The European Parliament expresses its deep concern over the unremitting attacks on democracy and shrinking space for civil society worldwide, in a resolution adopted on Wednesday.

In a resolution taking stock of the situation for human rights in the world, the European Parliament denounces the ongoing pushback against democracy, multilateralism and the rules-based international order that continues to pose a serious challenge to human rights.

With a particular focus on developments last year, MEPs highlight the rise of authoritarianism as a political project around the world and stress the link between the increase in human rights violations, widespread impunity and the lack of accountability in those regions and countries devastated by conflicts or characterised by politically motivated intimidation, discrimination and killings.

They call on the international community to support actions aimed at combating impunity and on the EU’s Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell to appoint an EU Special Representative to promote, mainstream and represent the EU’s commitment in the field.

The text was adopted on Wednesday by 496 votes in favour, 113 against with 103 abstentions.

Parliament is also deeply concerned that seats on various human rights-related bodies, including the UN Human Rights Council, are occupied by countries with a proven record of grave human rights violations.

Concrete solutions needed

The resolution calls on the European Commission and EU countries to adopt a new, ambitious and binding Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy for the next five years, addressing all challenges and involving the European Parliament, so that MEPs can properly monitor its implementation. For the EU, the central objective of advancing human rights and democracy around the world requires it to be mainstreamed in all EU policies that have an external dimension, says the text.

To increase the EU’s leverage, Parliament highlights that trade and human rights should reinforce one another, and that the business community has an important role to play in this regard. MEPs call on the European Commission and the European External Action Service to duly enforce human rights conditionality clauses in international agreements between EU and non-EU countries, and monitor serious human rights violations that might occur through, for example, business activity.

The text also recalls that businesses have a responsibility to ensure that their operations and supply chains are not implicated in human rights abuses, such as forced and child labour. European companies should play a leading role in promoting international standards on business and human rights. MEPs therefore call for a legislative proposal on corporate human rights and due diligence to prevent abuses and enhance victims’ access to judicial remedy.

EU human rights sanctions mechanism

The European Parliament also welcomes the initial exploratory discussions in the Council on a global EU human rights sanctions mechanism (the so-called Magnitsky list), but calls for speedier talks to allow the mechanism to be put in place with adequate funding as soon as possible. This regime would allow for targeted sanctions against individuals complicit in serious human rights violations.

“The European Parliament has a responsibility to speak with a strong, clear and united voice when it comes to human rights. That is why, as rapporteur, I have striven throughout the negotiations to find a consensus. Today, we can all be proud: Parliament adopted the report on the situation of democracy and human rights by a very large majority”, said rapporteur Isabel Wiseler-Lima (EPP, LU) after the vote.

The resolution was originally prepared by Ms Wiseler-Lima and MEPs in the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights (DROI).