International Partnerships

Human rights

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Human rights are universal, every human being is entitled to the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms under international law. The EU promotes and defends the universality and indivisibility of all human rights within the EU and in our partner countries.

Our approach

To shape a strong and efficient human rights policy, we are acting in many fields:

  • political dialogue, policy dialogue, economic diplomacy
  • human rights dialogue with partner countries
  • statements, campaigns, public events
  • human rights and democracy country strategies in coordination with EU member countries
  • human rights guidelines: the EU has published 11 human rights guidelines
  • right based approach to development cooperation
  • the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR)
EDDs shaping policies

Rights-based approach

The EU has a firm political commitment to integrate human rights principles into development activities with partner countries.

The European Consensus on Development commits the EU and its Member States to implementing a rights-based approach (RBA) to development cooperation, encompassing all human rights. The Consensus envisages an even stronger commitment from the EU and its Member countries to implement RBA because:

  • RBA helps us deliver on the principles of EU external action set out in the treaties – indivisibility of human rights, respect for human dignity, equality.
  • RBA is in line with the principles of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation, especially ownership, transparency and accountability, and inclusive partnerships.
  • RBA provides methodology that can enhance coordination of development cooperation policies of the EU and its Member States.
  • RBA serves to align development cooperation policies to the human rights commitments of our partners
  • RBA is key in ensuring that no one is left behind, helps address the multiple discriminations faced by people in vulnerable situations. By ensuring that we leave no one behind we deliver on the primary objective of EU development policy: reduction and, in the long term, eradication of poverty.

Human Rights and Democracy Action Plan 2020-2024

In a shifting geopolitical landscape, the EU has remained steadfast as a strong defender of human rights and democracy.

The Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy 2020-2024 sets out ambitions and priorities for the next five years in this field of external relations. By doing so, it will contribute to achieving a stronger Europe in the world.

It is the only instrument of its kind aimed at promoting a values-based agenda on the world stage.

The Action Plan will provide strategic focus around five interlinked and mutually reinforcing lines of action:

  1. Protecting and empowering individuals;
  2. Building resilient, inclusive and democratic societies;
  3. Promoting a global system for human rights and democracy;
  4. New technologies: harnessing opportunities and addressing challenges; and
  5. Delivering by working together.

The operational measures will be implemented at country, regional and multilateral level, taking account of local circumstances and specificities.

Human Rights and Democracy Action Plan 2020-2024 visual with text "Empowering protecting all people"

Human dignity

The fight against torture and the abolition of the death penalty are 2 of the EU’s long-standing policy priorities and are essential for the enhancement of human dignity. The EU is a leading institutional actor and donor in these areas.

The prevention and eradication of all forms of torture and ill-treatment worldwide represents one of the main objectives of the EU’s human rights policy.

The EU holds a strong and principled position against the death penalty in all circumstances and for all cases.

Human rights defenders

Human rights defenders (HRD) are indispensable allies in the promotion of human rights and democratisation of their respective countries. The EIDHR provides swift assistance to HRD at risk to meet their most urgent needs and reinforces their capacities to do their human rights work in the medium and longer term. Delivering support to HRD remains one of the EIDHR priorities for the period 2014-2020.

Freedom of religion and belief

The right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief, more commonly referred to as the right to freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) is a fundamental right of every human being. Freedom of religion or belief is enshrined in Articles 18 of both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)  and of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)

 Under international law, Freedom of religion or belief has two components:

  • The freedom to have or not to have or adopt (which includes the right to change) a religion or belief of one’s choice, and
  • The freedom to manifest one's religion or belief, individually or in community with others, in public or private, through worship, observance, practice and teaching.

With the adoption of the EU Guidelines on the promotion and protection of freedom of religion or belief in 2013, the EU has committed to advance this fundamental freedom in its external action, including through its financial instruments. In doing so, the EU is guided by the principles of non-discrimination and interrelatedness of human rights.

The European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR)

EIDHR is a thematic instrument involving civil society organisations. It is the EU’s main vector of support in the area of democracy and human rights with 5 specific objectives:

  • support to human rights and human rights defenders in situations where they are most at risk (e.g., Emergency Fund for Human Rights Defenders)
  • support to other priorities of the EU in the field of human rights (e.g. death penalty, torture, fight against impunity, discrimination, etc.);
  • Support to democracy;
  • EU Election Observation Missions (EU EOMs) which represents 25% of the EIDHR budget
  • support to targeted key actors and processes, including international and regional human rights (e.g. support to OHCHR, ICC, Regional Human Rights Mechanisms, National Human Rights Institutions, etc.)