Minister Vanackere addresses the EU Human Rights Forum

The promotion and protection of human rights is one of the fundamental building blocks of the EU’s external policy. A crucial element in this connection is the regular dialogue maintained by the EU with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) throughout the world. The importance attached to this dialogue by the EU was reflected by the participants in the annual EU-NGO Forum on Human Rights held in Brussels on 12 and 13 July.

The EU Human Rights Forum is an annual event that brings together around 150 participants, mainly representatives of NGOs from around the world, but also of European and international institutions and from the 27 EU Member States. The Forum offers civil society a platform for setting out its vision regarding the EU’s human rights policy and formulating recommendations for future activities in this connection.

The EU is undergoing major institutional reforms following the approval of the Lisbon Treaty. Accordingly, the theme of this year’s Forum was “EU Human Rights instruments and the Lisbon Treaty: State of play and way forward”. After all, the Treaty of Lisbon that has just entered into force underscores the EU’s commitment to human rights and reiterates that the promotion and protection of these rights constitute key objectives in the EU’s external relations.

Those attending the Forum were welcomed by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Baroness Ashton, and by Belgian Foreign Minister Steven Vanackere. In four specific workshops, the Forum’s participants considered the EU human rights instruments used to oppose the death penalty; the task facing the EU in promoting and protecting economic, social and cultural rights; the EU’s relations with regional human rights mechanisms like the Council of Europe, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the African Union, the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) or the Organisation of American States (OAS); and the consistency of the EU’s internal and external policy on human rights within the framework of the Lisbon Treaty.

This provided ample material for an in-depth discussion about lessons learned from the past and future challenges facing the EU with respect to its protection of human rights.