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Women in politics: A global perspective

28-02-2019

Fair representation of women in political life has a positive impact on gender mainstreaming in various policies. The United Nations has set a dedicated target within the sustainable development goals dealing specifically with women's access to leadership. The available data on the presence of women in parliaments and in governments show a positive trend, but much still remains to be done to ensure an equal presence of both genders in decision-making. The European Union supports gender equality in ...

Fair representation of women in political life has a positive impact on gender mainstreaming in various policies. The United Nations has set a dedicated target within the sustainable development goals dealing specifically with women's access to leadership. The available data on the presence of women in parliaments and in governments show a positive trend, but much still remains to be done to ensure an equal presence of both genders in decision-making. The European Union supports gender equality in politics, and the European Parliament has reaffirmed the importance of such a policy on various occasions.

The death penalty and the EU's fight against it

12-02-2019

The European Union is strongly opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances, and fighting it is a foremost priority of its external human rights policy. While most countries in the world have abolished capital punishment, death sentences continue to be handed down and carried out in a number of countries. The Union uses its diplomatic and political weight to encourage these countries to join the abolitionist ranks, or at the very least to respect international minimum standards. It funds campaigns ...

The European Union is strongly opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances, and fighting it is a foremost priority of its external human rights policy. While most countries in the world have abolished capital punishment, death sentences continue to be handed down and carried out in a number of countries. The Union uses its diplomatic and political weight to encourage these countries to join the abolitionist ranks, or at the very least to respect international minimum standards. It funds campaigns to increase awareness of the need to end capital punishment, and restricts trade in substances that could be used for executions.

Gender equality and trade

31-01-2019

Trade liberalisation has a gender-differentiated impact inside and outside Europe. The EU, which is committed to promoting gender equality in all policies, has established specific mechanisms in its trade policy to enforce women's labour and human rights, and monitor the gender impact of its trade preferences. The European Parliament supports this policy and asked for it to be reinforced. This is an update of an ‘at a glance’ note from March 2018.

Trade liberalisation has a gender-differentiated impact inside and outside Europe. The EU, which is committed to promoting gender equality in all policies, has established specific mechanisms in its trade policy to enforce women's labour and human rights, and monitor the gender impact of its trade preferences. The European Parliament supports this policy and asked for it to be reinforced. This is an update of an ‘at a glance’ note from March 2018.

Child labour: A priority for EU human rights action

15-01-2019

Despite a comprehensive normative international framework that prohibits child labour, it persists in many areas of the world, particularly in developing countries. In sub-Saharan-Africa, it has even increased in recent years. More efforts are therefore needed to combat child labour. However, not all work performed by children is harmful to their health and development. The first task is therefore to distinguish child labour – which entails harmful forms of work – from other forms of children's involvement ...

Despite a comprehensive normative international framework that prohibits child labour, it persists in many areas of the world, particularly in developing countries. In sub-Saharan-Africa, it has even increased in recent years. More efforts are therefore needed to combat child labour. However, not all work performed by children is harmful to their health and development. The first task is therefore to distinguish child labour – which entails harmful forms of work – from other forms of children's involvement with work that are acceptable and have an educational component. While international conventions provide a broad definition of child labour, they leave the task of defining more precise criteria, such as the acceptable number of working hours per week or what constitutes hazardous work, to national legislation. Child labour is a complex phenomenon that has a multiplicity of causes, among which poverty usually features first. It requires a comprehensive approach to fight it, including awareness-raising among families and local communities, due diligence by companies involved in global supply chains, and action by governments, international organisations and civil society. The European Union protects children's rights through both its internal and external policies. It has deployed measures to fight child labour through cooperation with international organisations and has funded development projects whose aim is to counter it. The human rights conditionality enshrined in the EU's trade arrangements provides another path for tackling child labour. Nevertheless, there are numerous calls from civil society and the European Parliament to impose binding legal obligations on EU-based companies, to make sure their imports of goods from developing countries are free of child labour.

The global compact on refugees: Strengthening international cooperation to ease the plight of refugees in the world

11-01-2019

Recent large-scale flows of refugees and migrants have brought to the world's attention more forcefully than ever the plight of persons who are forced to flee their homes because of war, insecurity or persecution. They have also exposed how ill-prepared the international community has been to deal with this challenge and how uneven the distribution of the burden of caring for such people has been among countries. In 2016, to enhance preparedness for refugee crises, improve the situation of refugees ...

