Human language

The world needs a new impetus for human rights – POLITICO

Eamon Gilmore is the European Union Special Representative for Human Rights.

Last year we witnessed an avalanche of crises.

Afghanistan, where girls are deprived of education and women their equality; Belarus, where more than 1,300 political prisoners are currently held; Myanmar, where a military coup sent a democratically elected leader to prison and the Rohingya people continue to suffer; Ethiopia, which descended into civil war; and Ukraine, where Russia’s aggression continues with mounting evidence of war crimes.

We are currently witnessing the greatest number of violent conflicts since the Second World War. In these conflicts, violations of human rights are added to violations of international humanitarian law. What I saw in Bucha, Ukraine, earlier this year, and heard from survivors, haunts me, playing in my mind like a 1930s newsreel.

Russian forces reportedly forcibly evicted children, weaponized rape and sexual violence, targeted civilian areas with indiscriminate shelling. The rulebook was torn up and thrown out the window.

Of course, with all that we see, we run the risk of being overwhelmed by the tide of atrocities and abuses, which can, in turn, lead to defeatism. However, it is essential that we face the future of human rights with more confidence, energy, determination and optimism.

At the Human Rights Council and the United Nations, our diplomats fight every day to defend the very concept of human rights to those who wish to redefine them, so they make no sense.

And as I travel the world, I am particularly shocked by the stories I hear from detainees and their loved ones: stories of torture, denial of access to lawyers, to loved ones, stories of detention in conditions intended to break the human spirit.

Brutalization lays bare a shocking absence of humanity as the powerful seek to control, subjugate, even erase the humanity of others.

War crimes, as we have seen in Ukraine, Syria and Ethiopia, demand accountability – the victims demand it.

Freedom, equality and dignity should not just be aspirations or ambitions, but actions. And while this is difficult to achieve, it is important to remember that much has already been done.

The European Union defends human rights more than any other major player in the world, both politically and financially. Every day, more than 140 EU Delegations and Member Country Embassies work to bring the EU Action Plan for Human Rights and Democracy to life.

Since its launch in 2015, the EU Human Rights Defenders Mechanism,, has supported almost 53,000 human rights defenders and their families at risk. Through regular dialogue with over 60 countries or regional groupings, we have frank and detailed discussions on human rights both in non-EU countries and within the bloc – including, recently, Saudi Arabia.

Our commercial diets also continue to be powerful tools for promoting human and labor rights, good governance and sustainable development. During my mission to Pakistan earlier this year, for example, I was able to raise the plight of women textile workers and encourage equal pay.

We tend to underestimate ourselves and overestimate the strength of others.

However, it is important to recognize that repression is in itself a sign of weakness. Human rights violations and abuses demonstrate latent instability and insecurity, and with new technologies available to document and record them, it is now more difficult to evade war crimes and hide atrocities.

Politically, we are also in a better position to hold perpetrators to account. Just three years ago, the very existence of the International Criminal Court (ICC) was under threat, with some countries threatening to leave and the United States sanctioning its top officials. Today, the ICC leads the investigation into war crimes in Ukraine. We have also seen Russia unable to muster votes in multilateral frameworks in the face of international demands for accountability.

However, we need to be more innovative and proactive, not just reactive.

We need to improve cooperation with the rest of the world. We need to broaden the base of human rights defenders and be careful about the language we use, making it more understandable for everyone.

Everywhere, human rights belong to everyone. They are not the prerogative of States, institutions or experts. Better protection and respect for human rights and democracy in the world will reduce inequalities, poverty and social exclusion, and will serve peace. We need to say this clearly and consistently.

The strategic and security interests of the EU and its values ​​of human rights and democracy are indivisible. Today, as we grapple with the implications of Russia’s unlawful aggression against Ukraine, the bloc’s unwavering commitment reminds the rest of the world that we can weather the storms together, but we must keep pushing.