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HRDN Statement: Human rights should underpin the new EU Global Strategy

Statement of the Human Rights and Democracy Network (HRDN),of which the OMCT is a member organisation in the context of the ongoing strategic reflection process regarding the new EU Global Strategy for Foreign and Security Policy expected to be adopted by June 2016

April 2016

The EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and VicePresident of the European Commission (EU HR/VP), Federica Mogherini, haslaunched a strategic reflection process to inform a new EU Global Strategy forForeign and Security policy by June 2016. The Strategy will shape the EU’sforeign policy objectives and interests for the foreseeable future.

Discussions on the new EU Global Strategy come at a time when we arewitnessing increasing violations of international human rights and humanitarianlaw and impunity for grave abuses worldwide. Repressive governments areinvesting significant energy and resources in silencing human rights defenders,political activists, journalists, minorities and others who are critical ofgovernment policies and expose abuses of power, corruption and badgovernance. This context calls for a robust, meaningful response from the EU inprotecting the human rights of all people, including demonstrating the politicalwill to challenge vested interests which undermine human rights anddemocracy.

If the new EU Global Strategy is to be successful in achieving its statedobjectives of improving security, prosperity, resilience and governance in theworld, it will be critical to recognise that key to this is the full respect,protection and realisation of all people’s human rights – be they civil andpolitical rights or economic, social and cultural rights at all times and in allsettings. Human rights, good governance and democracy should not be seen asan add-on or contrary to security and stability. The EU and its Member Statesmust defend the universality and indivisibility of human rights at home andglobally. As former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan stated, ‘We will not enjoysecurity without development, we will not enjoy development without security,and we will not enjoy either without respect for human rights’. We expect thenew EU global strategy to embrace this essential truth and place human rightsat the centre of EU foreign policy.

The Human Rights and Democracy Network calls on the EU HR/VP and EUMember States to ensure that the Global Strategy covers the following issues:

1. Universality and Indivisibility of Human Rights

Acknowledge the universality and indivisibility of human rights, be they civil,political, economic, social or cultural rights.

The Global Strategy must make clear that human rights are not simply ‘values’ butinternational legal obligations. The Strategy must therefore make strong referencesto international human rights and humanitarian law. It must commit the EU tocooperate with the UN, the Council of Europe, the Organisation for Security andCo-operation in Europe, and other regional human rights monitoring mechanismsas well as international justice mechanisms, such as the International CriminalCourt (ICC). 2. The EU Strategic Framework on Human Rights and Democracy
Reaffirm and build on commitments and pledges in the Lisbon Treaty andarticulated by EU Foreign Ministers in the landmark 2012 EU Strategic Frameworkon Human Rights and Democracy

In the Framework, the EU committed to place human rights and democracy at thecentre of its external relations in all areas and with all partners without exception.The EU must therefore ensure that the Global Strategy takes a rights-basedapproach in all areas of external policy, including in trade, migration, counter-terrorism, development, energy, security and environment policies. Policycoherence for human rights is essential if those rights are to be realised. Thestrategy should clearly set out the roles and individual responsibilities of all EUactors in shap
ing and implementing the EU’s human rights policy.

3. EU Leadership on Human Rights and Justice

Commit the EU to exercising leadership on human rights and position the EU,together with the Member States, at the forefront of the international communityin always acting and speaking out against human rights violations whenever andwherever they occur

We expect the Global Strategy to reaffirm the strong commitment of the EU and itsMember States to fighting against impunity; promoting international justice andaccountability; and providing justice and redress for the victims of grave violationsof international and humanitarian law, including through strong support to the ICC

4. Human Right Defenders, Civil Society and Civic Space

Lay out the EU’s vision for
effectively challenging the rapidly closing space for civilsociety and populations wishing to express their opinions.

This includes acknowledging the importance of non-governmental actors as keyagents of change in a country and committing to a genuine, productive andstrategic partnership with civil society organisations and individual human rightsdefenders both within and outside the EU. The shrinking space for civil societyshould be seen as a particular challenge. It is an early warning of worse to come
and an impediment to implementation of government’s commitments in all areasincluding fighting corruption, advancing peace and delivering on the SDGs. Asnoted by UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, ‘[t]he presence of critical civil society can be viewed as abarometer of a State’s confidence and stability’. EU Member States and institutionsshould pledge that they will consistently press for the release of imprisoned rightsactivists whilst also working to ensure their freedom from restrictive legislation.
5. Support for Democracy

Base the EU’s position and
actions on participatory approaches, transparency(including the fight against corruption), equity and the rule of law.

The EU Global Strategy should make clear that respect for human rights anddemocracy are crucial to resilient societies. The demands for more and betterdemocracy and greater access to information through new technologies haveopened up new opportunities for a broader constituency to claim rights. But thereare also growing challenges which should be addressed, such as crackdowns onfreedom of expression and assembly, both online and offline. The EU GlobalStrategy must be clear in its support to democratic and accountable governance: Inaddition to committing to support regular elections and election processes, and
people’s civil and political rights, EU support to democracy must be strengthenedby taking into account the needs and interests of a wider range of localstakeholders such as political parties, grassroots civil society, local authorities andparliaments. In order to reflect local needs and interests, politically awareapproaches to development should be mainstreamed into EU foreign and securitypolicy. The EU must also find effective means to support conflict-affected andfragile states where governance - and democracy - is generally weaker.

6. Respect for and Coherence with Global Agreements

Respect the principles and objectives underpinning the outcomes of key recentglobal processes, such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and theParis Agreement on climate change, in which UN States, including the EU and itsMember States, have made rights-based commitments.

The principle of ensuring that ‘no one be left behind’ implies that the EU’s foreign
and security policy must have as its key objective making the world more stable,prosperous and democratic for all categories of people.

7. Business and Human Rights

Recognise that security, prosperity and just governance may only be ensured if allactors, including the private sector and international financial institutions, protect,
respect and fulfil people’s rights.

Trade policy is dominated by a narrow set of interests and currently leads to a ‘raceto the bottom’ with each country trying to impose fewer and lower social,
environmental, economic and fiscal conditions in order to attract investment andenhance competitive advantage. The EU should therefore commit to revising itsown trade policies to ensure they are designed and implemented to protect,respect, enforce and consolidate human rights. Furthermore, given the lack of safeguards at all levels to prevent business enterprises from becoming complicit inor tacitly benefiting from human rights violations, the EU should support work inthe UN to turn the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights into abinding corporate accountability framework.

Too often, international financial institutions finance private and public sectoractivities that result in human rights abuses. EU Member States and EUinstitutions where relevant- should use their positions on the governing boards ofthese institutions to introduce policies that require respect of human rights anddue diligence to identify and address potential and adverse rights impacts of alltheir activities.

8. Transparency and Accountability

Commit to more transparency and accountability in how the EU is implementing itshuman rights obligations in relations with partner countries.

As a first step, werecommend organising an annual public Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) debate onhuman rights, as called for by the European Parliament.

Finally, if the EU wants to be more effective on the world stage, it is crucial for this newstrategy to ensure that Members of the European Parliament, nationalparliamentarians and civil society organizations are stakeholders in its implementation.As a starting point, the HRDN calls for a formal consultation of all stakeholders basedon a draft of the EU Global Strategy.

For more information, please contact:HRDN Troika:

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