18 March 2015
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great honor and a pleasure for me to be able to address you at the request of Professor Jan Wouters with whom I have had the pleasure of cooperating sporadically already since the establishment of the Regional Office for Europe of the UN Human Rights Office, also known as “OHCHR”.
I vividly recall our first meeting, at an event that our Office organized in summer of 2010, when we brought the Chairpersons of the UN human rights Treaty Bodies for their annual meeting not to Geneva, as it otherwise tends to be, but to Brussels. It was, in fact, our first major effort to build bridges between the EU and the UN human rights system – and Professor Wouters was there as one of the speakers.
It is, of course, up to others to evaluate how far we at the Regional Office for Europe have been successful in these five years in our quest to build bridges and create links between the EU and the international human rights system. I would like to talk today about some of the dimensions in which we have been involved, and share with you some reflection on the relationship – or indeed, multiple relationships – that the EU and the UN have in the area of human rights.
We are all aware that both the EU and the UN, and indeed even the UN human rights system itself, have become very complex organisms – and I will inevitably be somewhat selective and subjective in choosing which structures, institutions and interfaces I will talk about. There is no way in which I could address all of them adequately in a single lecture, even though Professor Wouters has asked me to speak for 45 minutes.
Let me start with a bit of critical self-reflection, quoting two of my favorite thinkers
– a sociologist who died almost a century ago, and a contemporary cartoonist. The first is Max Weber who wrote a lot about bureaucracies and defined two forms of rationality - “process rationality” and “rationality of purpose”; if he was with us today, he would probably warn both the EU and the UN that we are investing so
much into processes that we are at risk of forgetting the purpose, which is improved enjoyment of human rights by people in real life. And the second is the famous Polish cartoonist Andrzej Mleczko [only a few of them work, the rest are consultants]: let this be a reminder that real human rights work is what is done in countries, often at local level, with the rights-holders themselves.
Our Regional Office for Europe, which was established in the autumn of 2009 is part of the UN Team in Brussels but it differs from most other UN agency offices here in Brussels that are typically liaison offices with a fundraising focus. As a Regional Office we deal with human rights issues within the region, in EU Member States and several other European States where the UN Human Rights Office has no other field presence such as Albania. Indeed, one of the reasons for the establishment of a Regional Office for Europe was to break the stereotypical North-South paradigm in which „Northern“ countries are just donors and „Southern“ countries are those who need guidance, capacity building and, sometimes, critical attention. We are involved in human rights advocacy on matters such the segregation and forced evictions of Roma and Travellers, transition from institutional to community-based care services for persons with disabilities and vulnerable children, or the adequate protection of rights of migrants, to name just three large overarching priorities.
We also cooperate closely with NHRIs, including ENHRI, and I had the privilege of making a minor contribution to the work and publication on European NHRIs which was done by the Catholic University of Leuven.
I recall that there was some intial scepticism among EU partners whether this Regional Office was being established just to demonstrate to the global South that it was paying such critical attention also to the global North. But as I approach the end of my mandate here, I must say with a certain degree of pride that we rather quickly convinced our EU partners that we were serious about our human rights work here; that we were prioritizing issues based on our honest appreciation of the importance of particular challenges, and our potential added value, not in order to please someone. The same holds true when our Office works in other parts of the world: we serve the law – the International Bill of Rights and the subsequent Conventions – and we believe that if we do it well, it will ultimately be recognized.
The EU as a human rights actor
But it is obvious that the second main reason why OHCHR decided to establish a Regional Office for Europe six years ago was the growing recognition that the EU has become an important actor in the domain of human rights, both internally and externally, and not just as a donor, but as an organisation sui generis whose policies have a tangible impact on human rights. If you will, it is an acknowledgment of the UN system that human rights are increasingly discussed in Brussels, not just in Strasbourg, as used to be the case for decades, and that the EU has started to matter in this regard.
- Externally, through specific instruments such as Human Rights Dialogues, the EIDHR, or taking common positions in the Human Rights Council.
- Internally, the EU had moved already in the decade before the establishment of the OHCHR Regional Office from mrerely referring to human rights as principles to the adoption of EU legislation and policies with a human rights impact. And here I do not mean only the adoption of the EU Charter on Fundamental Rights and the creation of FRA, which are most often seen as the visible signs of the EUs new human rights dimension, but also very important secondary legislation and use of financial instruments with an impact on human rights in various areas of life.
