The European Council has approved conclusions on the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy 2020-2024.
According to a press release, this reaffirms the EU’s strong commitment to further advancing universal values for all. It does, however, note that while there have been some improvements during the year, there has been a “pushback” against human rights due to COVID-19 and its socio-economic consequences. This, they say, has had an increasingly negative impact on human rights, democracy and rule of law, increasing pre-existing inequalities and increasing pressure on vulnerable people.
The priorities of the plan include protecting and empowering individuals, building resilient and inclusive societies, promoting a global system for human rights and democracy, dealing with new technologies, and delivering by working together.
The EC states:
“Crisis situations are a particular test for the realisation of human rights and respect of democratic values. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its socio-economic consequences have a growing negative impact on all human rights, democracy and rule of law, are deepening pre-existing inequalities and are increasing pressure on persons in vulnerable situations. Investing in human rights, democracy and the rule of law is essential to achieve fairer, greener, more resilient and inclusive societies. The Council underlines that human rights, democracy and the rule of law, as well as a gender-responsive approach, will remain at the heart of the EU’s response to and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The EU undertakes to ensure that our response upholds the dignity and human rights of all without discrimination of any kind. No one should be left behind, no human right ignored.”
The plan will address the following:
- Protecting people, eliminating inequalities, discrimination and exclusion;
- Empowering people including women, girls, disabled people, and youth;
- Promoting fundamental freedoms and strengthening civic and political space, including protecting media freedom and freedom of expression;
- Reinforcing economic, social, cultural, and labour rights;
- Supporting the rule of law and the fair administration of justice;
- Closing the accountability gap, fighting impunity, and supporting transitional justice;
- Enhancing democratic, accountable, and transparent institutions;
- Promoting responsive, inclusive, participatory, and representative decision-making;
- Supporting independent and pluralistic media, access to information and the fight against disinformation;
- Reinforcing a human rights and participative approach to conflict prevention and crisis resolution;
- Compliance with international human rights and international humanitarian law;
- Promoting human rights and democracy in the use of digital technologies, including Artificial Intelligence;
The EC also said they will publish an annual report on human rights and democracy in the world, starting from June 2021.