"Keeping human rights at the heart of the EU agenda" - EU adopts new EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy

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"Crises, poverty and many attempts worldwide to shrink the space of civil society require all our attention and efforts on human rights. We face everyday the dramatic situation of people oppressed and forced to flee from conflicts, of women struggling to defend their dignity and their rights, of children reduced to slavery, of citizens who's basic rights are systematically ignored. The Action Plan we are launching today reinforces the EU's commitment to human rights, and focuses on empowering local actors and civil society organisations. All EU Member States stand united in taking it forward", said Federica Mogherini, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice President of the European Commission, on adoption of the Action Plan.

The new Action Plan aims to reinforce the implementation of the EU's human rights policy with a special emphasis on strengthening ownership by local institutions, mechanisms and civil society actors, and on invigorating support to Human Rights Defenders. The Action Plan outlines plans for collaboration between the EU and local institutions in partner countries, and for targeted support and capacity building on the ground. It reinforces the commitment to the mainstreaming of human rights into all the EU's activities and policies (including in development co-operation, migration/asylum, counterterrorism and trade/ investment) and to ensuring internal and external coherence and efficiency, as well as to promoting gender equality and women's empowerment. Specific actions are outlined under 5 subject areas: boosting ownership of local actors; addressing human rights challenges; ensuring a comprehensive human rights approach to conflicts and crises; fostering better coherence and consistency; and ensuring a more effective human rights and democracy support policy.

Since the first Action Plan was launched  in 2012, the EU has adopted  several new EU Guidelines on Human Rights, and a Toolbox on a Rights-Based Approach to Development.The EU also continues to enhance the effectiveness of bilateral human rights and democracy work, promote action at the multilateral level, and improve the mainstreaming of human rights across the EU's external action. The EU Special Representative for Human Rights Stavros Lambrinidis contributes to the effectiveness and coherence of EU human rights policy.

With the many crises and widespread violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms, the new Action Plan for 2015-2019 is being put forward to enable the EU to continue to tackle these challenges through focused actions, systematic use of the instruments at its disposal, and enhanced impact of its policies and tools on the frontline.

The new Action Plan has been prepared by the European External Action Service, involving the European Commission and EU member states, all of which are responsible for implementation. It builds on the 2012-2014 Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy, and reaffirms the EU's commitment to the Strategic Framework on Human Rights and Democracy, which will continue to guide the EU's actions in the field.

The Action Plan will be implemented with the close involvement of the European Parliament and regular consultation with relevant stakeholders, in particular civil society organisations. A mid-term review will be undertaken in 2017. The Action Plan and covers the period until 31 December 2019.

SOURCE: EU External Action, 20/07/2015, http://www.eeas.europa.eu/top_stories/2015/200715_human_rights_action_pl...