Sunday

14th Apr 2024

Opinion

Times are so bad, we need to create a 'Human Rights League'

  • Undemocratic regimes resort to calling universal human rights a product of hegemonic eurocentrism or Western neo-colonialism (Photo: Andres Musta)
Listen to article

Every person has inherent, inalienable, and indivisible rights. This premise is the fundamental achievement of humankind. Yet, over the past years, we have witnessed an increase in violations of human rights and democratic values across the world.

Executions, tortures, arbitrary arrests and detentions, clampdown on civil society and political opponents, excessive violence by public authorities, censorship and threats to independent media, and disinformation — to name some of the most obvious examples.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

Instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

With a string of crises, from the financial meltdown and the Covid-19 pandemic to Russia's war against Ukraine, we have seen a rise of illiberal and authoritarian forces undermining the basis of our modern civilisation — universal human rights.

The undemocratic regimes resort to a narrative of relativism by claiming that human rights are "a weapon of cultural hegemony".

They are creating an ideological and political discord over the universality of human rights. They hide behind a perverted logic of the "veil of ignorance", defending a concept of democracy based not on values, but on a shallow ideology according to which universal human rights are a product of hegemonic eurocentrism or Western neo-colonialism.

One does not have to try hard to find an example of this kind of narrative.

The Covid-19 pandemic proved a perfect alibi for these regimes to impose their autocratic agendas. By spreading disinformation and disregarding the international rules-based order, they targeted disappointed and disillusioned people let down by self-complacent democracies.

This dangerous trend unequivocally calls for a truly global alliance to defend universal human rights.

It requires a genuine Human Rights League.

Countries and international organisations across the world have never joined forces in a proper human rights alliance.

In 1993, the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions was established, composed mainly of national human rights institutions interacting with the United Nations.

The Alliance of Civilisations, created in 2007, focused on international action against extremism.

US president, Joe Biden, hosted the Summit for Democracy in December last year.

All these initiatives are most valuable, but none of them is a genuine global human rights alliance, which the world desperately needs.

Liberal and mature democracies and international organisations, joined in the Human Rights League, have to wake up from complacency, stand firm against illiberal and autocratic regimes and reaffirm our shared commitment to universal human rights as a global model of society.

We need to go beyond sterile strategic dialogues. We need to move from resolutions and statements to a more assertive and decisive action.

The first opportunity to discuss all this, and to kick off the League, will be the event organised this Thursday (13 October) in the European Parliament. Human rights allies will gather to exchange views on how to make this idea a reality.

In this endeavour, the parliament has a crucial role to play, being the most vocal and devoted EU institution in defending democratic values, a true moral force, as well as a beacon for human rights activists all around the world.

With a noble and ambitious idea of the Human Rights League in mind, it is also crucial to analyse our Union's human rights toolbox, including political and strategic tools, legal and enforcement instruments, as well as diplomatic means.

It is necessary to further develop a comprehensive, united, and coherent European human rights vision and action.

A thorough reflection on this will allow us to better use our instruments in promoting and protecting human rights as an integral element of the EU's foreign policy. There will never be a stronger EU in the world without a powerful human rights policy.

Author bio

Nacho Sánchez Amor MEP is Socialists & Democrats spokesperson on human rights. Meglena Kuneva is a former EU Commissioner and ambassador to the Council of Europe.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

Rights group documents forcible-transfer war crimes in Ukraine

A new Human Rights Watch report documents how Russia has forcibly transferred Ukrainian citizens from their homes to Russia and Russian-controlled areas of eastern Ukraine, a war crime in breach of international law, in a so-called "filtration" process.

Stakeholder

Standing for women's rights in Poland and world is liberal duty

Abortion remains criminalised in Malta and Andorra. In Poland, the ultraconservative government is doing everything to ensure that abortion is basically impossible. In Italy, Slovakia, and Croatia, despite abortion being legal, ultraconservative parties have committed themselves to scale-back access.

MEPs urge putting abortion in EU rights charter

The European Parliament has called to include the right to legal and safe abortion into the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, following the critical ruling overturning abortion rights in the US.

The human rights aspects of Grenoble's 'burkini' controversy

Sooner or later, the European Court of Human Rights will have a final say on whether Grenoble is allowed to permit the 'burkini'. Its judgment, like the one permitting the outlawing of full-face veils, risks influencing policymaking across the continent.

Creeping civil society curbs threaten rights in Europe in 2023

The threat to civil society organisations protecting human rights now not just from Russia, Turkey, Hungary and Poland but also from elected governments in states whose democracies appear healthy, such as France, Greece, Italy, and the United Kingdom.

The problem of corruption in Ukraine — and a solution

Sunlight is the best disinfectant— so in a way, it is encouraging to see corruption scandals coming to the fore, as this may deter potential future graft, a key prerequisite for Kyiv's eventual EU accession.

This 'deregulation' lobbying now threatens EU economy

Next week's EU summit (17-18 April) will discuss the strategic agenda for the next five years. The current "competitiveness agenda" is to a large extent driven by a big lobbying campaign — so far, not well covered by the media.

Latest News

  1. UK-EU deal on Gibraltar only 'weeks away'
  2. Belgium declares war on MEPs who took Russian 'cash'
  3. Brussels Dispatches: Foreign interference in the spotlight
  4. Calling time on Amazon's monopolism and exploitation
  5. Resist backlash on deforestation law, green groups tell EU
  6. China's high-quality development brings opportunities to the world
  7. Ukraine tops aid list again, but EU spending slumps
  8. Who did Russia pay? MEPs urge spies to give names

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us