Growing EU-PH cooperation on human rights seen
December 10, this year’s International Human Rights Day, gave us an occasion to take stock of what we, in the human rights movement, have achieved so far and what we still have to do. It was also a day for reflection as to where the challenges in our advocacy lie. The 63rd anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights might sound commonplace, but it reminded us that we still have much to do in advancing the cause of human rights.
Still, Dec. 10 was also an opportunity to honor, remember and thank those who fought and are still fighting against human rights abuses everywhere in the world. It was as well an occasion to share some good news, some success stories in our common goal to advance the cause of human rights—be it through the fight against torture or violence against women and children, or through the promotion and protection of the rights of the child, or through support for human rights defenders.
Common EU-PH interest. For both the Philippines and the European Union, respect for human rights is a universal goal. Human rights, democracy and the rule of law are core values of the EU and are embedded in the EU’s founding treaties. In the Philippines, human rights are guaranteed by the Constitution, and an independent Commission on Human Rights (CHR) is monitoring compliance with the country’s human rights laws. In the international scene, the Philippines has been an active advocate of human rights and recently was reelected into the UN Human Rights Council. Only this summer, the Philippines ratified the Rome Statute and became the 117th state-party to the International Criminal Court. This development is particularly welcome because it shows the commitment of the Philippines to international criminal justice.
EU-PH cooperation on human rights. One of the EU’s human rights tools is the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights
(EIDHR), a cooperation program designed to support the development and consolidation of democracy, rule of law and human rights movements worldwide. With a global budget of 1.104 million euros between 2007 and 2013, this program provides assistance to civil society in the Philippines in various areas, such as support for human rights defenders, assistance to children in armed conflicts, fight against violence against women, promotion of rights and participation of indigenous peoples and other marginalized sectors of society, and fight against child trafficking and other forms of child abuse. The EU just launched this year a Call for Proposals for
EIDHR along these priorities, and has committed a total of 900,000 euros (P54 million) to support related campaigns spearheaded by civil society organizations.
EU’s assistance to families of victims of extralegal killings. The EU-Philippines Justice Support Program (Epjust) is aimed at assisting Philippine society (government agencies as well as relevant constitutional bodies and civil society) in bringing an end to extralegal killings (ELKs) and enforced disappearances (EDs). The project started in November 2009 and ended on July 31, 2011 with a budget of 3.9 million euros (P234 million). A total of P53 million was awarded to civil society organizations to assist victims of ELKs and EDs as well as their families. For instance, the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) provided various services to these victims, such as medical assistance, educational assistance, legal and paralegal assistance, psychosocial therapy, livelihood support and sanctuary. Overall, 258 individuals (of whom 42 percent were minors) on Luzon island received assistance between July 2010 and August 2011. Be it through medical and psychiatric assistance for torture victims or through the placement of victims and their families in sanctuaries, or through generation of job opportunities for victim-families to compensate for the loss of income previously earned by them, the grants under Epjust were able to improve the lives of those affected by ELKs and EDs.
While this is but one example—and there is definitely a need for more action across the whole spectrum of human rights—I hope this will serve to showcase what concrete impact EU-PH joint actions and mutual commitment to human rights can make.
Guy Ledoux is ambassador of the European Union.
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