International and regional human rights instruments and mechanisms
The European Union supports international and regional human rights mechanisms and instruments which constitute important pillars of the international system for the promotion and protection of human rights.
In the new EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy "Keeping human rights at the heart of the EU agenda" which was adopted by the Foreign Affairs Council on 20 July 2015, action 6 commits to "strengthening cooperation with the UN and regional human rights and democracy mechanisms", notably through dialogue, capacity building and common initiatives on thematic matters.
Regarding the international human rights instruments and mechanisms, the EU provides financial support in particular to the International Criminal Court, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and Special Rapporteurs on human rights defenders, freedom of association and freedom of expression. In this way, the EU contributes to strengthening these key actors in order for them to increase their influence and fulfil their mandates.
As for the regional human rights instruments and mechanisms, the EU's action is again guided by the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy 2015-2019, which states that "6.a) the EU will strengthen human rights and democracy aspects in EU cooperation with the UN and regional organisations and mechanisms, in particular by pursuing synergies and common initiatives on key thematic issues and at important multilateral events. And 6.b) promote dialogue and capacity building initiatives between regional human rights and democracy mechanisms."
To this effect, the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) offers support for capacity-building and the functioning of regional human rights mechanisms. It has ongoing agreements with the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights and with the Inter American Human Rights System.
National Human Rights Institutions
National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) are key stakeholders in the international, regional and national human rights framework. Through their monitoring, reporting, complaints handling, and advisory mandates NHRIs play important roles in upholding international human rights standards and making human rights a reality on the ground. As institutions of accountability, they also have a role to play in the implementation and monitoring of the Sustainable Development Goals.
The EU recognises the importance of the establishment and functioning of independent NHRIs compliant with the 1993 United Nations Paris principles, and seeks to strengthen its support for NHRIs in political and financial terms.
In the new EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy "Keeping human rights at the heart of the EU agenda" which was adopted by the Foreign Affairs Council on 20 July 2015, action 1 commits to "supporting the capacity of National Human Rights Institutions". This aim is also clearly reflected in the EIDHR Regulation 2014-20 (article 2.1- ii) and strategy 2014-17 (under Objective 5).
In the past, NHRIs were eligible for EU support in geographical and thematic programmes, e.g. through the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI) and the EIDHR. The EIDHR aims to scale up support to NHRIs in the current multi-annual financial framework, notably through targeted programmes enhancing the capacity of NHRIs and their regional and international networks. A unique, three-year capacity building programme started in 2015 addressing NHRI capacity at national, regional and international levels (see below). In 2017, another innovative targeted programme to build on best practices and to develop guidance for NHRIs in conflict and post-conflict situations will start.