EP Research Service Briefings are prepared for, and addressed to, the Members and staff of the European Parliament as background material to assist them in their parliamentary work.

“Support for human rights defenders (HRDs) is a long established component of the EU’s external human rights policy and one of its major priorities. With the adoption of Guidelines on HRDs in 2004, the EU established a set of concrete measures for ensuring the protection of HRDs at risk, including the provision of emergency aid. The guidelines encourage EU diplomats to take a more proactive approach by establishing contact with HRDs and intervening on their behalf when they are at risk. Furthermore, the European Commission manages a financial instrument in support of HRDs working in the world’s most dangerous situations. Today, EU support is all the more important, as the environment in which HRDs operate is increasingly restrictive and HRDs have been facing a growing number of threats. The European Parliament has been a long-time advocate of a comprehensive EU policy on HRDs and has actively contributed to its shaping. It has drawn attention to the difficulties confronting HRDs in many countries through its urgency resolutions on human rights breaches in the world, some of which have focused on individual HRDs and the particular threats they face. It has also organised hearings with HRDs, issued statements about cases of HRDs at risk, and highlighted the plight of HRDs during visits by its delegations to the countries concerned. The Parliament’s Sakharov Prize is the EU’s most visible action in favour of HRDs. It has a significant impact on laureates, providing them with recognition and, in many cases, indirect protection. This an updated version of a briefing from December 2015: PE 573.879.”