What started as a symbolic gesture in a few countries, with a few volunteers, has now become a global movement, involving hundreds of people and collecting tons of waste on beaches, rivers and lakes across the world, reaching more than 80 countries in the 2019 edition. On the 18th of August, we officially launch the 2021 edition of the #EUBeachCleanup, together with the UN and with the support of the bluest of friends, the Smurfs. This year’s campaign focuses on the protection of marine life, with physical and digital actions for everyone to join. The campaign will reach its climax around the World Coastal Clean-up Day on 18th September.
World Youth Skills Day 2021 will again take place in a challenging context due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. UNESCO estimates that schools were either fully or partially closed for more than 30 weeks between March 2020 and May 2021 in half the countries of the world. In late June, 19 countries still had full school closures, affecting nearly 157 million learners. And 768 million more learners were affected by partial school closures.
The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified human rights and democracy challenges in many parts of the world. That is why the EU has placed human rights front and centre of its foreign policy. This is one of the main features of the freshly adopted 2020 European Union Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World. While the world is confronted with unique challenges, the EU maintains its leading role in supporting human rights, democracy and rule of law, within its borders and across the globe.