EU support for human rights defenders around the world

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Series Details November 2018
Publication Date November 2018
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Twenty years after the UN General Assembly adopted its Declaration on Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) in 1998 to enhance recognition of their role and encourage states to create a more protective environment, many human rights defenders still faced significant threats, and the situation of those working in certain areas had even deteriorated.

Support for human rights defenders was a long established component of the EU's external human rights policy and one of its major priorities. The EU guidelines on HRDs adopted in 2004 outlined concrete measures for protecting HRDs at risk, including the provision of emergency aid, and encouraged EU diplomats to take a more proactive approach towards HRDs. The European Commission managed a financial instrument in support of HRDs working in the world's most dangerous situations.

The European Parliament was a long-standing advocate of a comprehensive EU policy on HRDs and had actively contributed to its shaping. Its urgency resolutions on human rights breaches around the world, some of which had focused on individual HRDs and the particular threats they face, had drawn attention to the difficulties facing HRDs in many countries. The European Parliament had also organised hearings with HRDs, issued statements about cases of HRDs at risk, and highlighted the plight of HRDs during visits by its delegations to the countries concerned.

The Parliament's Sakharov Prize was the EU's most visible action in favour of HRDs. It had a significant impact on laureates, providing them with recognition and, in many cases, indirect protection.

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