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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.

Today we mark World Refugee Day, in the midst of a pandemic that has had a deleterious impact on public health, as well as on the economy. Refugees, internally displaced persons, migrants and stateless persons have felt this crisis most acutely and risk being left behind. This year, as we reflect on World Refugee Day, we must also recall that to win the battle against the pandemic, safe and effective vaccines should be accessible to all across the globe.

To commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the Commission, Josep Borrell, and Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Pramila Patten, call for an end to violence in conflict zones and in the private spheres.

No country, no region in the world has been spared from the impact of COVID-19. The virus is exacerbating existing inequalities and has a disproportionate effect on refugees, internally displaced persons, vulnerable migrants and stateless persons. We must all redouble our efforts. As vaccination campaigns are underway in the EU, the EU is working to ensure universal access to COVID-19 vaccines, in particular through the COVAX Facility.

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“I used to be very afraid when going to school and struggling to concentrate on my studies” says Chinsisi, a 14-year-old brave boy with albinism defying odds to remain in school and study. Object of myths fuelled by superstition, people with albinism like Chinsisi, face multiple forms of discrimination worldwide.

“I have never gone to school because my parents do not have resources”, says Ruth, a 14-year old girl from Cameroon. "I am aware of the dangers down there in the mine, […] but I do not have another choice”. COVID-19 exacerbated the root causes driving children like Ruth into work. 2021, the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour, is the time to redouble our efforts to get back on track

World Oceans Day reminds us of the major role the oceans have in everyday life. They are the lungs of our planet and a major source of food and medicine and a critical part of the biosphere. Thousands of sea animals are killed each year as a result of marine pollution. Almost one third of reef forming corals, and more than a third of marine mammals are now threatened with extinction. The disappearance of tropical coral reefs also threatens to destroy the livelihoods of half a billion people. Together we can all try to protect our ocean.

We have been exploiting and destroying our planet’s ecosystems way too long. The world loses forest the size of a football pitch every three seconds. Pollution compromises ecosystems and triggers biodiversity loss as never before. World Environment Day comes just one day after the 2021 edition of the European Green Week, an opportunity to bring people together to find solutions and concrete actions to tackle pollution once and for all, making the ambition for a zero-pollution and toxic-free environment a reality.

The members of the EEA Council held a video conference on 28 May 2021 at the initiative of Mr Augusto Santos Silva, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Portugal.

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