Our agenda for change represents a pragmatic approach aimed at creating smart balances between fighting poverty wherever it lies and fighting human rights violations wherever they occur
Klaus Rudischhauser and Kristian Schmidt
Even during a time of crisis, Europe is deepening its commitment to a comprehensive development agenda, write Klaus Rudischhauser and Kristian Schmidt.
As the first world donor, the EU has been a leading force in pushing for better living standards in developing countries. Despite its own economic crisis it has maintained its commitment to help the poorest and delivered over €53bn of development assistance.
The European instrument for democracy and human rights (EIDHR) is an important tool for this assistance. In 2011, it reached an unprecedented level with more than 1200 operations in over 130 countries.
In the most difficult environments, where basic rights and freedoms are the most repressed, it brought a breath of fresh air to help the survival of weakened or shattered civil society.
In 2011, the EIDHR allowed fighting media and cyber censorship by keeping the flow of information open out of Syria and North Korea. It defended hundreds of political opponents arbitrarily imprisoned, providing them with legal defence and support for their families and in turn, their own lawyers imprisoned for taking up the cases.
It supported the rehabilitation of victims of torture in Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka and victims of massive rape campaigns in east Congo or Libya.
The EIDHR also supported democratic transition in Morocco, Tunisia, Ivory Coast, Burma and Libya. It helped to support and to observe free and fair elections in Niger, Haiti and Peru. It helped thousands of civil society organisations become vectors of change and hundreds of pro human rights education programmes on all continents.
It supported international campaigns against the death penalty, for core labour standards, in support of the international criminal court and for the ratification of international conventions.
It helped the political, economic and social empowerment of disenfranchised groups, such as indigenous people in Colombia, women in Azerbaijan, Roma in Moldova and homosexuals under death threat in Uganda.
While most of these operations have successfully mitigated violations, fighting these abuses also needs long term investment in structural changes, in justice reform, in basic and civic education, in nation or state building and many other areas that only development policy can bring.
The access to mobile phones and the internet was certainly a key engine of change in Tunisia, Egypt or Yemen.
2012 will be a challenging year for human rights and development. Indeed, the EU is at a key moment where its policies, modalities and financial perspectives are being reset for the next decade.
The agenda for change, adopted by the commission this autumn precisely seizes these three intertwined challenges and proposes to make of governance, human rights, democracy and gender a major pillar of EU development policy.
Indeed, while keeping the acquis of 50 years of cooperation and partnership, more complementarity, better impact and more coherence can be achieved. Naturally, to do so and to move from words to reality, means are necessary.
This is why the commission has also proposed that the future EU budget for the next decade not only maintain but increase its parts dedicated both to development and to human rights.
Our agenda for change represents a pragmatic approach aimed at creating smart balances between fighting poverty wherever it lies and fighting human rights violations wherever they occur. It simply intends to do it pragmatically, in dialogue, and to face concrete needs, issuing from poverty and absence of rights, and to deliver better and more.
Klaus Rudischhauser and Kristian Schmidtis are respectively, quality and impact director and human and society development director at the European commission's DG DEVCO