Delegation of the European Union to Nigeria and ECOWAS


16/05/2019 - 18:54
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The situation in Nigeria remains highly complex with significant differences across the country and diverging trends on the different human rights issues. As in previous years, the human rights situation was shaped by a number of violent and escalating conflicts, particularly in the North East and the Middle Belt.

1. Overview of the human rights and democracy situation: The situation in Nigeria remains highly complex with significant differences across the country and diverging trends on the different human rights issues. As in previous years, the human rights situation was shaped by a number of violent and escalating conflicts, particularly in the North East and the Middle Belt. Weak implementation capacity and corruption in key institutions and law enforcement agencies mandated to uphold and protect the rights of the citizens remain a key challenge. The security situation in the North East deteriorated markedly in 2018. The situation remains one of the worst humanitarian and protection crises in the world. By the end of 2018, 7.1 million people were estimated to be in need of humanitarian assistance, and more than 850,000 people in Borno are estimated to be in areas that are inaccessible to humanitarian organisations. There are reports of widespread human rights violations committed by armed non-state actors and Security Forces, including killing of civilians, kidnappings, use of women/children as suicide bombers, extra-judicial killings, arbitrary detention and sexual violence. There has been little progress in terms of investigating and prosecuting perpetrators of violence.

The conflicts between farmer communities and herdsmen escalated markedly in 2018, becoming the deadliest crisis in Nigeria with thousands of casualties and hundreds of thousands internally displaced. While the root causes are fundamentally economic and lack of governance, the violence increasingly takes on a worrying ethno-religious dimension.

Federal and State governments are being criticised for the failure to ensure security, rule of law and for not addressing the widespread impunity.
Other areas of concern include the rights for religious minorities, particularly the case of the prolonged detention of the leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) and clashes with Security Forces; deteriorating economic and social rights with extreme poverty rates on the rise; and the issue of women's rights, where Nigeria features poorly on almost all global indicators.

2. EU Action – key focus areas: The five strategic priorities in the EU HRDCS for Nigeria are:
• Human Rights and conflict/post-conflict situations;
• Strengthen Rule of Law in compliance with international Human Rights Instruments;
• Elections;
• Human Rights of Women;
• Rights of minorities and vulnerable groups, including Persons with Disabilities, children, LGBTI persons and ethno-religious minorities.

3. EU bilateral political engagement: The EU in close partnership with Member States has sought to promote and improve the respect for human rights in Nigeria through an integrated approach, combining political/diplomatic, development cooperation and public diplomacy tools to maximise impact and create synergy between the different tools and instruments.
In terms of political/diplomatic engagement, the EU has intensified the human rights dialogue with Nigeria. Several Member States have had high level visits, where key human rights issues have been discussed. In April 2018, the visit of the European Parliament Subcommittee for Human Rights (DROI) provided an opportunity to raise human rights issues of concern at the highest level. Another priority has been strengthening the discussions of human rights issues in the context of the Human Rights Council (HRC).
The EU Delegation and Member States have scaled up advocacy and public diplomacy efforts in 2018 to amplify the reach of key human rights messages. A new and highly successful modality has been a partnership with Nigerian influencers engaged in human rights and democracy. This has enabled EU campaigns to reach millions on people on social media, particularly youth.

4. EU financial engagement: In terms of development cooperation, EU and Member States' support in 2018 focused at both strengthening institutions, supporting capacity building of civil society organisations (CSOs) as well as targeted interventions on human rights. Key examples include projects aimed at improving civilian-military relations and security forces' compliance with human rights, human rights training for security forces (Military and Police), reforming the civil society regulatory framework, support to the fight against corruption and the reform of the judiciary, assisting Nigeria to strengthen rule of law-based criminal justice response to terrorism, and the abolition of infanticide. The EU and Member States also have a robust programmatic response to deepening democracy through election and support programmes. On women's rights, efforts to design and operationalise the joint UN-EU Spotlight Initiative were initiated. Nigeria has been selected as a beneficiary country with a EUR 25 million contribution.

On the humanitarian side, EU through DG ECHO has provided assistance of EUR 59.3 million in 2018 – around 90% allocated for the North East response. Member States have also contributed substantial amounts to the humanitarian response. In 2018, DG ECHO has championed the "call for action" on preventing GBV in emergency situations with a particular focus on improving the situation in IDP sites in the North East.

5. Multilateral context: The EU and Member States engaged actively during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) examination of Nigeria in November 2018. During the review, 22 EU Member States made recommendations in areas of concern including death penalty; improved accountability including for violations by government forces; trafficking and forced labour; sexual orientation and gender identity; children and youth; women's rights and gender equality; application and implementation of existing legislation or ratification of international instruments; electoral processes; and torture, detention and due process.

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