With the development of the non-discrimination framework (Directives 43 and 78 from 2000) and the subsequent establishment of Equality Bodies across all Member States, the EU has established itself as a pioneer, a global front runner, particularly in the protection from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation – which has been of great inspiration to our Office. One of our advocacy priorities today is for the EU to complete the process of building a comprehensive non-discrimination framework by finally adopting the so-called horizontal directive (first proposed in 2008) that aims to protect persons from discriminationon the basis of disability, age, religion and sexual orientation in areas outside the labor market.
The EUas a partner on internal human rights challenges
Our Regional Office has concentrated its advocacy efforts particularly on the European Commission in order to create a partnership which would be enable the EU’s legal and financial instruments vis-a-vis the Member States as effectively as possible, in terms of human rights:
- This has been the case when it comes to the Roma-related policies (EU Platform on Roma Inclusion, EU Framework for Roma Integration Strategies).
- We have also had a very fruiful partnership on the development of the EU Guidelines for the Transition from Institutional to Community-based Care and Toolkit for the use of Structural Funds in that regard – a document prepared by a coalition of NGOs and IGOs of which our Regional Office is a member, but with the explicit support of the European Commission. We now have new Structural Funds regulations that explicitly create ex ante conditionalities in this regard, particularly in context of Article 19 CRPD – independent living and inclusion in the community, but also UN Guidelines on the Alternative Care for Children. This means that realities on the ground in a number of EU Member States – particularly the new Member States – have actually started changing for some of the most excluded persons, children and adults with disabilities placed in segregating institutions: and that is a tangible effect of our partnership with EU institutions.
In this context, it is worthwhile to point out that the EU itself has voluntarily accepted to become an object of scrutiny of the international human rights mechanisms by signing and ratifying the CRPD – as the first international human rights treaty that it acceded to, because unlike others it allows for accession by regional organizations –and that 2015 will mark the historic landmark of the EU being reviewed for the first time by one of the Treaty Bodies, the CRPD committee. I will not address now the tempting question of whether and how the EU could declare itself bound by other international instruments without formal ratification which they do not allow – an issue dealt with by authors such as Olivier de Schutter and Israel Butler, who wrote a highly interesting document for our Regional Office on the EU and International Human Rights Law, published in 2011 but containing analysis that remains valid.
And of course, there is the whole area of migration, which is in a way at the interface of internal and external policies and where our Office has often been rather critical of some EU Member States (though I would like to emphasize that there are great differences between States and many promising policies and practices which deserve to be better known, on which we will hold our main annual conference later this year, in November). But here, too, the European Commission and European Parliament have been regular partners for our Office and for the
Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrants who has also decided to focus not just on several EU Member States but on the EU institutions as well. Last year, we were encouraged by DG HOMEs informal but very supportive reaction to new Guidelines and Principles on Human Rights at International Borders, developed by our headquarters in Geneva – and we have also welcomed the excellent forward- looking work done in the area of rights of migrants (as in many others) by FRA, who have been a regular and close partner of our Regional Office throughout these five years.
One of the less publicly known but, in my view, potentially very practical dimensions of UN and EU cooperation on the internal-external interface has been our participation in human rights training for Frontex, first in the context of human trafficking, and now even more broadly. We have also cooperated, alongside other UN agencies, in a policy dialogue with the Commission on ways to implement EU legislation and policies in the area of human trafficking in line with international standards.
This, in general, can be described as one of the key dimensions of the work that we are doing in partnership with the EU here in Brussels: advocating for a reading of EU and Council of Europe standards in the light of international human rights law. From 2010 to 2014, we have sometimes saw a tendency to treat the EU Charter on Fundamental Rights as if it was the document that supercedes everything else – even though it only refers to the EU institutions themselves and to States when applying EU law.
We are deeply convinced that regional instruments and mechanisms should not be inward-looking and self-referential; there is no need to wait until the ECJ defines what is meant by all the legal terms used in the Charter – terms which have existed in international human rights law for decades and which have been subject to extensive guidance work by the quasi-judicial Treaty Bodies of the international system.
An asymmetric relationship
So, you can see that even from the perspective of the Regional Office for Europe, the relationship of the UN Human Rights Office with the EU is an unconventionally asymetric one: We are partners of the EU but not just in the sense of it being a donor to the UN Human Rights Office (here I hasten to say that the Regional Office
for Europe is paid entirely from our regular budget, with no financial support from the EU). The donor-implementor relationship is important – I will speak about it shortly – but it is far from being the only one.
