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Children's rights and the UN SDGs: A priority for EU external action

11-11-2019

The United Nations (UN) 2030 Agenda for sustainable development includes a strong commitment by all states to respect human rights, in line with international law and other relevant international documents, in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This covers the rights of the child as enshrined mainly in the UN Covenant on the Rights of the Child and other relevant human rights treaties. No action to implement the SDGs can be detrimental to the rights of the child. More ...

The United Nations (UN) 2030 Agenda for sustainable development includes a strong commitment by all states to respect human rights, in line with international law and other relevant international documents, in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This covers the rights of the child as enshrined mainly in the UN Covenant on the Rights of the Child and other relevant human rights treaties. No action to implement the SDGs can be detrimental to the rights of the child. More than a normative framework guiding the implementation of the SDGs, the rights of the child are a fundamental enabling factor for sustainable development and vice versa. Healthy, well-nourished, well-educated children, who are protected from violence and abuse, are the best guarantee of long-term sustainable development. On the other hand, the rights of the child can only be realised in an appropriate environment – peaceful, prosperous, protective of the child and fostering human development. Thus, there is a natural convergence between the SDGs and specific children's rights. The SDGs, through the comprehensive and regular monitoring they put in place, provide an opportunity for an assessment of the state of the most fundamental rights of the child, as enshrined in the Covenant. Most recent data actually warn that many relevant SDGs may not be achieved by 2030. While progress has been steady in certain areas, particularly on health-related issues, in others, progress has been less conclusive. The EU prioritises children's rights and relevant SDGs in its external action. It aims at mainstreaming human rights including children's rights in its development assistance to connect the normative and developmental dimensions. The European Parliament has repeatedly defended the need to protect and promote children's rights through EU external action, and has asked the Commission to propose a strategy and action plan in this sense.

Oleg Sentsov: The 2018 Sakharov Prize laureate

09-10-2019

Thirty years since it was first awarded, the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought retains all its symbolic meaning, as human rights are continually under threat in many parts of the world. By awarding the 2018 Prize to the Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, Parliament aimed to increase the pressure on the Russian government to release him. The award also drew attention to all Ukrainian political prisoners in Russia and the annexed Crimean peninsula. On 7 September 2019, Sentsov ...

Thirty years since it was first awarded, the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought retains all its symbolic meaning, as human rights are continually under threat in many parts of the world. By awarding the 2018 Prize to the Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, Parliament aimed to increase the pressure on the Russian government to release him. The award also drew attention to all Ukrainian political prisoners in Russia and the annexed Crimean peninsula. On 7 September 2019, Sentsov was released as part of a major prisoner swap between Russia and Ukraine. He is due to receive the award in person in Strasbourg on 26 November 2019.

Connecting parliamentary and executive diplomacy at EU and Member State level

27-09-2019

Parliaments are increasingly active in external policy, engaging in various ways with counterparts from third countries and other stakeholders. The European Parliament is very active in the field, having established complex networks of contacts and relations with other parliaments and international parliamentary assemblies. These are fostered through exchanges of views organised in committee and inter-parliamentary meetings with external partners, and through regular visits to third countries. Other ...

Parliaments are increasingly active in external policy, engaging in various ways with counterparts from third countries and other stakeholders. The European Parliament is very active in the field, having established complex networks of contacts and relations with other parliaments and international parliamentary assemblies. These are fostered through exchanges of views organised in committee and inter-parliamentary meetings with external partners, and through regular visits to third countries. Other areas of external activity range from electoral observation to conflict mediation in third countries. In order to organise such activities, parliaments rely to a high degree on the support of the executive branch, particularly of the diplomatic service. This support usually covers organisational and logistic matters, and includes regular exchanges of information between the representatives of the two branches of power. This raises interesting questions about the added value of parliamentary diplomacy in relation to traditional state diplomacy, about governments' awareness and recognition of this added value, and about the scope for autonomous parliamentary action. A comparison between the EU level and selected Member States with regard to the executive's support for parliamentary diplomacy reveals that the executive, and particularly diplomatic services, provide a high degree of support. More unequal across countries on the other hand are efforts to coordinate their actions in pursuit of common policy objectives, while preserving their autonomy and distinct roles. Recognition of the added value of parliamentary diplomacy remains crucial in this respect. Parliamentary diplomacy has specific advantages in comparison with executive diplomacy, such as an increased flexibility in establishing contacts with various local stakeholders, as well as communicating with fewer constraints and on more sensitive issues.

Human rights in EU trade agreements: The human rights clause and its application

08-07-2019

The practice of linking human rights with trade liberalisation has gained ground among many trade partners. Not only the EU, but also other important trade powers, such as the US and Canada, embed human and labour-rights provisions in their new trade agreements. For the EU, this ensues inevitably from the normative vision underlying all of its external policies, as enshrined in the Treaties. Accordingly, the EU has committed to respecting and promoting human rights and democracy through its external ...

