“Schedule 1, Paragraph 1(1) of the Act provides that the Secretary of State appoints the Chairperson and members of the Commission. Schedule 1, Paragraph (2)(1) states that the criteria for appointment is experience or knowledge on discrimination and/or human rights, or “for some other special reason”. The EHRC reports that the selection and appointment is conducted in a manner that is comparable with all independent institutions within the State. The SCA notes that, in practice, the appointment process is subject to detailed guidance from the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments.
The Commissioner for Public Appointments regulates the processes by which Ministers make appointments on merit to the boards of national and regional public bodies.
The SCA is of the view that the process currently enshrined in the Law is not sufficiently broad and transparent. In particular, it does not:
- require the advertisement of vacancies;
- establish clear and uniform criteria upon which the merit of eligible applicants is assessed;
- promote broad consultation and / or participation in the application, screening, selection and appointment process.
The SCA acknowledges that the EHRC has taken steps to ensure clear and participatory selection and appointment process, including ensuring that representation of relevant skills and expertise is taken into account during the appointment process through an amendment to the Framework Document and advocating for the formalization and application of a clear, transparent and participatory selection and appointment process. It is critically important to ensure the formalization of a clear, transparent and participatory selection and appointment process for an NHRI’s decision-making body in relevant legislation, regulations or binding administrative guidelines, as appropriate. A process that promotes merit-based selection and ensures pluralism is necessary to ensure the independence of, and public confidence in, the senior leadership of an NHRI.
The SCA therefore recommends the EHRC to continue advocating for the formalization of the selection and appointment process in relevant by laws, regulations, or binding administrative instruments.”