Deepening crisis in Ukraine highlights importance of human rights

The escalating situation in Ukraine shows why economic, social and cultural rights are so essential, writes Madi Sharma.

By Madi Sharma

04 Mar 2014

As the world watches the situation in Ukraine, Syria, Afghanistan the European economic and social committee has been holding discussions on the foundations of human rights and the EU policy to be pursued. As international relations and humanitarian crises tend to be more and more complex, the need to bring the true meaning of protecting an individual's human rights needs to be more clearly defined. The reality is that the problems people face in reaching an acceptable standard of living are becoming even more challenging. In most cases these problems commence with the abuse of an individual's economic, social and/or cultural rights (ESCR).

During the last few years we have become witnesses to the most devastating human rights violations. Mass killings in Libya, a humanitarian crisis in Syria, where chemical weapons were used against civilian populations, mass graves and systematic human rights violations in Baluchistan and the tragedy of the Ukrainian people just at the doorstep of Europe, are all indications that the economic, social and cultural rights are more timely than ever.

"During the last few years we have become witnesses to the most devastating human rights violations"

Stavros Lambrinidis, the EU special representative for human rights, efforts toward this direction have been invaluable. Lambrinidis through his tireless political initiatives has been promoting the principles of the ESCRs through the world in applying the principles that are found deep within the foundations of the European structure, the founding treaties themselves.

As I have pointed out in many occasions in the past, the role of civil society organisations in monitoring human rights situations and most importantly in compelling governments and public authorities to adjust their policies in complying with the international human rights standards is fundamental. Due to the inherent flexibility of the NGOs , their reactions tend to come first in addressing humanitarian crises, while their assistance is highly valuable in complementing the actions and initiatives that the EU and the international community are taking in these areas.

Nevertheless, a challenge in applying the ESCRs in our initiatives is the efficiency of our efforts. The most important tools in that direction are impact assessments and clauses within the international agreements. The European Union's external policy emphasises the evaluation of the impact of human rights on international agreements and the deployment of financial aid provided to third countries, in ensuring that the policies adopted are bringing the results aimed. At the same time, in its cooperation with third countries, the EU is placing great concern in including human rights clauses in its international agreements so that our counterparties have a clear vision of the European Union's perspective on these issues.

The European Union needs to realise the value of the ESRCs in forming its policies. This requires every organ acting on behalf of the EU should fully understand their meaning and be able to apply these principles in directing the EU policies in the areas that need most our attention. This should be the driving force that navigates the initiatives that the EU is taking in assisting with development and peacekeeping in every corner of the world.

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