Today, the European Commission and the High Representative set out the priorities and way ahead on Human rights and Democracy, adopting a Joint Communication and the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy for 2020-2024. Further, they put forward a joint proposal to the Council to act by qualified majority voting on issues falling under the Action Plan, reflecting the strategic importance of the Action Plan. It aims at fostering faster and more efficient decision-making on human rights and democracy.
Changing geopolitics, transition to the digital age, environmental degradation and climate change pose important challenges, but they are also opportunities to foster positive transformation towards more democratic and inclusive societies. Today's proposal sets out steps for the EU and its Member States to embrace new realities and act together in line with the EU's founding values.
High Representative/Vice-President, Josep Borrell, said: “Crisis situations, as the one we are living with the Coronavirus' pandemic, pose particular challenges to the effective exercise and protection of human rights, and put the functioning of our democracies to the test. This is an opportunity for Europe to stand up for its values and interests. We need the courage and ambition to tackle challenges together. Today, we propose an ambitious plan to defend human rights and democracy all over the world by using all our resources faster and more effectively”.
Building on the achievements of the previous Action Plans, the new Action Plan identifies the priorities and key actions for the next five years and commits to ensure that the EU plays a greater role in promoting and defending human rights and democracy throughout its external action. The Action Plan has five lines of action:
These five lines of action will serve as the basis for operational measures to be implemented at country, regional and multilateral level, taking into account local circumstances and specificities. To do this, the EU will use the broad range of policies and tools at its disposal to promote and defend human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
The Communication and the new Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy are accompanied by a joint proposal to the Council reflecting the strategic importance of the Action Plan and aimed at fostering faster and more efficient decision-making. If agreed to, the European Council would – unanimously – adopt the Action Plan for Human Rights and Democracy as an EU policy of strategic interest. This would mean that, in the future, the Council could act by qualified majority on issues falling under the new Action Plan. This would be a step towards a more strategic and assertive EU.
The Joint Communication, the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy (2020-2024) and its accompanying Joint Proposal will be transmitted to the Council and the European Parliament. It will be for the Council to take the next steps in the adoption of the EU Action Plan, including proposing to the European Council that it adopts it as an EU policy of strategic interest.
While there have been great leaps forward, the pushback against the universality and indivisibility of human rights and backsliding on democracy must be addressed. In addition, new technologies are at the forefront, presenting both opportunities and threats. For instance, digital technologies can advance human rights and democratisation, but the misuse of new technologies carry a risk of increased control, monitoring and repression. Global environmental challenges also affect human rights' protection.
The EU has remained steadfast as a strong defender of human rights and democracy. In 2012, the EU adopted the Strategic Framework on Human Rights and Democracy aimed at setting out principles, objectives and priorities, all designed to improve the effectiveness and consistency of EU policy in these areas. To implement this framework, the EU adopted two Action Plans, in 2012 and in 2015.
Since the adoption of the EU strategic framework on human rights and democracy in 2012, the first two EU action plans on human rights and democracy (2012-2014 and 2015-2019), the appointment of the first EU Special Representative for Human Rights (EUSR) in 2012 and the 2019 Council conclusions on democracy, the EU has become more coordinated, active, visible and effective in its engagement in and with third countries and more prominently engaged at multilateral level.
EU Ambassador to the RoK Michael Reiterer says "The new EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy adopted on March 26 is good news for us here in Korea. We have long worked with Korean partners in promoting human rights.
The new Action Plan sets out how the EU’s political, economic and diplomatic instruments are available to facilitate effective action in promoting human rights as we face old and new challenges. Protecting and empowering the individual has always been at the heart of cooperation with Korean partners on issues including gender equality, preventing discrimination and respect for labour rights. We also encourage to change the de facto moratorium on the death penalty to abolishment in line with our shared values.
The new Action Plan sets out the means available to effectively pursue these objectives in the rapidly changing environment that we now find ourselves in. Of particular relevance to our work in Korea is the focus in the new plan on leveraging the benefits of digital technology, 4IR, while minimising the risks of misuse of online technology, improving economic and social rights and addressing the impact of climate change and environmental degradation on human rights.
Time of crisis, like the current COVID 19 pandemic inevitably pose challenges to the effective exercise and protection of human rights. They also demonstrate the imperative need for global action and solidarity.
I am confident that the new Action Plan will lead to deeper and wider cooperation with Korean partners in promoting human rights. I invite you to read further at the links below."
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