Human rights regulate our day-to-day life. They structure how we live together within a society and aim to protect human dignity at all times.  Human rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent. Each individual is entitled to human rights. Human rights are always and everywhere applicable, including at times of conflict or crisis. All human rights are equally important to ensure human dignity, whether civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. Human rights are at the core of both EU internal and external action and policy. The Lisbon Treaty (article 2 and article 21) stipulates that the Union's action on the international scene shall be guided by the values that have inspired its own foundation.

Human rights and democracy at the core of EU external action

In a shifting geopolitical landscape, the EU has remained a strong defender of human rights. New geopolitical rivalries only serve to underline its role as a reliable and stable partner, and a champion of the rules-based international order. While there have been great leaps forward, the pushback against the universality and indivisibility of human rights and backsliding on democracy must be addressed. New challenges such as digital technologies and climate change are intertwined with human rights and therefore a renewed approach is required.

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    General HR picture

    ©EU/ECHO/Human Rights

Abolition of death penalty and fight against torture

The death penalty is cruel and inhuman, a violation of the right to life and does not act as a deterrent to crime.The prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment is absolute in international law.

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Freedom of expression

Free, independent and pluralistic media are indispensable for democratic society.

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Human rights defenders

A human rights defender (HRD) is any person who, individually or with others, acts to promote and protect human rights.

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Rights of the Child

The EU mainstreams the Rights of the Child in all its external policies, whether in the context of humanitarian or conflict situations, school, poverty, displacement or migration, because there are very few issues that do not concern the Rights of the Child.

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Economic, social and cultural rights

The EU has stepped up its efforts over the last years to reinforce economic, social and cultural rights and strengthen the link between human rights and the environment in its external action.

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Freedom of religion or belief

Everyone has the right to freedom of religion or belief. This right includes the freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

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Human rights at multilateral level

Human rights are at the heart of multilateralism and are a strong component of the United Nations system. In the context of declining support for multilateral institutions, the EU remains a staunch defender of effective multilateralism and the rules-based international order, which is critical to respond successfully to global challenges.

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International criminal justice

The EU is fully committed to help ensuring accountability for the most serious crimes of concern to the international community. The EU views the International Criminal Court (ICC) as the cornerstone in the fight against impunity and to help victims of atrocities to achieve justice.

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Business and human rights

Upholding human rights is a responsibility of all actors of society, including business enterprises. The growing complexity and globalisation of supply chains renders it increasingly important to promote the application of high human rights and sustainability standards in third countries.

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EU Election Observation Missions

The EU is a globally recognised and credible actor in international election observation. Since 2000, the EU has deployed over 160 Election Observation Missions (EOMs) in more than 60 countries.

The support to democracy worldwide is not just consistent with the European Union’s fundamental principles: it is our clear interest, and a crucial tool for our foreign policy. Only a functioning democracy can address its citizen’s needs, meet their demands and fulfil their aspirations. EU Election Observation Missions enhance our engagement with partner countries, including in support of their efforts to fulfil their international human rights obligations.

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