Apart from that we are also partners in a number of policy areas, internal as well as external, often advocating for human rights jointly vis-a-vis States (EU member states, candidate and potential candidate countries, and other States),
And thirdly, we are also the guardians of the international human rights treaties, or at least the assistants of the guardians (the international human rights mechanism), who review EU member states and, in the case of the CRPD Committee and the SR on Rights of Migrants, also the EU as such.
Of course, the EU institutions and Member States interact with the UN Human Rights Office in many places – not just at our headquarters in Geneva, but also in New York, here in Brussels and in the field, where EU delegations and OHCHR field offices often cooperate in assisting the Governments in institution building, but also in supporting human rights defenders, indigenous people, minority and LGBT activists etc.
In fact, I would like to emphasize the field dimension of our cooperation, because all too often it is overshadowed by the happenings in Geneva or New York, by the highly politicized intergovernmental processes – and we should not forget that the most important and most difficult human rights work is done in difficult field locations, and that our Office and EU delegations frequently cooperate in this good work informally, by exchanging information and creating synergies, even in the absence of any EU-funded projects administered by the UN Human Rights Office.
Over the last few years, our Brussels office has been involvement in the capacity building of human rights focal points in EU delegations (when they come for training to Brussels). And there is clearly scope for further increase in cooperation in this regard. One of the priorities of the Regional Office for Europe is to increase the visibility of our colleagues work in the field, their achievements – in terms of objective reporting from polarized contexts such as Ukraine or Israel-Palestine, of constitution building in States in transition such as Tunisia, of successful efforts to
stop extrajudicial killings in Colombia or the struggle against impunity in Guatemala, to name just a few.
Many of these field activities would not be possible without the financial support to the UN Human Rights by the EU Member States and institutions (DG DEVCO through the EIDHR; or in Palestine, DG ECHO). Indeed, the EU Member States and the European Commission together are providing more extra-budgetary funding to the UN Human Rights Office – funding outside the regular budget – than the entire rest of the world taken together. This is particularly appreciated by our Office, because it is often un-earmarked, thus allowing the Office to carry out many of these field activities in places where it matters most.
Moreover, un-earmarked character of funding is also key for the independence of the Office and for the perception of its independence by others, including the States which are less friendly to human rights work and like to accuse the Office of being donor-driven. If this financial support was not there, then the Office would still be able to carry out its mandated activities – particularly those that revolve around the Human Rights Council, the Treaty Bodies, the Special Procedures Mandate Holders and UPR – i.e., those where it has a the function of administrative support; but the field work, far from the meeting rooms of Geneva, New York or Brussels, would be seriously affected.
It is also welcomed that the EU has long and consistently provided also political support for the independence of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, which some other actors would have liked to restrict.
EUandUN Human Rights as partners in defending the universal character of human rights
Another important political dimension is partnership in defending the universal character of human rights, particularly in the inter-governmental and inter-regional context, for instance in the Human Rights Council. We know that universality of human rights has been subjected to increased questioning by some States which accuse human rights of being merely “Western” and pointing out that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted at a time when their countries were not yet free from European colonialism. And in the some European countries and in the USA, various sceptics (or rather, people who have never liked the human rights agenda in the first place) have started claiming that this is a sign of the decline of
importance of human rights worldwide and that a “neo-Westphalian” approach to human rights need to be adopted – letting States themselves decide what rights they want to grant their citizens of not.
We at the UN Human Rights Office are vigorous defenders of human rights universalism and we are happy that over the last two and half years, since the adoption of the Human Rights Package, the EU as such has strengthened its visibility and consistency of its arguments in favor of human rights as universal values in many ways – not least through the vigorous advocacy for universality of human rights by the first EU Special Representative for Human Rights, Stavros Lambrinidis. He rightly points out that when some States argue why some human rights should not apply to them, it is more often than not on the basis of expediency: it is quite simply the discourse of the powerful, the violators themselves, which is not shared by the victims who do claim their human rights. We agree: neither the UN nor the EU should abandon the rights-holders out of respect for the arguments of the powerful, the duty-bearers.