Recent large-scale flows of refugees and migrants have brought to the world's attention more forcefully than ever the plight of persons who are forced to flee their homes because of war, insecurity or persecution. They have also exposed how ill-prepared the international community has been to deal with this challenge and how uneven the distribution of the burden of caring for such people has been among countries. In 2016, to enhance preparedness for refugee crises, improve the situation of refugees and relieve the burden on host societies, the United Nations (UN) member states convened in New York and adopted a declaration paving the way for a non-binding international compact on refugees. They annexed to this declaration a comprehensive refugee response framework that spelled out a series of short- and longer-term measures to address refugee crises. The framework has been applied in several pilot countries and the lessons learnt fed into a global compact on refugees. The compact was drafted by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) following broad consultations with various stakeholders, and its definitive version was adopted by the UN General Assembly with a large majority on 17 December 2018. The global compact focuses on international-, regional- and national-level mechanisms for achieving a fairer distribution of the responsibilities related to refugees, and on areas where action can be improved. It has been criticised, among other things, for its non-binding character and for excluding victims of natural disasters from its scope. This is an updated edition of a Briefing published in June 2018.

The 2018 Sakharov Prize

05-12-2018

Thirty years since it was first awarded, the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought retains all its symbolic meaning, as human rights continue to be embattled in many parts of the world. The courage of those who stand up for them therefore deserves to be widely recognised. By awarding the 2018 Prize to the Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov – who is currently an inmate in a penal colony in Siberia – Parliament aims to increase the pressure on Russia to release Sentsov. At the same ...

Thirty years since it was first awarded, the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought retains all its symbolic meaning, as human rights continue to be embattled in many parts of the world. The courage of those who stand up for them therefore deserves to be widely recognised. By awarding the 2018 Prize to the Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov – who is currently an inmate in a penal colony in Siberia – Parliament aims to increase the pressure on Russia to release Sentsov. At the same time, the award also draws attention to the struggle of all Ukrainian political prisoners currently behind bars in Russia and the annexed Crimean peninsula.

EU policies – Delivering for citizens: Human Rights

12-11-2018

In the 70 years since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – the first international document to set common standards of achievement for all states – the pivotal role and moral, legal and political significance of human rights in the international arena have become indisputable. However, despite considerable progress in many areas on recognition, codification and implementation, human rights have also come under increased attack. Whether in theatres of war or in the political ...

In the 70 years since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – the first international document to set common standards of achievement for all states – the pivotal role and moral, legal and political significance of human rights in the international arena have become indisputable. However, despite considerable progress in many areas on recognition, codification and implementation, human rights have also come under increased attack. Whether in theatres of war or in the political arena, human rights are now rejected on ideological grounds. The EU itself has not been spared by the current backlash. In its Member States, a populist wave has empowered political forces that increasingly question the significance of core human rights, such as the right to freedom of expression. In these troubled times for human rights, opinion polls show that European citizens perceive human rights as one of the most important values for them personally and one of the values that best represent the EU itself. Having emerged from World War II and its atrocities, European countries were determined to secure lasting peace, and the Union they created is now founded on respect for democracy, the rule of law and human rights, which guide and shape its legislation and policies. Within the EU, recent action has included new legislation on data protection and access to justice, the European Pillar of Social Rights, and initiatives to combat inequality, discrimination and hate speech. There is also an acknowledgement that more needs to be done to complete the legal framework to combat discrimination and strengthen internal mechanisms for upholding the rule of law. Human rights are additionally a general objective of EU external action. The EU is deeply committed to promoting human rights, as enshrined in international treaties, in its relations with third countries and with other multilateral regional and global institutions. During the last EP mandate, the EU consistently applied and deepened a range of policy approaches that strengthen its role and image as a normative power that inspires others through its example. Maintaining and consolidating this policy remains vital for preserving the EU's image and credibility as a normative power, based on values, that has the capacity to act at a time when the principle of multilateralism is increasingly questioned.

