The EU's relations with the United Nations

The United Nations are a key EU partner and an indispensable global forum for tackling global challenges.

Effective multilateralism

The EU is committed to effective multilateralism, with the United Nations at its core. Based on this commitment, the EU and its Member States engage constructively at the UN as an intergovernmental forum, together with partners and like-minded countries, to shape responses to issues of global concern and international law, and of importance to European citizens. Furthermore, the EU works closely with the UN Secretariat, the various UN Agencies, Funds and Programmes. The EU has hence established a broad relationship with the UN on issues ranging from development and climate change to conflict prevention, crisis management and peacebuilding, human rights, humanitarian assistance, the fight against corruption and crime, global health concerns such as AIDS/HIV or Ebola and issues of labour rights.

The EU's participation at the UN

The Lisbon Treaty gave the European Union a single legal personality. It also provided for the EU to replace and succeed the European Community, taking over all its rights and obligations, including with regard to its status within the UN. As a result, the EU can sign contracts, be part of an international convention or be an observer (most cases) or member of an international organisation – where the statutes allow this, such as the FAO in Rome.

In May 2011 the UN General Assembly granted the European Union new participating rights, allowing EU representatives to present EU agreed common positions, to make interventions, present proposals and circulate EU communications as official documents at the General Assembly.

Security Council

Two EU Member States, France and the UK, are permanent members of the Security Council. In addition, EU countries also serve as non-permanent members. They keep the EU institutions and other Member States fully informed of the work of the Council and, as appropriate, reflect EU positions. In addition, the EU has a wide range of tools available to solve crises, as well as its close work with international and regional partners. For this reason, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy provides regular updates to the Security Council and the EU is often invited to address issues of concern.

The Security Council has welcomed the extensive cooperation between the UN and the EU.

EU Action on Human Rights at the United Nations

The EU is, and will remain, a vocal advocate on human rights, and lends its full support to the multilateral UN human rights system, which plays a critical role in the promotion and protection of universal human rights norms and standards and in the monitoring of compliance. This commitment, affirmed in the EU Strategic Framework and Action Plan for Human Rights and Democracy, guides EU action in this area.

The EU translates its human rights priorities into action at the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly, at the UN Human Rights Council and in UN specialised agencies, such as the ILO. The EU also organizes and supports discussions on human rights issues at high-level meetings such as UNGA Ministerial Week, featuring the participation of the HR/VP and the EUSR for Human Rights. The EU actively engages countries from all regions on initiatives that genuinely contribute to the protection and promotion of human rights.

The EU defines its strategy at the UN by means of an annual strategic work plan and regular discussions at the Council Working Group on Human Rights (COHOM), reinforced burden-sharing arrangements and intense EU coordination in Geneva and New York as well as regular discussion in bilateral dialogues and enhanced outreach on EU priorities in order to make its participation in these fora even more effective. The yearly thematic and country priorities are defined in Council conclusions on EU Action at the UN Human Rights Fora.

UN Human Rights Council

The UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva is the UN's premier body for the consideration of human rights issues. It has 47 Members. The Council holds three sessions per year – March, June and September. The March session is four weeks long and starts with a high-level segment regularly attended by many Ministers and other political representatives.

The HRC considers country situations and thematic issues; it is a forum for ensuring human rights accountability, advancing standard setting and the conduct of debates on manifold topics including emerging issues and human rights mainstreaming in other policy areas.

The EU and the Member States are very active in this forum, similar to the intense participation in the UN General Assembly's Third Committee in October/November.

Generally the EU delivers statements under all the HRC agenda items (through the rotating Presidency as the UN General Assembly resolution on participation of the EU in the UN is not applied) and intervenes – via the EU Delegation – in virtually all inter-active debates with mandate holders as well as Panel discussions.

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