The European Union actively promotes and defends the universality and indivisibility of all human rights within its borders, but also when engaging in relations with non-EU countries. Over the years, the EU has adopted important reference documents on the promotion and protection of human rights (i.e. the EU Human Rights Guidelines), enhanced effective actions at bilateral and multilateral level in this sense by developing a range of diplomatic and cooperation tools, and improved human rights' mainstreaming across all its external activities – including in development cooperation.
The 2012 EU Strategic Framework addressed the objectives to accomplish and the priorities to be tackled by internal and external EU policies on human rights. Among those, was the necessity of conceiving a tool-box for working towards a Rights-Based Approach (RBA) to development cooperation, to integrate all human rights principles in EU cooperation activities aiming at strengthening their impact. Whereas development initiatives focus on social welfare and on economic growth, activities supporting and promoting human rights consolidate the rule of law, ensuring that these advances can be enjoyed by all. This reinforces bottom-up and participatory approaches, able to empower also particularly vulnerable groups in order to leave no one behind. With the Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy 2015-2019, the EU reiterates this commitment. Beyond the RBA, there is a growing understanding that the denial of human rights limits the scope for a sustainable development, as recalled by the UN 2030 Agenda and its goals.
The EU implements this policy in dialogue and consultation with third countries, by binding human rights to other segments of foreign policy and through its activity in international fora, primarily the UN Human Rights Council and the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly. Conscious that the respect for human rights cannot be taken for granted, the EU strongly believes in empowering individuals and organisations promoting freedom, democracy and human rights. The European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) is the concrete expression of the EU's commitment.