In fact, notwithstanding all the rhetoric, few if any specific challenges have been made against specific articles of the Universal Declaration. One of the strengths of human rights universalism today is the fact that the Universal Declaration – is so well balanced and has withstood the challenge of time incredibly well. And the international human rights system is remarkably consistent in its guidance: if we want proof, we can look even at what is perhaps the most culturally contested area (freedom of religion) and the clear continuity between the two last Special Rapporteurs. They provide consistent international guidance on freedom of religion, emphasizing that this is about freedom of human beings to worship (even if theirs is a minority religion), about their freedom not to worship, and their freedom to change their religion – not about a special privilege for large organized religions to be exempt from critical scrutiny.
In fact, I think that the universality of human rights is being attacked precisely because it has become a force to reckon with; because there is a much greater recognition worldwide that human rights matter; and because international human rights mechanisms – although they don’t have power – have increasing authority and visibility.
One of the tangible dimensions of EU and UN cooperation on human rights is that of jointly celebrating Human Rights Day (the birthday of the Universal Declaration) by screening a film at Bozar and a subsequent debate – by now a tradition that started in 2009. It is almost symbolic that one of the participants in that very first debate was Stephane Hessel – at that time the last living member of the team that drafted the UDHR Declaration of Human Rights – who said that it is difficult to imagine how much human rights had progressed over those decades from being something merely declaratory to being tangible and genuinely influencing policies [though there is clearly still a long, long way to go].
Today, when UN Treaty Bodies review the performance of member states or when leading civil society organizations working on human rights such as Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch publish reports about human rights situations in countries, they often make headlines. Concrete allegations tend to be disputed; but the underlying assumptions of today’s strong international media are that human rights matter and should not be violated.
At the end of last year, the Dutch Permanent Mission organized here in Brussels a moving tribute to Theo van Boven, who had been a pioneer in taking human rights seriously in the UN system, a sort of a High Commissioner for Human Rights avant- la-lettre in the early 1980s; and when he criticized the military dictatorship in Argentina, he was fired.
Today, human rights have moved out of a small pious niche into the mainstream – High Commissioner Pillay, whose term ended in mid-2014, had brifed the UN Security Council more frequently than all the previous High Commissioners together. And when the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights draws critical attention to the human rights record of a particular State, it is often contested because it matters but there is little doubt that it is the role of the High Commisioner to do so. And of course, all UN Member States, including EU Member States, are being reviewed by the Treaty Bodies and participate in the Universal Periodic Review.
Positive developmentsin the universalism debate
Here I would like to point out a positive development concerning the EU itself. When our Regional Office opened here in late 2009, the emphasis of many EU interlocutors on supporting human rights worldwide through external policies was more often than not presented as something that has to do with „European values“. We tried to discuss this with our interlocutors, arguing that it would be much more advisable to refer to universal values and indeed international standards – but they often dismissed our concerns by saying that European values are completely in line with universal ones, so what is the problem?
The problem, we argued, is that presenting human rights worldwide as a European value rather than a universal one can actually undermine the universalist message, both in terms of effective tactics and in terms of principle. Of tactics, because if EU Member States define human rights as „European values“ which are to be exported, they risk alienating their non-European partners; they actually risk playing into the „neo-Westphalian“ logic of dividing the world in several blocs or regions, with Europeans claiming human rights as their values and other groupings distancing themselves from human rights in the name of their regional or religious values. But it is also wrong in principle, because if Europeans package the support for human rights worldwide as an export of „European values“, it can be read not just as self-congratulatory, but as undermining the authority of the international human rights system to examine the human rights performance of all States, including those that are members of the EU.
And I am really happy to say that at least here in Brussels, public references to human rights in external policy as „European values“ have become significantly rarer, and references to universal values and standards have multiplied. I hope that this is to some degree the result of the much more intense interaction with EU partners (EEAS, COHOM, DG DEVCO, PSC...) that the UN Human Rights Office has had since the establishment of its Regional Office for Europe – but I would also like to acknowledge here the key role played in this regard by COHOM Chair Bert Theuermann, on the external side, and the Director of the EU Fundamental Rights Agency, Morten Kjaerum, on the internal side, both of whom have consistently emphasized the need to refer to universal values and standards rather than something that could be construed or caricatured as being merely an EU political agenda.
When it comes to defense of universal character of human rights against relativism, another argument to Stavros Lambrinidis’ point on the powerful and the powerless, namely, a reminder that not so long ago, until around 1990, some of the States that
are members of the EU today had Governments that also used the line of argument that keeps resurfacing elsewhere: that in the name of their State ideology some or most of human rights did not apply to them, and that anyway, in name of State sovereignty, they would not submit themselves to any form of international scrutiny, which they would dismiss as being influenced by their enemies. What conclusion should be drawn on the basis of this historic memory? I believe that the EU and its Member States should actively contest the arguments of national, regional or cultural relativism vis-à-vis human rights not on the basis of some imagined European superiority, but on the basis of recognition how difficult it was to overcome such arguments within the territory of the EU itself (not to speak of the fact that in milder form, traces of such notions of national exceptionalism can be found even among some EU Member States, even today).
