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European Union

HRDN Statement: Promoting Human Rights and Democracy
in the next EU Multiannual Financial Framework

@font-face { font-family: "Arial";}@font-face { font-family: "MS 明朝";}@font-face { font-family: "Cambria Math";}@font-face { font-family: "Cambria";}p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal { margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria; }p.MsoFootnoteText, li.MsoFootnoteText, div.MsoFootnoteText { margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria; }span.MsoFootnoteReference { vertical-align: super; }span.NotedebasdepageCar { }.MsoChpDefault { font-family: Cambria; }div.WordSection1 { }The 51 member organisations of the Human Rights and Democracy Network (HRDN),of which the OMCT is a member organisation, consider that the European Union’s commitments spelled out in Article 2 and 21 of the Treaty remain fully relevant. The EU institutions and its member states must guide the negotiations of the future Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) in a direction that reinforces human rights through the EU’s internal and external financial instruments.

March 2018

Repressive governments are pursuing abacklash against democracy and human rights, diminishing civic space andcreating a chilling effect for those working to promote and protect humanrights. Civicus Monitor lists108 countries as Obstructed, Repressed, or Closed and shows a serious downwardtrend for freedom of assembly, association and expression.

Civil society organisations (CSOs) andindividual human rights defenders (HRDs) have been directly affected. Insteadof being recognised as essential actors for the democratic functioning ofsociety, the legitimacy of the work of civil society organisations is beingquestioned and CSOs subjected to smear-campaigns. This is true both outside andinside the EU.

In this context, the 51 memberorganisations of the Human Rights and Democracy Network (HRDN) consider thatthe European Union’s commitments spelled out in Article 2 and 21 of the Treatyremain fully relevant. The EU institutions and its member states must guide thenegotiations of the future Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) in a directionthat reinforces human rights through the EU’s internal and external financialinstruments.

Specifically the HRDN calls on the EUinstitutions and Member States to:

1. Oppose the merging of the EIDHRwithin a single External Financing Instrument

The EIDHR was created on the initiativeof the European Parliament in 1994, after years of inter-institutionalnegotiations. It has since become a visible symbol of the EU’s globalleadership in supporting human rights and democracy.

This instrument has proven to be acrucial tool to support civil society organisations and individual human rightsdefenders, and has been an important source of funding for democraticreforms and the protection and promotion of humanrights. Putting the existence of the EIDHR, as asingle, distinct and visible instrument into question, would send a negativesignal. It would, not only put already vulnerable organisations and individualsat risk, but would also call into question the EU’s global leadership andcommitment, to protect and promote democracy and human rights, and those whodefend them.

The EIDHR is one of the smallest EU’sexternal financing instruments – with € 1,3 billion budget for the current7-year period: it represents 0.001% of the 2014-2020 EU budget. Despite this,the instrument’s relevance, impact, sustainability, efficiency and added-valueare outstanding – as was highlighted in a recent external evaluation[1]. The evaluation also insistedthat the EIDHR has a specific value, especially in a context where it hasbecome more and more difficult to support democracy and human rights.

The EU should preserve a dedicatedEIDHR instrument, boost its budget, and prevent the reallocation of funds fromEIDHR to other financial lines.

2. Preserve and reinforce the EIDHRinstrument

The EIDHR has unique features andmodalities. In particular, it is able to fund individuals and organisationsworking on human rights and democracy in difficult circumstances, independentof the consent of the national government.

The instrument can support bothregistered and unregistered organisations; organisations without legalpersonality, as well as individual human rights defenders. It is universal,responsive and offers flexibility in terms of confidentiality, reporting andsub- granting.

All these elements make the EIDHRparticularly relevant in difficult and closed environments. As these conditionsare becoming more prevalent, the instrument’s added-value and relevance isgreater than ever. It also makes the EIDHR key for supporting democraticprocesses, by assisting elements of the democratic system that the executivebranch of a partner country may not prioritise – such as work with parliaments,support to the media, support to a representative political party system and tocivil society organisations working on democracy.

The future MFF should also aim toincrease core funding to CSOs and allow more flexibility to co-financing obligationsand multiannual partnerships. Providing this type of structural support to CSOswill allow organisations to prioritise and act swiftly in response to emergingthreats. Core funding will also enable organisations to plan, focus onstructural changes and tackle new and complex challenges.

The EU should maintain and reinforcethe unique features of the EIDHR and itsstructural support to human rights and democracy. Inparticular, measures to ensure that funding reaches human rights defenders mostat risk need to be strengthened, as well as more flexibility in supportingorganisations and individuals and democratic institutions.

3. Mainstream human rights anddemocracy and support to civil society through other instruments

Human rights and democracy should alsobe fully and effectively integrated into the geographic instruments – and arights-based approach implemented. One element should be to ensure that civilsociety is actively involved in the design, implementation and monitoring of EUcooperation programmes. It should be a top priority for the EU to ensure thatall recipients of EU aid are obliged to commit to, and implement, internationalhuman rights standards in all their work.

The EU should mainstream human rightsand democracy into all financing instruments.

4. Ensure targeted support to humanrights work within the EU

Over the last years it has becomeincreasingly evident that attacks against civil society are also happeningwithin the EU. The recent report of the European Union Agency for FundamentalRights “Challenges facing civil society organisations working on human rightsin the EU” (January 2018), demonstrates that it has become harder for civilsociety organisations to continue their work to protect, promote and fulfilhuman rights across the Union. Specifically on funding, the report notes anoverall decrease in available funds, as well as range of legal and practicalobstacles in accessing funds.

In its external relations, andspecifically through the creation of the EIDHR, the EU and its Member Stateshave placed great emphasis on supporting human rights organisations. The sameattention is needed within the EU, without compromising vital work externally.

In this context we urge the EC tocreate a funding instrument to support civil society organisations working onhuman rights in EU member states. It should include funds for monitoring,advocacy, litigation and education and support both national and communitybased organisations. It should also look into improving the flexibility ofthe instruments to enable sustainable work by local structures, with specialattention to the need for core funding and the possibility for re-grantingschemes. Some of the same features as the EIDHR should also be includedi.e. the possibility to offer support to both registered and unregisteredorganisations, support to individual human rights defenders, andconfidentiality where necessary.

The EU should create a fundinginstrument dedicated to the work of human rights organisations in EU memberstates.

In this circumstances the HRDNtherefore calls on the EU institutions and member states to: maintain adedicated EIDHR instrument to support the work of CSOs and HRDs in the nextMFF; mainstream human rights and democracy throughout other instruments; andcreate a fund to support the core work of human rights organisations within theEU.

The Human Rights and Democracy Network (HRDN) is an informal grouping of NGOsoperating at EU level in the broader areas of human rights, democracy and conflict prevention.Participation in the network is open to non-governmental organizations which engage at EUlevel in the promotion of human rights, democracy and conflict prevention in and outside theEU.

The vision of the HRDN is that human rights and democracy are placed at the heart of theEU's internal and external policy agenda. This vision should manifest itself in a EU thateffectively protects human rights at home and is a force for positive change in the world. Inpursuit of this vision, the network aims to influence EU and member state human rights policiesand the programming of their funding instruments to promote democracy, human rights andsustainable peace.

[1] European Commission, Evaluation of the EuropeanInstrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) 2014-2020, 30 June 2017,

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