Human Rights Day: Declaration by the High Representative Josep Borrell on behalf of the European Union

On 10 December, every year, we mark the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.

This year’s theme “Reducing inequalities, advancing human rights” is particularly important as the pandemic and its socio-economic consequences have a growing negative impact on human rights, democracy and the rule of law, including on civic space. They further deepen pre-existing inequalities and increase pressure on persons in vulnerable situations and challenge human rights globally.

Human rights, democracy and the rule of law are at the heart of the EU’s response to and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Investing in human rights, democracy, the rule of law and enabling civic space is essential to achieving and rebuilding better societies for present and future generations. No one should be left behind, no human right ignored. The EU recalls that any restrictions to human rights in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic must be strictly necessary, proportionate, temporary in nature and non-discriminatory.

Human Rights Day reminds us that human rights are universal, indivisible, inalienable, interdependent and interrelated. It reminds us, however, that these rights cannot be taken for granted and that they must be continuously defended. The EU will continue to uphold the universality of human rights and exercise vigilance against any attempt to undermine international commitments. On Human Rights Day, we commit to re-double our efforts to stand with and speak out for the oppressed and those under threat, wherever they may live. Our solidarity and support goes out in particular to civil society actors and human rights defenders including those with whom we engaged at the EU NGO Human Rights Forum on 7-8 December.

Throughout 2021, under the Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy 2020-2024, the EU has continued to reinforce global action to defend and reinvigorate human rights around the world, making full use of our unique range of instruments. For the first time, the EU has imposed sanctions on persons and entities from China, DPRK, Libya, South Sudan, Eritrea and Russia involved in serious human rights violations and abuses, under the EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime adopted last year. Furthermore, in 2021 the EU took the lead in United Nations Human Rights fora on initiatives aimed at addressing human rights violations in Afghanistan, Belarus, Burundi, DPRK, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Myanmar.

The EU also further expanded concrete support to civil society organisations and human rights defenders to advance human rights and democracy worldwide through a specific thematic programme, amounting to over €1.5 billion for the period 2021-2027, reaffirming its role as world leader in this field.

Achieving human rights is not only an imperative of human dignity; it is a cornerstone of democracy, peace and security, and sustainable development.