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Annual Report on Human Rights 2008

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This report presents European Union (EU) actions and policies to promote human rights throughout the world during the period of 1 July 2007 – 30 June 2008. It presents thematic issues and actions taken vis-à-vis third countries as well as in international fora.

ACT

EU Annual Report on Human Rights 2008 . Council of the European Union – Brussels, 27 November 2008 [Not published in the Official Journal].

SUMMARY

The European Union (EU) is committed to the promotion of human rights and continuously works to develop and strengthen action to that end. The aim of this tenth annual report on human rights is to present an overview of EU actions in this field between 1 July 2007 and 30 June 2008.

Actions in third countries

Joint actions covered by this report mainly relate to the appointment of EU special representatives (EUSRs) for the African Union and Kosovo, as well as to crisis management operations. In the context of the latter, experts on women’s rights and on children affected by armed conflict were appointed to several European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) operations/missions. The importance of mainstreaming human rights and gender issues into the ESDP was further emphasised with the June 2008 handbook on guiding principles for planners of EU operations.

New EU guidelines on the rights of the child were adopted in 2007, while the guidelines on children and armed conflict, death penalty, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment were updated in 2008. A number of declarations were made, such as on humanitarian agreements in Colombia as well as on the abolition of the death penalty and the release of human rights defenders in Uzbekistan. Dialogues and consultations on human rights were established with third countries, bringing their number up to over 30. The report provides detailed descriptions on the consultations with China, Iran, Central Asian states, the African Union, Russia, the US, Canada, Japan, New Zealand and candidate countries. A human rights clause was included in an interim agreement on trade and trade-related matters concluded with the Republic of Montenegro in October 2007.

In 2007, the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) succeeded the previous EIDHR initiative. Under the new instrument, human rights and democracy projects in over 80 countries were funded with an overall budget of EUR 108 million during 2007-08. EU Election Observation Missions (EOMs) were also funded under the EIDHR.

Thematic issues

In promoting human rights, the EU concentrates on a wide range of thematic issues. During the period under review, these included:

  • the death penalty, which was abolished in Rwanda, Uzbekistan, the Cook Islands and the state of New Jersey in the US;
  • rights of the child, on which the European Commission issued the communication “A Special Place for Children in the EU External Action” and the Council adopted conclusions with regard to EU development and humanitarian policies. In addition, the Commission funded a number of projects under the “Investing in People” programme and signed a contract with UNICEF to develop a toolkit to mainstream children’s rights across various political and programmatic actions;
  • children in armed conflicts, on which the EU updated the list of priority countries, revised the checklist to integrate the protection of children affected by armed conflict into its ESDP operations and issued a study entitled "Enhancing the EU response to children affected by armed conflict";
  • women’s rights, which were included into the EU-funded Initiative for Peacebuilding (IfP) and the regional programme “Enhancing equality between men and women in the Euromed region”. In addition, the Commission has established a three-year partnership with the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM);
  • trafficking in human beings, for which the Commission established a new group of experts, and prepared a report on the implementation of the EU action plan. The Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings entered into force. It has been ratified by ten and signed by another 15 EU Member States;
  • the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the fight against impunity. The EU carried out 18 démarches to encourage ratification of the Rome Statute, negotiated the insertion of an ICC clause in a number of agreements and, with its Member States, remained the Court’s biggest financial supporter;
  • human rights and terrorism, on which the European Parliament adopted a resolution;
  • democracy and elections, on which the Commission published two manuals: the “Handbook for EU Election Observation” and “The Compendium of International Standards for Elections”;
  • economic, social and cultural rights. The EU lobbied successfully for the adoption of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) declaration on social justice for a fair globalisation;
  • intercultural dialogue was promoted through the European agenda for culture in a globalised world as well as through actions under the 2008 European Year of Intercultural Dialogue and the “Euro-Mediterranean year of dialogue between cultures”;
  • asylum and migration. The Global Approach to Migration was extended to the eastern and south-eastern neighbours of the EU and the “Thematic cooperation programme with third countries in the development aspects of migration and asylum” (2007-13) was initiated;
  • persons with disabilities. The International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities entered into force. It was signed by the European Community and all its Member States;
  • indigenous issues. The UN adopted a declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples and the joint Commission-ILO project “Promotion of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples’ Rights through Legal Advice, Capacity Building and Dialogue” was launched.

Actions in international fora

At the 62nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in October-November 2007, 104 countries adopted a resolution initiated by the EU together with other co-authors that calls for a moratorium on the death penalty with a view to its abolition. Two other thematic resolutions of particular importance to the EU were the omnibus resolution on the rights of the child and the resolution on the elimination of all forms of intolerance and discrimination based on religion and belief. The EU also initiated the resolutions on the national human rights situations in Burma/Myanmar and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The reform of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) has now been completed. The EU supported the launch of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), the first session of which was carried out during the first half of 2008. This is a HRC mechanism for reviewing the human rights situation in all countries of the world at four-year intervals.

In May 2007, a memorandum of understanding was signed between the EU and the Council of Europe (CoE) for their cooperation. In June 2008, the Commission and the CoE signed an agreement on the latter’s cooperation with the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights.

Last updated: 25.11.2009
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