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What does the EU do to protect human rights defenders?

26.06.2017 - Article

EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders

The EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders, most recently updated in 2008, recognise the indispensable role played by human rights defenders in promoting human rights and democracy and define the EU’s principles, objectives and possible measures in multilateral forums and vis-à-vis non-EU states.

The main points of the Guidelines, which Germany strongly endorses, are

  • development and fostering of systematic contacts with human rights defenders by EU member states’ missions abroad;
  • regular reports by the missions on the situation of human rights defenders in their host countries and development of local strategies for their protection;
  • ensuring that the situation of human rights defenders feeds into all aspects of EU foreign policy (“mainstreaming”).

EU financial support for human rights defenders

The EU offers financial assistance for human rights defenders as well as political support. It can grant them funding via the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) to support their work, enhance their capacities and, if necessary, ensure their temporary protection.

In the autumn of 2015, an additional mechanism, also financed by the EIDHR – ProtectDefenders.eu – was set up to help human rights defenders at particular risk, and their families. Under this programme, the EU provides rapid assistance and support for human rights defenders working in remote areas and in countries where it is particularly dangerous to work in human rights defence.

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