The second argument against relativism that I would add to Stavros Lambrinidis’ dichotomy between perpetrators and victims is that of majorities and minorities. The kind of discourse which contests the universality of human rights may even have majority popular support when it tends to justify the repression, marginalization or neglect of rights of member of those who are different from the majority – in terms of the color of their skin, their language, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation etc. But here the EU and its Member States, as well as other Western countries, need to look into the mirror very intensely. Because democracies, governed by majorities, do not automatically guarantee the enjoyment of human rights of minorities: it has been and often still is a struggle to ensure that the “everyone” in the UDHR really applies to everyone (persons with disabilities, children, Roma, migrants, LGBT persons…).
Let’s be open about it: There has long been a powerful current of thought and political practice in Western democracies that maintained that democracy is there to represent the interests of the majority – if need be, against potentially subversive claims of undeserving minorities – a view expressed in the 1970s by American Vice-President Spiro Agnew and then famously contested by Ronald Dworkin who argued that rights must represent guarantees given by societies (by majorities) to minorities.
As you can see, I am advocating self-reflection and a certain degree of humility on part of EU and its Member States not as an excuse for diminished action on human rights worldwide, as the so-called realists would have it, but on the contrary
- as (1) a way of making that external human rights engagement more authentic, more credible and thus in the end more effective
- and (2) as a powerful impulse for the EU Member States to address their own human rights challenges.
As noted by Professor Fernando Rey in El Pais a few weeks ago, there is still a very strong tendency (and not just in Spain, but also in other EU Member States) by political establishments to perceive human rights as something that is an issue for others today and an issue of the past at home; and the UN and EU need to be partners in overcoming that perception, which really gives rise to questions of double standards, of lack of authenticity and of instrumental approach to human rights as a mere foreign policy tool for promoting political interests.
Nevertheless, I can confess here to a degree of historic optimism, at least from a Brussels-based perspective. Over the last five years, the linkage between both dimensions (external and internal) has been increasingly recognized – there has been more talk of internal-external consistency and coherence. This has also been one of the leitmotivs of our Offices work here in Brussels, but it has also been receiving more traction in the EU institutions themselves (but, as you are surely aware, with very different degrees of support on part of Member States).
Besides assertions of cultural or regional relativism, the other force that risks undercutting the universalistic message of human rights is selectiveness. If the EU and its Member States apply a selective approach to various types of rights, they not only fail to address important issues, but also stimulate other States or regional groupings to likewise, to apply an à la carte approach to human rights obligations.
Over many years, in the Human Rights Council, in its own Human Rights Dialogues with other countries and in activities financed by the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights, the EU has put the emphasis squarely on civil and political rights. Some EU Member States have been largely supportive also of economic, social and cultural rights, but others have not (indeed, some have been
openly hostile to them) and the EU as such has maintained CPR as the main common denominator of its approach to human rights in external policy. That, of course, has enabled the States with clear problems in the area of CPR to replay the anachronistic Cold War-era game of “our rights vs. their rights”, rather than strengthen the universalistic discourse of human rights as indivisible and interconnected.
But in this area, too, the development has been largely favorable. When High Commissioner Pillay spoke here in Brussels two years ago at an event about universality of human rights, she was criticized by Aaron Rhodes – a distinguished representative of the narrowly libertarian approach to human rights that perceives itself as being universalistic but accepts only CPR as “natural” rights while dismissing ESCR (or the rights laid down in more recent conventions) as being just dangerous ballast. This is a very “American” approach, even though FDR defined “freedom from want” as one of the four basic freedoms and Eleanor Roosevelt played such a key role in bringing the UDHR to is, official US policy has remained closer to the position of Aaron Rhodes says.
But such selectiveness undermines universalism. No State – no matter how democratic, or how powerful, it is – can be credible worldwide as a supporter of universal human rights while dismissing almost half of the Articles of the UDHR. And I find it encouraging is that EU representatives at the aforementioned event, including SR Lambrinidis, aligned themselves clearly with the position of the High Commissioner.
