Delegation of the European Union to the United Arab Emirates

Human Rights Day 2019: time for the youth to change the world

10/12/2019 - 09:50
News stories

71 years later, the full implementation of the Declaration is still far from becoming a reality. Now, it is time for the youngest generations to pick up the baton.

Last year the European Union and the whole world celebrated the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Its core message is simple yet powerful: "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”. 

71 years later, the full implementation of the Declaration is still far from becoming a reality. Now, it is time for the youth to pick up the baton. 

This year, the EU has joined the UN on the call to the youngest generations to raise their voices and change the world. “In particular, children and youth continue to be the main victims of human rights violations. They are forced to seek refuge, recruited as soldiers, forced into child labour or torn apart from their families against their will”, said the High Representative Josep Borrell in a Declaration on behalf of the EU.

As stated further, "the European Union remains the strongest supporter of the multilateral system. It is the pillar of the promotion and protection of human rights. The European Union will reinforce its long-standing commitment, with a focus on new issues such as artificial intelligence or climate change". 

If Greta Thunberg can, why couldn’t you? 

 “Human rights defenders are taking to the streets to demand respect for their rights: civil, political, economic, social and cultural. Young people in particular have been more and more active in standing up for their rights and their future”, Borrell acknowledged.

You are never too young to change the world. The most famous is Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old who is leading the largest climate protest in history. But there are hundreds of other less-known young activists standing up against other issues such as poor education, bullying, LGBTI-phobia, racism or gender inequality.

Precisely, this year’s UN campaign calls for the mobilization of the youngest under the motto ‘Youth Standing Up for Human Rights’. The future belongs to the youngest generations, and their participation is essential to achieve a sustainable future where human rights are fully respected. However, only 2% of the estimated 45,000 Members of Parliaments worldwide are under 30 year old.

A young girl in a march against racism in London, March 2017.

From women to environmental rights: protecting human rights in a broader scope

 The EU’s battle to promote and defend human rights has many fronts: children, women, LGBTI and people with disabilities’ rights, death penalty, indigenous peoples, fight against impunity, protection of human rights defenders…

There are also other issues, such as the fight against climate change, whose links to human rights had been disregarded until now: “Normally when we talk about human rights we think about a dictator who puts people in jail but now we have to deal with human rights in a broader scope. And the consequences of climate change are also a threat to human rights all over the world, because human rights and environmental challenges are closely interlinked and affect people and their fundamental rights all over the world”, said Borrell at the EU-NGO Human Rights Forum last week.

In that sense, the European Green Deal, one of the mayor commitments of the new Commission, will consolidate the EU as a global leader for a just and sustainable ecological transition.

EU action for human rights in the world

 The European Union is founded on a strong engagement to promote and protect human rights, democracy and rule of law worldwide. Outside EU borders, the Lisbon Treaty (Art 21) stipulates that the Union's action on the international scene shall be guided by the principles that inspired its own creation, and that spirit is enshrined in the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy adopted by the Foreign affairs Council in 2015. 

With a financial support of €1.3 billion between 2014 and 2020, the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) supports non-governmental organizations promoting human rights, democracy and the rule of law; abolishing the death penalty; combating torture; and fighting racism and other forms of discrimination; as well as observing elections around the world. Besides, the EU Special Representative for Human Rights helps make EU policy on human rights in non-EU countries more effective, coherent and visible.

These are some of the latest EU flagship global initiatives on human rights:


In 2018, the EU in collaboration with the OHCHR launched a year long campaign to mark the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The core of the campaign were Human Rights Defenders video stories called "Meet our Human Rights Defenders". It is the first time ever that the EU has given such a big visibility to the testimonies of the Human Rights Defenders. You can see the stories here!

Good Human Rights Stories

In 2018 the EU launched the global initiative Good Human Rights Stories, aiming to promote a fresh positive narrative on human rights based on cross-regional experiences and best practices. Discover some of the stories here!


Created in collaboration with UNICEF to mark the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention on Rights of the Child (UNCRC), #TheRealChallenge global social media campaign empowered millions of children to spoke up for their rights in a creative way. Since its launch on 25 October, the four video challenges linked to violations of children’s rights have received over 230 million views across 41 countries and generated 51 million replicas, meaning spontaneous user-generated content replicating the original challenges. You want to know more?

 Spotlight initiative

In 2017, the EU and UN launched this global, multi-year initiative to tackle violence against women and girls. The scheme counted with an unprecedented initial investment of €500 million allocated to protect and give voice to those victims silenced by their societies by supporting programmes covering a wide range of areas, from health services to economic empowerment activities. Find out more here.

 Human Rights Defenders Protection Mechanism is the European Union Human Rights Defenders mechanism, established to protect defenders at high risk and facing the most difficult situations worldwide. It delivers a 24/7 fast and specific response to civil society activists, journalists, bloggers, or anyone who works to promote human rights in a non-violent way.

Editorial Sections: