Human rights

The EU promotes human rights worldwide

Human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights are the values on which the European Union is founded. Embedded in the Treaty on the European Union, such values have been reinforced by the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights . The Union’s human rights policy encompasses civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. It also seeks to promote the rights of women, of children, of those persons belonging to minorities, and of displaced persons.

The Union has made human rights and democracy support a central aspect of its external relations policy. A wide range of programmes and activities exist.

All agreements on trade or cooperation with non-EU countries contain a clause stipulating that human rights are an essential element in relations. There are now more than 120 such agreements, the most comprehensive being the Cotonou Agreement – the trade and aid pact which links the EU with 79 countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (the ACP group).

With a €1.1 billion budget for 2007-13, the EU also funds projects and programmes under the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights.

In July 2012, Mr. Stavros Lambrinidis was appointed as first EU Special Representative (EUSR) for Human Rights. His role is to enhance the effectiveness and visibility of EU human rights policy. In 2012 the EU also adopted the Strategic Framework on Human Rights and Democracy , a unified Strategic Framework with a wide-ranging plan of action for its implementation.

In June 2013, the EU published its Guidelines to Promote and Protect the Enjoyment of All Human Rights by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) Persons , as well as its Guidelines on the Promotion and Protection of Freedom of Religion or Belief . In May 2014, the EU adopted an additional set of EU Guidelines to address unjustified restrictions on freedom of expression online and offline .

The EU and the UN Human Rights Council

The EU is very active within the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council, the inter-governmental body, created by the UN General Assembly on 15 March 2006, as the successor of the Commission for Human Rights, in order to address situations of human rights violations. Its 47 members are responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe. 

The Human Rights Council holds three regular sessions every year, in March, June and September, as well as special sessions when required by the deterioration of the human rights situation. The EU, through the EU Member States elected in the Council and the EU Delegation, is actively involved in all the sessions, delivering statements and negotiating resolutions. The EU Delegation also coordinates the EU common positions.

Over the years, the EU has promoted initiatives on the rights of the child and freedom of religion or belief and addressed various country situations, building on cross regional coalitions of countries.

The EU also took the lead to call for special sessions on Libya and Syria in 2011.

The EU uses the recommendations issued during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in its Political Dialogues with third countries. The UPR mechanism assesses the human rights situations in all 192 UN Member States.

Finally, the EU is actively involved in several inter-governmental working groups dealing with specific issues such as the effective implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action , a possible international regulatory framework for Private Military and Security Companies or the Right to Development.

EU statements on human rights

You can find all EU statements delivered in Geneva on human rights here

Latest news on human rights

26/06/15 - Statement by the High Representative/Vice-President Frederica Mogherini on the occasion of the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture

23/06/15 - EU Delegation co-hosts photo exhibition on violence against women

22/06/15 - EU Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World in 2014

15/06/15 - A look ahead: The 29th session of the Human Rights Council

 More news

Fact Sheets on Human Rights

Children and Armed Conflict pdf - 2 MB [2 MB]
Death Penalty pdf - 2 MB [2 MB]
EU Special Representative (EUSR) on Human Rights pdf - 2 MB [2 MB]
Human Rights and Dialogue pdf - 2 MB [2 MB]
Human Rights Defenders pdf - 2 MB [2 MB]
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) pdf - 2 MB [2 MB]
Rights of the Child pdf - 2 MB [2 MB]
Role of the EU in election observation pdf - 2 MB [2 MB]