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Austria/ 8.4 Amateur arts, cultural associations and civil initiatives  

8.4.3 Associations of citizens, advocacy groups, NGOs and advisory panels

With the Federal Act to Promote Voluntary Engagement (2012) the Austrian Council for Voluntary Work was anchored by law and implemented at the Federal Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Consumer Protection. The Council pursues the aim of eliminating the hurdles and barriers in Austria which obstruct voluntary engagement. It develops recommendations for measures so that people of all age groups will continue to carry out voluntary work in the future.

In Austria many citizens' initiatives, special interest groups and NGOs are working on different issues: the 2nd Volunteering Report (2015), more than 2 million people in Austria are engaged in civil society organisations in the areas of art and culture, sports and movement, disaster control and rescue services, protection of environment, nature or animals, in areas of church and religion, policy lobbying organisations, education, local communities as well as social and health services. The area of art, culture, entertainment and leisure is particularly diverse: more than 432 000 volunteers are actively engaged in cultural associatios, where they work at least about 1.8 million hours per week. Thus, the voluntary cultural sector is the second largest (ranking after sports) in terms of both the number of volunteers as well as working hours per week.

Especially the cultural initiatives (see chapter 8.4.2) and the "IGs" ("Interessengemeinschaften" / special interest groups, see chapter 8.1.4) are engaged in the cultural sector. "IG KulturÖsterreich" is a network and lobby for the autonomous cultural work in Austria with currently 350 members of cross-segment cultural initiatives in the area of contemporary art and culture.  

The platform "The World of NGOs" is engaged in supporting the professionalisation of employees in the non-profit-sector and in active networking of these initiatives. The "InteressensvertretungGemeinnützigerOrganisationen" (IGO; Lobby for Non-Profit Organisations) covers the concerns of currently 30 NPOs in Austria. A central issue of many NGOs and NPOs are human rights. An example for civil-rights-activities is the Austrian League of Human Rights that advocates for the respect and observance of human rights from the angle of Austria and the European Union. It is the eldest human rights organisation in Austria and was founded in 1926 as part of the International League of Human Rights.SOS Mitmenschis an association for the support of human rights with the objective of equalisation and equal opportunities for every person. It was founded 1992 during a "sea of lights"-demonstration against an anti-foreigner-referendum. The association is financed by private donations and is largely made up of volunteers.

The initiative (human rights. now.) brings together more than 270 non-governmental organizations in Austria supporting a Joint Submission to the Human Rights Council's Universal Periodic Review. The Universal Periodic Review is a human rights mechanism of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council aiming at improving the human rights situation on the ground of each of the UN Member States. Based on the government's report, a working group of the Human Rights Council has assessed the implementation gaps in Austria's human rights performance. The – Vienna Institute for International Dialogue and Cooperationwas established in 1962 on the initiative of Bruno Kreisky. The key political objective is to make the public aware of colonialism and racism and to install an international dialogue on the basis of equality and respect. 

Chapter published: 02-02-2016

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