The promotion and protection of human rights are a priority for Belgium, both at national level and in its relations with other countries. Respect for human rights is of prime importance in itself, but also contributes to peace, security and development in all countries. These three aspects must in turn reinforce the protection of human rights. States have the prime responsibility of respecting, protecting and implementing these rights.
Since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations and other regional organisations have drawn up many binding agreements which have considerably strengthened human rights protection.
The human rights field of initiative has been considerably extended and diversified over recent years at international, regional and national level. Belgium strives to ensure respect for these rights and their development in the international arena, within the competent institutions as well as in the field.
Human rights are incorporated into all aspects of our foreign policy, whether it be in our relations with third countries, in the field of development cooperation or combating terrorism, for example.
The priorities for Belgium in terms of human rights are in particular:
- The fight against the death penalty, torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishments.
- Respect for civil and political rights, economic, social and cultural rights and the universality of these rights.
- The protection of women’s and children’s rights and the rightsof human rights defenders.
- The fight against impunity, respect for the rule of law, and the promotion of international criminal justice.
- The fight against all forms of racism, xenophobia and intolerance, as well as all forms of discrimination.
- Respect for fundamental rights within the framework of the fight against terrorism.
- The strengthening of the powers and efficiency of international and regional institutions active in the field of human rights.
Human rights defenders work to strengthen the protection and realization of human rights of others. They work at national and international levels, either individually or with others. In many parts of the world, defending human rights is one of the most dangerous things you can do. You can rarely open a newspaper without reading about and being reminded of the threats and attacks on human rights defenders.
Human rights at international level
We have committed to support Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) in line with the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders . This Declaration was adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly in 1998, and it remains the normative basis for international efforts for human rights defenders. The Declaration has been translated into several local languages by the Human Rights Centre Uganda. The UN has also established a Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders. This post is currently held by Margaret Sekaggya from Uganda. The Special Rapporteur is an important actor in efforts to improve the situation of human rights defenders in all parts of the world. See more information about the Special Rapporteur and her mandate.
But what does the UN Declaration mean in practical terms? The EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders provide a practical template to improve European Union (EU) action on the ground, including efforts by EU embassies. In 2010, the EU missions and the EU delegation in Kampala decided to look at ways of implementing the EU Guidelines in their work in Uganda. A consultation process included meetings with other relevant stakeholders, including civil society and the UN. The efforts resulted in The Local Implementation Strategy where you can find more detailed information, including:
• Who should you contact in an emergency regarding a HRD?
• What can the embassies in Kampala do for HRDs?
• What funding opportunities and prizes are available to HRDs?
• Which international organisations provide support to HRDs?
Key dates of interest to HRDs:
International Women's Day – 8th March
World Press Freedom Day – 3rd May
International Day Against Homophobia - 17th May
International Day Against the Death Penalty – 10th October
International Women Human Rights Defenders Day – 29th November
International Human Rights Defenders Day – 9th December
International Human Rights Day – 10 December
Emergency phone number: (+256) 0783 027 611.