Written by Alina Dobreva
The aim of the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) is to provide support for the promotion of democracy and human rights in non-EU countries. The EIDHR was established in 2006, and reflects the founding values of the European Union (EU): democracy and respect for human rights, and the requirement that the Union’s external actions should be guided by the same principles (Article 21 of the TEU). The EIDHR addresses sensitive political issues and provides flexible assistance, in the context of deteriorating protection for democracy and human rights in some countries, and increasingly complex geopolitical situations, which often extend beyond national borders. This makes implementing the EIDHR increasingly challenging, but also timely. Although the budgetary allocation for the EIDHR is a small part of the overall EU budget (€1.3 billion allocated for 2014-20, which is 0.12% of the overall EU budget for the period), the Instrument has a significant role. In the academic literature, the EIDHR is referred to as the ‘jewel in the crown’ of EU instruments for external assistance, because of its focus on fundamental democratic principles, and as ‘unique’ because of its global scope.
The EIDHR programme cooperates directly with local civil society organisations (approximately 90% of EIDHR partners come from civil society; the remaining 10% are predominantly international organisations) without the need for approval of, or collaboration with, national authorities. This approach makes for speedy and efficient implementation of the EIDHR. The EIDHR funding is not strictly bound to geographical targets, but rather focuses on thematic objectives within EU international cooperation and development policy. The themes include support for human rights defenders and other key actors, support for EU Election Observation Missions, as well as numerous projects related to supporting human dignity; tackling impunity and discrimination in all its forms; all aspects of democratisation (e.g. enhancing participatory and representative democracy, transparency, and accountability; the rule of law). In 2014, projects funded included Supporting Actors for Sustainable Protection of Human Rights in Afghanistan (SAHRA); Media Freedom Support in Russia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan; and Green Voices Cambodia: Enhancing free speech for Cambodia’s environmental human rights defenders. New actions in the 2015 work programme include Supporting Democracy – Media and freedom of expression in the framework of the pilot exercise for democracy.
Democracy and human rights are seen as a prerequisite for poverty alleviation as well as conflict prevention and resolution, and as bulwarks against terrorism. Therefore, the EIDHR has a key role to play in the overall international assistance policy of the EU. It needs to function in a coordinated and complementary fashion together with other programmes operating with three types of funding: programmes under the EU budget heading ‘Global Europe’ (such as Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace; Partnership Instrument; European Neighbourhood Instrument; Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance II; and Instrument for Development Cooperation), the European Development Fund (EDF) (funded by direct contributions from the Member States and not part of the EU budget), and individual Member States’ programmes and funds, which are regulated and funded at national level.