The 2019 Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World adopted in June, clearly shows the EU’s leading role in supporting freedoms, democracy, rule of law, fair economies, women’s empowerment within its borders and all around the world. But many challenges remain, and the Coronavirus pandemic risks to further deteriorate an already fragile situation.
“The pandemic and its socio-economic consequences are having a disproportionate impact on the rights of women, children and elderly persons, and on all persons in vulnerable situations, including refugees, migrants, internally displaced persons, and are deepening pre-existing inequalities”, stated the High Representative Josep Borrell, on behalf of the European Union, in a declaration on human rights in the times of Covid-19. No step backward should be allowed. On the contrary. Human rights must be at the heart also of the collective fight against the Covid-19 pandemic and the global recovery.
The report marks the final phase of implementation of the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy (2015-2019), while the new action plan for 2020-24 is about to be adopted. The report provides a first-hand insight on EU action in 2019 to address the challenges to human rights and democracy worldwide, from shrinking space for civil society, disinformation campaigns, threats and violations against human rights defenders, journalists and other media workers, and including some focused actions that benefit communities in Colombia, Syria, Myanmar or Sudan.
In 2019, the EU strengthened all its commitments, including on new strands of action. For example, 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. At a critical time, these guidelines opened new horizons in promoting the indivisibility of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.
“The EU Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy is more relevant than ever: it highlights the role of cooperation, the importance of human rights and democracy, the effectiveness of multilateralism – all the more in today’s crisis”, says the High Representative Josep Borrell in his foreword. “Global challenges require collective action and with this report we once again demonstrate that the EU is a principled and reliable partner, a pillar of multilateralism and a staunch defender of human rights.”
While the report once again highlights the difficult situation for human rights worldwide, there is much evidence that respect for human rights, promotion of good governance and inclusive and democratic societies, together with support to a vibrant civil society, are the best ways to guarantee sustainable security, stability and prosperity. There is no sustainable security without solidarity and human rights for all.
Human rights abuses such as extra-judicial killings, disappearances and unlawful detentions continue to be reported by civil society organisations, with the police singled out as a source of a number of problems. Conflicts over land rights coupled with evictions of tribal groups from ancestral lands, allegedly sometimes in the name of business interests disguised as conservancy needs, continued to occur. 2019 was also dominated by headlines about the fight against corruption, an all-pervasive problem in Kenya, in the wake of the high profile arrests of the Treasury Minister (Cabinet Secretary) Henry Rotich and Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko. These indictments have not yet led to convictions and seizures of assets.
Political discourse in Kenya in 2019 was dominated by speculation and discussion about the purpose and substance of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI). The BBI had been launched by President Kenyatta Raila Odinga, following their 9 March 2018 'Handshake', as a way of exploring an alternative, less conflictual approach to Kenyan politics that would lead to a reduction of violence during elections. The 159-page BBI report, the outcome of the reflection process, was published on 27 November 2019. It recommended a series of political reforms, including changes to the executive, some of which are likely to require constitutional changes. The effect of the publication of the BBI report has so far been two-fold: on the one hand, it has brought a number of the previously sceptical opposition party leaders somewhat closer to the Kenyatta camp. On the other hand, the political rift within the ruling Jubilee Party between the supporters of President Kenyatta and the supporters of his Deputy President William Ruto, which was triggered by the ‘handshake’, has continued.
Click on the link below for the full Kenya country report.