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Brussels, 7 December 2012
Promoting the universality of Human Rights: 14th EU-NGO Human Rights Forum
The 14th EU-NGO Human Rights Forum took place in Brussels on 6 and 7 December. It brought together over 200 civil society participants from all parts of the world, representatives from international and regional human rights mechanisms and from EU institutions and Member States.
The Forum was opened by the EU Special Representative for Human Rights, Mr Stavros Lambrinidis, and received contributions from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Navi Pillay, the Human Rights Commissioner of the Council of Europe, Mr. Niels Muiznieks, the Chairperson of the African Commission of Human and People's Rights, Ms Dupe Atoki, the Chair of the European Parliament's Human Rights sub-committee, Ms Barbara Lochbihler, the Vice President of the FIDH, Mr Arnold Tsunga, as well as from many representatives of civil society and regional mechanisms, such as the OAS, the OSCE, ASEAN, the League of Arab States and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
The Forum is jointly organised by civil society - the Human Rights and Democracy NGO Network and the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation - the European External Action Service and the European Commission, on the theme: "Promoting universality: the role of Regional Human Rights Mechanisms and their cooperation with civil society".
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted 64 years ago "as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations”. Its universal character has grown with the membership of the United Nations and has been supplemented by a series of conventions that have enshrined further universal human rights in international law. International organisations and mechanisms for the protection and promotion of human rights have emerged on nearly all continents, and greater awareness and empowerment of people has been achieved largely through the work of civil society. Yet, the arguments of history, culture and religion have increasingly been used in recent years to question the fundamental principles of universality, equality before the law, and non-discrimination.
The EU-NGO Forum reviewed both progress and challenges to the Universality of Human Rights, through the lens of sensitive human rights issues: the right to freedom of religion or belief, gender equality and the fight against racism and xenophobia. It stressed the role played by independent regional mechanisms in ensuring effective protection of human rights, and by vibrant civil society to empower people to understand and claim their rights.
The proceedings of the Forum will be published on line and will inspire the EU's action worldwide in support of regional human rights mechanisms and civil society.