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03 May 2023

The European Defence of Democracy Package: how it and NHRIs can strengthen civic space

The European Commission’s Defence of Democracy package introduces measures aimed at fostering electoral resilience and enabling civic space and engagement. In a new submission on the package, ENNHRI emphasises that the initiative should strengthen internal frameworks for protecting and promoting civic space, democracy, and rule of law.

ENNHRI’s submission highlights the role, findings and recommendations of NHRIs. This is with a view to strengthening the recommendation on civic engagement envisaged under the Defence of Democracy Package.

In a time of shrinking civic space, ENNHRI welcomes the initiative to defend democracy. While recognising the relevance of countering interference in democratic processes by countries outside the European Union (EU), ENNHRI strongly encourages the EU to prioritise democratic resilience internally. This includes through facilitating EU internal civic dialogue and safeguarding an enabling environment for human rights defenders (HRDs).

ENNHRI recommends the EU uses this initiative to support civil society organisations and rights defenders’ effective involvement in law- and policy-making processes. This should include facilitating meaningful and inclusive human rights impacts assessments and encouraging state authorities to follow up NHRIs’ recommendations.

Furthermore, ENNHRI calls for the Commission to ensure an enabling environment for civil society and human rights defenders. This should involve taking measures to protect and support rights defenders against threats and harassment, including by bolstering NHRIs’ role in this. In addition, ENNHRI advocates for the establishment of an EU internal mechanism. Doing so would enable human rights defenders to report attacks, register risks, map trends, and activate timely support.

ENNHRI stands ready to cooperate with the European Commission on this initiative and other action to promote and protect civic space and human rights defenders in the EU.

Read and download our full submission on the Defence of Democracy package.

Learn more about ENNHRI’s further work on democracy, the rule of law and civic space.