Towards a binding international treaty on business and human rights

08-11-2018

With its extended value chains, economic globalisation has brought numerous opportunities while also creating specific challenges, including in the area of human rights protection. The recent history of transnational corporations contains numerous examples of human rights abuses occurring as a result of their operations. Such corporations are known to have taken advantage of loose regulatory frameworks in developing countries, corruption, and a lack of accountability resulting from legal rules shielding ...

With its extended value chains, economic globalisation has brought numerous opportunities while also creating specific challenges, including in the area of human rights protection. The recent history of transnational corporations contains numerous examples of human rights abuses occurring as a result of their operations. Such corporations are known to have taken advantage of loose regulatory frameworks in developing countries, corruption, and a lack of accountability resulting from legal rules shielding corporate interests. This situation has created a pressing need to establish international norms regulating business operations in relation to human rights. So far, the preferred approach has been 'soft', consisting of the adoption of voluntary guidelines for businesses. Several sets of such norms exist at international level, the most notable being the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Nevertheless, while such voluntary commitments are clearly useful, they cannot entirely stop gross human rights violations (such as child labour, labour rights violations and land grabbing) committed by transnational corporations, their subsidiaries or suppliers. To address the shortcomings of the soft approach, an intergovernmental working group was established within the United Nations framework in June 2014, with the task of drafting a binding treaty on human rights and business. After being reluctant at the outset, the EU has become involved in the negotiations, but has insisted that the future treaty's scope should include all businesses, not only transnational ones. The 'Zero Draft' published in July does not reflect the EU's position on this point. It has been welcomed by experts for its more precise focus on prevention, on effective remedies and access to justice for victims, and on companies' liability for their subsidiaries and suppliers in third countries. The European Parliament is a staunch supporter of this initiative and has encouraged the EU to take a positive and constructive approach. This is a further updated edition of a Briefing published in April 2018, PE 620.229.

EU support for human rights defenders around the world

08-11-2018

Twenty years after the UN General Assembly adopted its Declaration on Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) to enhance recognition of their role and encourage states to create a more protective environment, many human rights defenders still face significant threats, and the situation of those working in certain areas has even deteriorated. Support for human rights defenders is a long established component of the EU's external human rights policy and one of its major priorities. The EU guidelines on HRDs ...

Twenty years after the UN General Assembly adopted its Declaration on Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) to enhance recognition of their role and encourage states to create a more protective environment, many human rights defenders still face significant threats, and the situation of those working in certain areas has even deteriorated. Support for human rights defenders is a long established component of the EU's external human rights policy and one of its major priorities. The EU guidelines on HRDs adopted in 2004 outline concrete measures for protecting HRDs at risk, including the provision of emergency aid, and encourage EU diplomats to take a more proactive approach towards HRDs. The European Commission manages a financial instrument in support of HRDs working in the world's most dangerous situations. The European Parliament is a long-standing advocate of a comprehensive EU policy on HRDs and has actively contributed to its shaping. Its urgency resolutions on human rights breaches around the world, some of which have focused on individual HRDs and the particular threats they face, have drawn attention to the difficulties facing HRDs in many countries. Parliament has also organised hearings with HRDs, issued statements about cases of HRDs at risk, and highlighted the plight of HRDs during visits by its delegations to the countries concerned. The Parliament's Sakharov Prize is the EU's most visible action in favour of HRDs. It has a significant impact on laureates, providing them with recognition and, in many cases, indirect protection. This a further updated version of a briefing from December 2017: PE 614.626.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its relevance for the European Union

05-11-2018

Seventy years after its adoption, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has achieved all of the significance its drafters hoped it would. It has served as a foundation for the codification of human rights at global, regional and national level. Even though non-binding, many of its provisions enjoy such undisputed recognition as to be considered part of customary international law and therefore universally obligatory. In the absence of universal ratification of the human rights treaties, the Declaration ...

Seventy years after its adoption, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has achieved all of the significance its drafters hoped it would. It has served as a foundation for the codification of human rights at global, regional and national level. Even though non-binding, many of its provisions enjoy such undisputed recognition as to be considered part of customary international law and therefore universally obligatory. In the absence of universal ratification of the human rights treaties, the Declaration often remains the central reference to be invoked for the denunciation of human rights violations. The EU has fully embraced the Declaration's significance, using it to set standards in its internal legislation and international agreements, and to guide its external policy.

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