Dear members, supporters, promoters, and friends of the European Forum for Restorative,
Before we all start our holidays I’d like to give you a short review of the Forum’s activities of 2013 and an outlook on 2014 which will pose new challenges. Thanks to the commitment and active contributions of many people, 2013 was a good year for the Forum with visibility and recognition further increased. This is a consequence of the activities of the Board, the secretariat with the former and the new executive officer, the research team, the editorial team of the Newsletter, the directors of the summer school program, our senior advisor and many other members and non-members (project partners and members of the projects’ steering committees in particular) who contributed in many ways to the progress. Annemieke, Aarne, Beata, Bruno, Eleonore, Vicky, Monique, Kris, Emanuela, Valery, Edit, Katrien, Malini, Tzeni, Kerry, Martin, Robert, Frauke, Niall and Ivo have to be named here explicitly, many others would deserve it as well.
What were the most important activities and achievements of the year? As always, intense work was done in the various research projects. All four studies on (1) Training of the Judiciary, (2) Accessibility and Initiation of RJ Programmes, (3) Desistance and (4) Alternative (FP7) made very good progress. It is the policy of the Forum to give insight into the projects and their findings as widely as possible, thus going beyond ‘just’ writing reports and editing books. If possible, public events are being linked to the projects and the topics addressed. A prime example is the 2013 summer school in Vienna titled ‘Restorative Justice in intercultural settings: business as usual?’ which was closely linked to the ‘Alternative’ project. Strongly supported by the local organizer IRKS, Niall Kearney, Frauke Petzold and Edit Törzs prepared a program that was very well received by the participants who attended from 13 different countries. Next Year’s international conference will be strongly connected to topics and perspectives related to the ‘Desistance’ project.
A further field of ongoing activity is the policy-related work of the Forum. Based on the fact that the European Union nowadays is the key actor in many areas of criminal legislation, we have undertaken a number of efforts to strengthen the legal basis of restorative justice in the Union. With the 2012 Directive establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime, restorative justice has got such a basis. We will be aware that the scope for application will become as wide as possible during the implementation phase of the Directive. The general recognition of restorative justice as an inherent or regular component of post-crime (and post-conflict) related measures has also been reflected by the fact that our Forum is part of the Criminal Justice Platform Europe. With this joint initiative the EFRJ, Victim Support Europe (VSE), the Confederation of European Probation CEP and the European Organisation of Prison and Correctional Services (EuroPris) work together on criminal justice related issues of common interest. These four NGOs represent the entire chain of intervention post-crime (and post-conflict) and comprise an important contribution for the development of a more practice-oriented and effective criminal justice system. Through this joint initiative, the work of the participating organisations will become more visible and its impact increased. In addition, the political attention for the different practical aspects of European criminal policy, including restorative justice, will be strengthened. The vision is to reach a better treatment for all parties affected by crime.
All such activities, however, require stable funding. This brings me to the prospects for 2014 which is not as positive as we would have hoped. Until now, the budget of the EFRJ has always been dependent to a significant portion of subsidies by the European Union. Besides the research-related income covered by action grants our budget further depends on additional funding provided by annual operating grants. As a consequence of the long budgetary conflict between EU Parliament and EU Commission, it is not clear whether we can rely again on such an operation grant for 2014. The board will of course continue the efforts, in close cooperation with the Criminal Justice Platform partners. However, this situation means that the Forum has to find at least one sustainable additional funding stream that is independent from European policies.
Generating such funds, however, is much more complicated for the EFRJ than for many other NGOs. We do not have national ‘branches’ that could deliver parts of their income gained from national sources to their umbrella organization. Moreover, fundraising with national enterprises has failed so far since such donors always have their focus on national NGOs. The same is true for public resources provided by states. Therefore I would like to draw your attention on the new ‘donate’ functionality of our website www.euforumrj.org. Please support us by promoting the important role of the EFRJ and its urgent financial need.
In addition, any suggestion about possible donators in your countries is highly appreciated. And please, help us to promote the advantages of membership in the Forum by approaching all interested persons you know, and also those you will meet in the near future. Lastly perhaps, you may even consider yourself to increase your membership fee for 2014 by an additional voluntary surplus. We will do our very best to keep the secretariat functioning, but it might happen that the proven membership services will have to be reduced for a certain time span in 2014.
The good news is that 2014 will also bring the bi-annual international conference which has become the Forum’s most attractive event. The conference with the general theme “Beyond crime: Pathways to desistance, social justice, and peace building” will take place from the 11th-14th of June and will showcase the work of a variety of esteemed speakers. Belfast, the host city, is highly attractive from the perspective of restorative justice as many of you will already know. In addition to the traditional plenary speeches and presentations, the board and the local organization team have the interest to promote new and innovative workshop formats and performances. All details can be drawn very soon from our website where you will also be finding the call for papers. Please do already note the dates, not lastly also with regard to the AGM which will have to elect three new board members. An additional attraction will be the ceremony of the presentation of the European Restorative Justice Award. Like Ivo Aertsen and Martin Wright, who received the prestigious Award in 2010 and 2012 respectively, the third laureate will again be a person with outstanding merits for the development restorative justice. I am happy that the Board has received more proposals than ever before and came to a convincing and unanimous decision.
With this prospect I’d like to thank everybody for their contributions to the Forum’s successful performance in 2013. Neither chair, vice-chair and Board, nor the executive officer and the secretariat can bring forward the vision of restorative justice alone. Active contributions by the members are of the same if not even of more significance. In the name of the Board of the EFRJ I wish all of us a peaceful and hopefully also relaxing Christmas time, and a happy 2014.