Over the last years, there has been a conscious effort on part of EU institutions to move from a self-referential position (from the one influenced by US exceptionalism – “we are in favor of universal human rights – and we define which rights are universal”) to one which increasingly embraces the full scope of rights laid down in the Universal Declaration and subsequent binding instruments, and it increasingly acknowledges the authority of the international human rights mechanisms to be the arbiter in that regard.
There is one exception – the elephant in the room – and that is the failure of EU Member States to sign and ratify the ICRMW, mainly because of some very basic rights it gives also to irregular workers. This, of course, is being used by the EUs critics – sometimes perhaps in bad faith, but it would be too easy to dismiss the
criticism as being all in bad faith: it is not just criticism from other States but also from international human rights mechanisms, expert bodies, and leading human rights NGOs. And while there are many policies concerning migrants that have been improved or can be improved without ratification of the ICRMW, it is clear that its ratification by EU Member States would be a win-win situation: it would strengthen the protection of migrants while at the same time demonstrating to the outside world that EU Member States are consistent in their approach to international human rights obligations – it would be a signal that they are not selective, and it would significantly strengthen the credibility of exhortations to other States not to selective.
With this exception, however, I must say that the development of the last years is a positive one, particularly in the EU institutions in Brussels (a more mixed picture emerges from the national capitals). With the implementation of the Human Rights Action Plan in external action, ESCR, rights of the child and other areas have been receiving increased attention from the EU institutions.
HRBA to development
One of the ways in which this has been addressed has been the move towards HRBA in the area of development. Here we have seen in the last years a very positive (though still unfinished) move away from a narrowly libertarian concept of how development and human rights are connected – from human rights as a mere niche or a negative conditionality for the flow of EU development aid (that beneficiary States should not violate CPR too much or else the EU will stop providing them with development assistance). This is, still, largely the philosophy of the 2011 Agenda for Change: human rights are mentioned in a chapter on governance, understood only as CPR, and defined as a conditionality, while investments in education, health etc., are defined as “human development” without any mention of rights.
But since then we have seen the adoption of an EU Toolbox on a Rights-based Approach to Development in 2014 – in which the UN Human Rights Office was very much involved as a partner, by bringing experts from Geneva who participated in the deliberation. And this Toolbox marks a turn to a different vision: one where development aid is rights-based, where it should be an instrument towards ensuring the enjoyment of ESCR (and in some cases, with direct or indirect influence on civil and political rights as well) – or else, on rights of various
vulnerable groups where it would be an academic and even somewhat dogmatic exercise to disentangle what are ESCR and CPR (for instance, when we look at rights of indigenous people - one area where the EU institutions have been quite engaged but many EU-based companies have a problematic record).
Sometimes we still hear EU interlocutors asserting that development aid policies are automatically increasing the enjoyment of ESCR because they address areas such as education, health etc. That is partly true – but only partly. In fact, as many critics have shown, the traditional top-down technocratic model of development funding has often produced very mixed results, sometimes benefiting only elites, or only ethnic majorities, while leaving the underprivileged, minority groups behind (not to speak, for instance, of persons with disabilities). The optimistic idea that development depends on economic growth which will somehow trickle down from the richer to the poorer and excluded has often failed to materialize: in fact, it is now increasingly recognized that development challenges are problems of inequality and that today the majority of the poor people in the world live in countries that are not globally poor. This has brought development and human rights actors in the UN and in the NGO sphere much closer together – it is now much better understood that human rights and development are not in competition with each other and that applying a human rights logic to development is necessary for making development more equitable and more successful.
Many States have recognized this principle – I just returned from Finland, which has embraced HRBA, following the excellent work done in this area by Denmark. But it is not just about relabeling development as support to ESC rights: it is a different methodology that that focuses on overcoming inequalities, has a bottom- up dynamic, which looks at the potential beneficiaries as right holders and the authorities as duty bearers, ensuring the involvement of the rights holders, including those from disadvantaged groups, from the design through the implementation to the monitoring and evaluation of the projects.
With the Toolbox, the European Commission is moving in that direction. But of course there is still the enormous challenge to ensure that the Toolbox – a technical document – indeed influences the way in which the next overarching policy documents of the European Commission will be formulated, and ultimately, how that translates into positive change on the ground. It will remain, obviously, one of
the UN Human Rights Office’s key areas for continued partnership with the EU, its institutions and Member States.
Thank you for your attention, and I will be happy to answer your questions.