Comoros and the EU

EU steps up fight against discrimination through its External Action

21/03/2019 - 16:46

21 March 1960… in Sharpeville, South Africa police opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration against the apartheid 'pass laws.' This day was recognized to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.


This year we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the entry into force of the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination. Many countries have enacted national laws and policies for the prevention and eradication of racial discrimination. This is also the case for the European Union, and Member States have robust legislation and policies in place.

Yet, despite progress, too many people are victims of racial harassment and hate speech, because of the colour of their skin, their ethnic origins or religion. This is still true in many places around the world, including in our European Union.

This very week of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, EU Foreign Ministers have agreed to boost actions to fight discrimination in the EU's foreign and security policy. On Monday 18 March, EU countries agreed on the new EU Human Rights Guidelines on Non-discrimination in External Action which will help them promote human rights and non-discrimination of people due to disability, skin colour or descent, for instance.

Despite the prohibition of discrimination in international human rights law, millions of people continue to face discrimination preventing them from enjoying their human rights in full and from reaching their full potential as equal and active members of society. Discrimination can lead to social unrest, violence, conflict and forced displacement.

The costs of discrimination

Apart from the dramatic human costs, discrimination has enormous economic costs in the form of poverty and the loss of opportunities, not only for the individuals and their families, but for entire societies. The prohibition of discrimination is a core principle on which the European Union is built; therefore the EU is deeply committed to fighting all forms of discrimination within its own borders as well as in the world at large.

What is discrimination?

Discrimination is defined as any differential treatment of a person or group of persons based on a prohibited ground, which has no objective and reasonable justification, such as someone's colour, descent, disability, sexual orientation, religion or beliefs.

What can the EU do about it?

The EU has tools, instruments and actions to fight discrimination in its foreign and security policy.

Within the context of the Common Foreign and Security Policy and as part of its human rights policies the EU will make use of all its tools, including by strengthening the synergies between the implementation of all its EU Guidelines on Human Rights, to ensure and promote respect for the prohibition of discrimination.

While all EU Human Rights Guidelines offer guiding instructions that are applicable to fighting discrimination, the guidelines on women and girls, children, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons (LGBTI) and religion and belief are particularly relevant.

The Good Human Rights Stories initiative

Highlighting and commending progress in individual countries in regard to the fight against discrimination can be highly effective. At the 73rd UN General Assembly in 2018, the EU together with Ministers and representatives from thirteen countries launched a global initiative to promote 'Good Human Rights Stories'. And for this purpose the Good Human Rights Stories initiative offers an important vehicle for showcasing and exchanging good stories related to Non-discrimination.

Individual cases

The EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders guide in the attention and support provided by EU delegations and Member State Embassies to individuals or groups who are threatened either as victims of discrimination or as human rights defenders working to combat discrimination.

Political Dialogues

Combating all forms of discrimination is one of the priority issues that the EU includes in the agenda for every human rights dialogue. This applies not only to Human Rights dialogues as such but also to other types of dialogues that the EU has with third countries and regional organisations. Issues that EU raises during the dialogues include: –Individual cases of human rights violations and breaches of non-discrimination law and principles.

Leave no one behind

The new Guidelines on Non-discrimination also recognize that the 2030 Agenda offers a powerful platform for addressing discrimination and inequalities in any country. The 2030 Agenda with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs), their 169 targets and its guiding principle “Leave no one behind” marks a paradigm shift towards a more balanced model for economically, socially and environmentally sustainable development. The EU is deeply committed to this global agenda aiming to secure “freedom from fear and freedom from want for all” without discrimination.

The EU will keep working until discrimination, hatred and violence will have no more place anywhere.