HRDs being interviewed by journalists


EU Council adopts New Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy. A forward statement by the Human Rights Democracy Network

30 July 2015

On 20th July 2015, the European Council adopted a New EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy for the period 2015-2019, reaffirming the EU‘s commitment to promoting human rights and democracy worldwide.

“The Action Plan we are launching today focuses on empowering local actors and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs). All EU members stand united in taking it forward.” said the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy at the European Commission Federica Mogherini when presenting the document.

According to the Council’s conclusions, the Action Plan aims to reinforce the mainstreaming of human rights into all the EU’s activities and policies, with a special emphasis on strengthening ownership by local institutions, mechanisms, and CSO actors. It also is intended to invigorate support for Human Rights Defenders (HRDs).

The plan outlines a collaboration project between the EU and local institutions in partner countries to deliver targeted support and capacity building on the ground.

Protection International (PI), who contributed to the development of the Action Plan by presenting a number of written proposals in collaboration with partnering CSOs, welcomes the Council’s conclusions and will continue monitoring the Action Plan’s implementation in all aspects linked to the protection of HRDs.


As part of the Human Rights Democracy Network (HRDN), Pi shares the network’s considerations towards the Action Plan – as exposed in the statement below and supports its call to the EU and its Member States to respect their commitments. PI and the HRDN stand ready to work at all levels to ensure that the EU Strategic Framework and Action Plan results in concrete, coherent, and results-oriented actions across the world.

Rights and Democracy Network (HRDN) reaction to the Council Conclusions on the Action Plan on human rights and democracy 2015 – 2019

 From words to action

Time for EU leadership to walk the talk on Human Rights and Democracy

The adoption of the recent Council Conclusions and revised Human Rights and Democracy Action Plan is a timely reaffirmation of the European Union’s (EU) commitment to pursuing a comprehensive human rights and democracy support agenda.

Human rights and democracy are under threat globally and it is time for the EU to act on its commitments to protect, promote and fulfil human rights and fundamental freedoms. We reiterate our call for the EU and its member states to be at the forefront of the international community in acting and speaking out against human rights violations whenever and wherever they occur.

HRDN welcomes the wide range of human rights issues and measures in support of democracy that the Action Plan covers but there is a need for concrete action and a clear division of roles and responsibilities so that the EU can manage to work effectively on the full scope of issues it confronts globally. Furthermore, to achieve impact, EU actions need to be backed by political will and ambition to deliver on this human rights agenda at the highest level within the EU institutions, coupled with greater buy-in from all EU member states. This Action Plan will only be a success if it is applied equally to the current crackdowns in places like Azerbaijan, Bahrain, China, Egypt, Myanmar, and Burundi and to tackle the shrinking civil society space and deepening repression in places like Ethiopia, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan.

We note that the Action Plan is a set of thematic priorities, rather than the sum total of the EU’s human rights and democracy agenda. It is one of a wider range of policies and instruments on human rights and democracy which the EU and its member states have committed to put into practice. The HRDN would like to see greater transparency and accountability in how human rights commitments are implemented by EU member states and institutions. HRDN reiterates the European Parliament’s call for a public annual Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) debate on human rights. HRDN further calls for member states to step up to lead parts of the Action Plan to ensure greater burden-sharing, ownership and coherence, including at the country level.

We recall that human rights were to be the silver thread running through EU policies and actions. Progress has been slow in achieving this goal, and human rights should therefore be integrated into geographic strategies, just as they must be fully supported in trade, migration, security, energy and other policies to achieve policy coherence. It will be critical to the success of the EU’s human rights and democracy policy for all EU institutions to ensure adequate resources, requisite expertise and clear prioritisation are accorded to support people in realising their human rights and democratic freedoms. Human rights and democracy should have a prominent role in the structure and decision-making of the European External Action Service (EEAS), in Brussels and delegations, in line with the Lisbon Treaty.

We recall that the EU commits in its Strategic Framework to throwing its “full weight behind advocates of liberty, democracy, and human rights throughout the world”, for human rights, democracy, the rule of law and international justice to be promoted “in all areas of the EU’s external actions without exception” and for the EU to “place human rights at the centre of its relations with all third countries including strategic partners”. The Strategic Framework and Action Plan should represent a transition to a more transparent and accountable EU human rights policy – including public diplomacy, so that the EU is a stronger voice for human rights and a more vocal supporter of human rights defenders. 

In recent years, this voice has been faltering. The EU has often preferred silent diplomacy and has lacked a strategic approach to addressing human rights violations. Now is the time for the EU to demonstrate that strategic political ambition by using the many tools at its disposal to bring about real change in the realisation of people’s rights and freedoms.

We call on the EU and its member states now to walk the talk in implementing their commitments. HRDN stands ready to work with the EU and its member states at all levels to ensure that the EU Strategic Framework and Action Plan results in concrete, coherent and results-oriented actions across the world.

For more information on the HRDN, please click here