About this sector

The European Union, as a global actor and the world's biggest donor, is founded on the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law. The Treaty on European Union commits the EU to act on the global scene 'guided by the principles which have inspired its own creation.'

This EU commitment to democracy as a principle underpinning its external action is reflected in numerous policies, including the November 2009 Council Conclusions on ‘Democracy support in the EU's external relations’, the 2011 'Agenda for Change' guiding EU development cooperation, the 2015-2019 Action Plan for Human Rights and Democracy, and the new European Consensus on Development. EU actions are also in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and in particular Goal 16, dedicated to the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies

Based on this framework, the EU supports democratisation and fundamental freedoms in partner countries, recognising the crucial importance of encouraging broad participation in political decision-making and local ownership of development processes. Depending on the particular objectives of each action, it works with a wide range of partners, including grass-roots organisations, international parliamentary associations, advocacy and watch-dog organisations, electoral bodies, political foundations, parliaments and the media. Particular emphasis in based on facilitating the involvement of women and youth in civic and political life.

The European Union funds activities advancing democracy and human rights through a number of programmes and instruments:

  • The geographical programmes support the implementation of the policy at national and regional level: the European Development Fund (in the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries), the Development Cooperation Instrument (in Latin America, Asia and South Africa), the European Neighbourhood Instrument (in the neighbouring regions).
  • Several thematic programmes and instruments fund activities in specific sectors of development cooperation. The European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), a thematic instrument that works with and through civil society organisations, is the European Union's main vector of support in the area of democracy and human rights. It had a budget of €1.332 million for the 2014-20 period. Other sources of EU funding include the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IsCP) and two thematic programmes implemented under the Development Cooperation Instrument: 'Global public good and challenges' and 'Civil society organisations and local authorities'.


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