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10 December 2007 - International Human Rights Day


Message from Benita Ferrero-Waldner, European Commissioner for External Relations and Neighbourhood Policy

10 December 2007 - International Human Rights Day

"International Human Rights Day represents an invaluable opportunity to reflect on the persistent human rights challenges worldwide and to identify what further steps the European Union can take to promote human rights throughout the world. However, there is still much to be done in turning human rights into reality in the life of every child, woman and man around the globe.

The situation in countries like Myanmar/Burma or Sudan/Darfur is but a stark reminder of our common challenge, which is: to move from the era of codification of human rights, which was inaugurated nearly 60 years ago with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, into an era of effective and worldwide application and protection of human rights. We still have a long way on our road to a genuine human rights culture.

I would like to pay particular tribute today to the role of civil society actors and human rights defenders as indispensable partners of the European Union in our fight for the full respect for human rights worldwide. As of this year, the EU has even better and more flexible means at its hands to help those who dedicate their lives to help others.

This year, I also want to draw attention to a group of particularly vulnerable people: around the world, several million people are stateless; this means they have no home state who feels responsible for their protection and well-being. I call on all countries harbouring such people in distress to provide them with the necessary assistance and to help them to regain their human dignity and a normal citizen status."

Background

Human Rights Day this year is of special significance as it marks the beginning of the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which represented the first step in establishing a comprehensive international framework for the protection of human rights.

Over the past decades, remarkable progress has been achieved in the areas of legal protection, institution building and awareness on human rights. The European Union is determined to contribute to promoting and protecting human rights as an integral part of its external policies.

During 2007, the EU has consistently mainstreamed human rights into all aspects of EU external policies. For example, framework for dedicated human rights discussions with the countries of the European Neighbourhood has been set up. All around the world a growing number of countries are engaged in regular human rights dialogues and consultations with the European Union.

At the multilateral level, the European Union remains committed to play an active role in the UN Human Rights Council, and other UN forums, as well as in the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. The year 2008 will also witness the 15th anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action proclaimed by the World Conference on Human Rights.

In 2007 the European Commission has launched the new European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), which with a total budget of €1,1 billion for 2007-2013, will provide direct funding to civil society organisations and human rights defenders throughout the world. The EIDHR support is an essential component of the Union's overall human rights and democratization policy.

ENDS

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