The practice of linking human rights with trade liberalisation has gained ground among many trade partners. Not only the EU, but also other important trade powers, such as the US and Canada, embed human and labour-rights provisions in their new trade agreements. For the EU, this ensues inevitably from the normative vision underlying all of its external policies, as enshrined in the Treaties. Accordingly, the EU has committed to respecting and promoting human rights and democracy through its external action. The main mechanism for incorporating human rights into the EU's bilateral agreements consists of an 'essential elements' human rights clause that enables one party to take appropriate measures in case of serious breaches by the other party. The clause, which also covers democratic principles and often the rule of law, is more than just a legal mechanism enabling the unilateral suspension of trade commitments in times of crisis. It enshrines the parties' commitments to human rights and thus puts EU relations with third countries on a solid regulatory base, opening the path to dialogue and cooperation on human rights issues. So far, the EU has clearly preferred a constructive engagement to more restrictive measures, and has not activated the clause to suspend trade preferences under any of its trade agreements. Civil society and the European Parliament have, on the other hand, encouraged the European Commission to use the clause in a more robust way in order to respond to serious breaches of human rights and democratic principles. This briefing focuses exclusively on the EU's bilateral and regional free trade agreements. EU unilateral human and labour rights provisions in trade arrangements are addressed in a separate briefing. A forthcoming EPRS paper will provide more information about labour rights (many of which also form part of the human rights enshrined in international conventions) in EU bilateral agreements.

EU policies – Delivering for citizens: EU support for democracy and peace in the world

28-06-2019

From the outset, the European Union (EU) has been an integration project directed at preserving peace among its Member States – a fundamental objective that it has succeeded in achieving for over 60 years. As a community of like-minded states, the EU is also based on certain fundamental values, such as democracy and the rule of law, which the Union aspires to promote, both internally and externally, and which guide all its policies. In line with this vision, the EU has developed specific policies ...

From the outset, the European Union (EU) has been an integration project directed at preserving peace among its Member States – a fundamental objective that it has succeeded in achieving for over 60 years. As a community of like-minded states, the EU is also based on certain fundamental values, such as democracy and the rule of law, which the Union aspires to promote, both internally and externally, and which guide all its policies. In line with this vision, the EU has developed specific policies to support democracy and peace in the world. It also aims to integrate the pursuit of peace and democracy with all its other external actions in areas such as trade, development, enlargement and neighbourhood policies, its common foreign and security policy, and political and diplomatic relations with third countries and multilateral institutions. The EU has established a reputation as a soft power organisation guided by a normative vision and as an effective actor for peace and democracy. Strengthening peace and democracy globally has never been an easy task, however, and today's geopolitical context poses new challenges. The proliferation and increasing gravity and duration of conflicts – some in the EU's immediate neighbourhood, the emergence of new threats, such as terrorism or nuclear proliferation, and the crisis of liberal systems have driven the EU to widen and intensify its efforts. They have also led to a new vision for action revolving around the concept of 'resilient societies' based on the mutually reinforcing pillars of peace and democracy, and a special emphasis on fragile states. Against this background, recent surveys have shown that citizens expect the EU to be even more active in promoting peace and democracy externally – something that should surely strengthen its resolve to make further progress in this crucial area. This is an update of an earlier briefing issued in advance of the 2019 European elections.

EU policies – Delivering for citizens: Human Rights

28-06-2019

In the 70 years since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – the first international document to set common standards of achievement for all states – the pivotal role and moral, legal and political significance of human rights in the international arena have become indisputable. However, despite considerable progress in many areas on recognition, codification and implementation, human rights have also come under increased attack. Whether in theatres of war or in the political ...

In the 70 years since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – the first international document to set common standards of achievement for all states – the pivotal role and moral, legal and political significance of human rights in the international arena have become indisputable. However, despite considerable progress in many areas on recognition, codification and implementation, human rights have also come under increased attack. Whether in theatres of war or in the political arena, human rights are now often rejected on ideological grounds. The EU itself has not been spared by the current backlash. In its Member States, a populist wave has empowered some political forces that increasingly question the significance of core human rights, such as the right to freedom of expression. In these troubled times for human rights, opinion polls show that European citizens perceive human rights as one of the most important values for them personally and one of the values that best represent the EU itself. Having emerged from World War II and its atrocities, European countries were determined to secure lasting peace, and the Union they created is founded on respect for democracy, the rule of law and human rights, which guide and shape its legislation and policies. Within the EU, recent action has included new legislation on data protection and access to justice, the European Pillar of Social Rights, and initiatives to combat inequality, discrimination and hate speech. There is also an acknowledgement that more needs to be done to complete the legal framework to combat discrimination and strengthen internal mechanisms for upholding the rule of law. Human rights are additionally a general objective of EU external action. The EU is deeply committed to promoting human rights, as enshrined in international treaties, in its relations with third countries and with other multilateral regional and global institutions. During Parliament's last mandate, the EU consistently applied and deepened a range of policy approaches that strengthen its role and image as a normative power that inspires others through its example. Maintaining and consolidating this policy remains vital for preserving the EU's image and credibility as a normative power based on values, and one that has the capacity to act at a time when the principle of multilateralism is increasingly questioned. This is an update of an earlier briefing issued in advance of the 2019 European elections.

