The EU-NGO Human Rights Forum touched upon many of the critical challenges Europe is facing as 2015 is coming to an end. Her support for human rights defenders worldwide was crystal clear, as was her warning to sacrifice the high standards of human rights and freedom of expression for the benefit of tighter security measures. Federica Mogherini stated:
"I believe that the civil society has a crucial role to play in any policy and in our foreign policy. It is not only a key player, but a main driver for change in all societies, in terms of democracy, good governance, resilience, cohesion, promotion of fundamental human rights.
Freedom of expression is one of the most powerful weapons against radicalisation and terrorism. To better protect our citizens we need above all to build strong democratic institutions and a healthy democratic dialogue. I am very often asked whether security should not be the main focus, more than human rights. But there is no security without human rights”.
See more in the press release from the EU External Action Service.
See Mogherini's speech on the European Commission website
New EU Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders
One of the important events of the Forum, was the launch of the brand new EU Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders. 12 international NGOs, under the lead of Frontline Defenders, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Protection International will lead a three year project to protect and promote human rights defenders at risk all over the world.
The budget is EUR 15 million, for which the Mechanism will deliver a fast and permanent EU response to human rights defenders, including through a 24/7 helpline and emergency grants ensuring that human rights defenders can access legal assistance, medical care, and implement urgent security measures to protect themselves, their family and their work.
“This is very exciting, and very good news”, says ICORN Director Helge Lunde, who was attending the EU-NGO Forum together with ICORN Programme Director Elisabeth Dyvik.
“ICORN has been working with the EU, first with the European Parliament, and then the European Commission, about the temporary shelter/relocation component of the new Mechanism’s activities since 2010. 1/3rd of the resources of the Mechanism (EUR 4,5 million) is earmarked for short, medium and long term relocation for human rights defenders at risk, and we look forward to continue to work together with the EU and the Mechanism to be able to protect and promote as many persecuted human rights defenders as possible through our expanding ICORN network.” Helge Lunde continues.
The platform/website of the mechanism, Protect the Defenders, will be available soon.
EU-NGO Human Rights Forum
The Forum is a joint venture between the European External Action Service, the European Commission, and the Human Rights & Democracy Network. The overarching theme for this year's Forum was Protecting and Promoting Civil society Space, one of the key priorities of the EU Strategic Framework for Human Rights.