate crime, seems to be an effective strategy. - ODIHR had an instrumental role in improving Poland’s data collection mechanisms, but was absent from the debate on the amendment of the Criminal Code. Civil society organizations were not aware of ODIHR’s mandate in this area and the possible role it could play.

The report suggests that through active cooperation with civil society, not limited to hate crime reporting only, ODIHR may be able to identify possible new ways to support the state in countering hate crime. For the moment, civil society organizations in Poland and ODIHR, while cooperating in some areas, “forget” about each other in other areas. For ODIHR, strengthening the cooperation may open channels of communication with political decision makers who are not aware of ODIHR’s mandate, for example in the area of legislative support. For civil society, this could mean receiving tangible support in the area where support is most needed.

Keywords: hate crime, homophobia, ODIHR, Poland, racism

Suggested Citation

Godzisz, Piotr, Forgotten Friends. ODIHR and Civil Society in the Struggle to Counter Hate Crime in Poland (2015). Available at SSRN: or

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