The 2019 EU annual report on human rights and democracy in the world marks the final phase of implementation of the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy (2015-2019) 1 . It presents the progress achieved to date, by means of a comprehensive set of actions taken by the European External Action Service (EEAS), the European Commission and EU delegations and offices around the world. In 2019, the EU demonstrated once again that it is a reliable, cooperative and principled global player, working for a better world where all human rights are fully protected and respected.
However, in many parts of the world, challenges remain. Human rights defenders (HRDs), journalists and media workers are under threat and attack because of their daily work, civic and democratic space continues to be restricted, women’s and girls’ human rights are being violated, and vulnerable groups are often left behind and exposed to further discrimination and inequality.
Against this background, the international community celebrated in 2019 the 10th anniversary of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the 70th anniversary of the Council of Europe and the 100th anniversary of the International Labour Organisation. These anniversaries gave great impetus to the EU’s continuous efforts to translate its legal and policy frameworks on human rights into reality. The EU worked with all partners to turn challenges into opportunities for all human beings, at any time, in any place.
The 21st EU-NGO Forum on Human Rights, held in Brussels on 3-4 December, put the human rights and environment nexus in the spotlight as an emerging challenge and gained unprecedented traction. On 9 December 2019, the Foreign Affairs Council agreed on the political appropriateness of establishing an EU global human rights sanctions regime to tackle serious human rights violations worldwide committed by state and non-state actors.
In 2019, the first ever EU guidelines focusing on economic, social and cultural rights were adopted: the EU Human Rights Guidelines on safe drinking water and sanitation. These guidelines opened new horizons in promoting the indivisibility of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. The Council also adopted Guidelines on non-discrimination in external action and revised Guidelines on EU policy towards third countries on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Moreover, the Council conclusions on Democracy adopted in October provided a comprehensive framework to advance democratic governance.
This report focuses on thematic issues, using a number of country-specific examples, and aims to be a practical tool for all stakeholders. Reporting on human rights and democracy at country level can be found on the EEAS2 and EU delegations’ webpages.