The European Union is founded on the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law. Human rights and democracy are inextricably connected. Only in a democracy can individuals fully exercise their human rights; only when human rights are respected can democracy flourish.
In supporting democratisation processes, the EU recognises the crucial importance of encouraging broad participation in political decision-making and local ownership of development processes.
Locally driven democratisation processes and initiatives are supported by the EU through an appropriate mix of financial and political instruments adapted to the specific situation of each country, as long as such initiatives are compatible with international human rights standards. The European Commission backs national reform processes and democratic institution-building through its geographical programmes. It supports local actions aimed at empowering disenfranchised groups, promoting dialogue and mediation between diverse interests within societies and encouraging political pluralism, transparency, accountability and consultation through the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR)
Where the political environment is particularly restrictive towards civil society, the EU aims to promote human rights and protect democracy activists, particularly by supporting the freedom of opinion and expression, the freedom of association and peaceful assembly, the freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief and the freedom of movement. To support home-grown/local democracy efforts, it works with a wide range of partners, including grass-roots organisations, international parliamentary associations, advocacy and watch-dog organisations, political foundations, trade unions and the media.
Amongst the results of the projects implemented so far have been legislative changes – for example in revised electoral legislation in Moldova and in the ratification and implementation of the Rome Statute in Chile. They have helped to enhance information, media monitoring and the transparency of elections, for example in the Philippines, and strengthened parliaments and political parties, notably in Yemen and Tajikistan. They have also increased the participation of under-represented groups in decision-making and/or political life in general – for instance of women in Azerbaijan and Ghana, of youth in Kyrgyzstan and of indigenous communities in Bolivia.