The Human Rights and Democracy Network (HRDN) is launching 12 November 2015, a year-long campaign: Stand 4 Human Rights Defenders. HRDN is an informal group of 48 NGOs operating at the EU level in the areas of human rights, democracy and peace building.
The EU has adopted a range of tools that guide its work on HRDs. In July EU Foreign Ministers approved a revised Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy that included specific action points on EU support to HRDs.
The EU and its 28 Member States now have to apply these pledges and commitments to real situations and take explicit measures to reinforce and step up their action in support of human rights defenders and civil society worldwide. It is also imperative that the European Parliament and EU national parliaments hold the EU institutions even more closely to account for their action on HRDs.
The Stand 4 Human Rights Defenders Campaign will promote constructive dialogue between civil society organisations and EU actors so as to jointly identify practical actions that could be implemented by the EU in order to improve the effectiveness of its work on HRDs. Moreover, the campaign will press for several key outcomes to give true impetus to EU commitments to HRDs, including:
- An annual Foreign Affairs Council meeting dedicated to discussing EU efforts to achieve the release of jailed HRDs worldwide, issuing conclusions on present and planned engagement on HRDs as well as issuing conclusions highlighting emblematic cases faced throughout the year, as also requested by the European Parliament;
- The European Parliament should likewise organise an annual event on HRDs with the participation of EU national parliamentarians and human rights defenders, which would become a yearly unique opportunity for European Parliamentarians to support HRDs worldwide and advance the rights of HRDs to speak up and pursue their rights in their own countries;
- Increased centralised monitoring of individual cases at the EEAS in association with EU Member States and civil society;
- Increased capacity of the EU to react strategically to cases of HRDs at risk and/or facing arbitrary detention and harassment including through improvements in public diplomacy and through new tools such as a checklist to recognise and respond on behalf of HRDs at risk;
- A comprehensive strategy for EU and Member States’ response to the closing space for civil society worldwide;
- Concrete actions on cases of individual human rights defenders shared by HRDN members;