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EUROPEAN UNION GUIDELINES ON HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS
Support to human rights defenders (HRDs) is one of the major priorities of the EU's external human rights policy. The EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders (2008) have confirmed that HRDs are our natural and indispensable “allies" in the promotion of human rights and democratisation in their respective countries. Assistance to human rights activists is probably the most visible of the EU's human rights activities, having a direct impact on individuals. Since the adoption of the Guidelines, a growing number of common initiatives within the EU to protect and support HRDs is being reported and HRDs and civil society organisations are increasingly being recognised as key interlocutors of EU missions.
In parallel, the European Parliament (EP) has also positioned itself as an important actor as regards support to HRDs. The EP’s Subcommittee on Human Rights regularly organises hearings and discussions with HRDs in view of the adoption of reports and resolutions. In 2010, the Report on EU policies in favour of human rights defenders (“Hautala Report”) took stock of the hitherto implementation of the Guidelines and tabled several proposals for a more effective policy towards HRDs. Since 1988, the EP’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought has been awarded to individuals or organizations that have made an important contribution to the fight for human rights or democracy. In 2005 the prize was awarded to Hauwa Ibrahim, a Nigerian campaigner for girls' education.
Political support granted by the EU to HRDs goes hand in hand with dedicated financial assistance granted via the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) , which allows the EU to provide HRDs with tangible means to work, to reinforce their capacities and to grant them protection when needed.
Information on the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights is available here