1. Overview of the human rights and democracy situation: Mauritius has a generally good track record of protection and respect for human rights. It remains the top ranking country in overall governance in Africa according to Mo Ibrahim Index of African Governance 2020. The general elections of 2019 were considered as overall credible, transparent and inclusive by international observers, even if some complaints were filed at national level. Rural elections also went smoothly at the end of 2020. The year was however marked by major corruption scandals, which saw the dismissal of the Deputy Prime Minister in June 2020. Irregularities in emergency procurement during the confinement period also led to two arrests.
2. EU action - key focus areas: The EU continued to establish itself as a major player in the protection of human rights in Mauritius and was active throughout the year, particularly during the three-month lockdown period. The EU continued to support human rights and democracy in Mauritius in partnership with the government, intermediary human rights institutions and the civil society. In 2020, the priority areas of cooperation were: women’s rights, the rights of the child and the elimination of violence against children, the rights of LGBTI persons, and strengthening the rule of law and human rights institutions. These priorities became even more important in the light of COVID-19 pandemic. The EU maintained its engagement on women’s rights and preventing violence against women. During the lockdown period, the EU held digital campaigns to promote respect for women and children, and prevent violence against them. The gender policy dialogue with the Minister of Gender made good use of the recommendations made by the Vice-President of the CEDAW Committee who visited Mauritius at the beginning of 2020 in the framework of an EU project. The EU made a joint statement with the Ombudsperson for Children against violence on children in a confinement context. The EU-funded project with the Ombudsperson organised various talks and sensitisation events on issues of violence against children and other issues like sexual education in schools.
3. EU bilateral political engagement: The EU-Mauritius Article 8 Political Dialogue could not be held in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The next session is foreseen for the first semester of 2021.
The high-level policy dialogue on gender, co-chaired by the Minister of Gender Equality and the Head of EU Delegation, was held in July 2020 after the lockdown. It saw the adoption of a Joint Monitoring Framework to track progress on the implementation of the EU-Mauritius Gender Action Plan, and reviewed progress in the key performance indicators related to the promotion of gender equality, addressing gender-based violence, as well as the economic empowerment of women and girls.
4. EU financial engagement: Besides advocacy, the EU also supported direct actions with civil society. Funding was granted to NGOs for actions in the field of gender equality, protection of women’s rights, support to women and children in vulnerable situations, as well as advocacy for the rights of LGBTI persons. The grant contracts were signed during the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence from 25November to 10December 2020.A major development in 2020 was the adoption of the Children’s Bill, a comprehensive legislation that encompasses all aspects of protection of the rights of the child. The EU had provided technical assistance for the drafting of this legislation and lobbied intensively for its adoption. In December 2020, the EU stepped up its actions for the protection of the rights of LGBTI persons through the signature of an advocacy project, focusing on the capacity building of two NGOs. Capacity building of the National Human Rights Commission and the Ombudsperson for Children was also part of the EU-funded projects.
5. Multilateral context: Mauritius is signatory to most of the UN treaties and conventions on human rights. The country has the required national and international legislative framework for the protection of human rights. Commitment towards more EU international initiatives in the area of human rights could be sought. Support of Mauritius for initiatives on ending trade in goods linked to torture and death penalty, on UNGA resolutions on the moratorium on the death penalty and on country-specific human rights resolutions will be pursued.