Women in politics: A global perspective

28-02-2019

Fair representation of women in political life has a positive impact on gender mainstreaming in various policies. The United Nations has set a dedicated target within the sustainable development goals dealing specifically with women's access to leadership. The available data on the presence of women in parliaments and in governments show a positive trend, but much still remains to be done to ensure an equal presence of both genders in decision-making. The European Union supports gender equality in ...

Fair representation of women in political life has a positive impact on gender mainstreaming in various policies. The United Nations has set a dedicated target within the sustainable development goals dealing specifically with women's access to leadership. The available data on the presence of women in parliaments and in governments show a positive trend, but much still remains to be done to ensure an equal presence of both genders in decision-making. The European Union supports gender equality in politics, and the European Parliament has reaffirmed the importance of such a policy on various occasions.

The death penalty and the EU's fight against it

12-02-2019

The European Union is strongly opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances, and fighting it is a foremost priority of its external human rights policy. While most countries in the world have abolished capital punishment, death sentences continue to be handed down and carried out in a number of countries. The Union uses its diplomatic and political weight to encourage these countries to join the abolitionist ranks, or at the very least to respect international minimum standards. It funds campaigns ...

The European Union is strongly opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances, and fighting it is a foremost priority of its external human rights policy. While most countries in the world have abolished capital punishment, death sentences continue to be handed down and carried out in a number of countries. The Union uses its diplomatic and political weight to encourage these countries to join the abolitionist ranks, or at the very least to respect international minimum standards. It funds campaigns to increase awareness of the need to end capital punishment, and restricts trade in substances that could be used for executions.

Gender equality and trade

31-01-2019

Trade liberalisation has a gender-differentiated impact inside and outside Europe. The EU, which is committed to promoting gender equality in all policies, has established specific mechanisms in its trade policy to enforce women's labour and human rights, and monitor the gender impact of its trade preferences. The European Parliament supports this policy and asked for it to be reinforced. This is an update of an ‘at a glance’ note from March 2018.

Trade liberalisation has a gender-differentiated impact inside and outside Europe. The EU, which is committed to promoting gender equality in all policies, has established specific mechanisms in its trade policy to enforce women's labour and human rights, and monitor the gender impact of its trade preferences. The European Parliament supports this policy and asked for it to be reinforced. This is an update of an ‘at a glance’ note from March 2018.

Child labour: A priority for EU human rights action

15-01-2019

Despite a comprehensive normative international framework that prohibits child labour, it persists in many areas of the world, particularly in developing countries. In sub-Saharan-Africa, it has even increased in recent years. More efforts are therefore needed to combat child labour. However, not all work performed by children is harmful to their health and development. The first task is therefore to distinguish child labour – which entails harmful forms of work – from other forms of children's involvement ...

Despite a comprehensive normative international framework that prohibits child labour, it persists in many areas of the world, particularly in developing countries. In sub-Saharan-Africa, it has even increased in recent years. More efforts are therefore needed to combat child labour. However, not all work performed by children is harmful to their health and development. The first task is therefore to distinguish child labour – which entails harmful forms of work – from other forms of children's involvement with work that are acceptable and have an educational component. While international conventions provide a broad definition of child labour, they leave the task of defining more precise criteria, such as the acceptable number of working hours per week or what constitutes hazardous work, to national legislation. Child labour is a complex phenomenon that has a multiplicity of causes, among which poverty usually features first. It requires a comprehensive approach to fight it, including awareness-raising among families and local communities, due diligence by companies involved in global supply chains, and action by governments, international organisations and civil society. The European Union protects children's rights through both its internal and external policies. It has deployed measures to fight child labour through cooperation with international organisations and has funded development projects whose aim is to counter it. The human rights conditionality enshrined in the EU's trade arrangements provides another path for tackling child labour. Nevertheless, there are numerous calls from civil society and the European Parliament to impose binding legal obligations on EU-based companies, to make sure their imports of goods from developing countries are free of child labour.

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