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Make the Multiannual Financial Framework benefit for Human

Position Paper

April 2018

The EU is seeking to optimize the architecture of the external financing instruments in its next
Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF). FIDH would like to encourage EU institutions to make
this reform an opportunity for human rights. To that end, the new instruments should be designed in
order to both enhance their concrete ability to foster positive impacts on human rights and to tackle
the expanding phenomena of shrinking space for civil society.
Enhance the ability of the external financing instrument to promote and consolidate human
There are three ways to make financial support instruments beneficial for human rights. First, funds
can be used to directly support human rights and the rule of law (for example, by financing the fight
against impunity and torture, support legislative reforms and land titling processes). Second,
financial instruments can be used as a tool to incentivize human rights reforms (such as using
conditionality mechanisms and linking the availability of funds to the human rights performances of
the partner country). Third, objectives and procedures can be developed to insure that all of the
financial support provided by the EU seeks concrete and positive impacts on human rights. These
tools and methods should be clarified and enhanced in the new MFF as follows.
Secure direct support for human rights and rule of law at core of external financing instruments and
develop results oriented strategies.
Direct support for human rights and rule of law should be reaffirmed as one of the main objectives
of each instrument providing financial support to third countries. In that regard, the new MFF
should remain attentive to the following issues:
- Ensure the relevance and the sustainability of the support provided. Better involvement of civil
society should be ensured in the designing of the priorities and programs; better complementarity
among the different budget lines and supports should be ensured to guaranty that short terms
projects, addressing urgent issues, are followed and complemented by long-term strategies;
- Ensure better flexibility to enhance the reactivity and complementarity with the other EU tools and
policies. The lack of results of the human rights dialogues, for example, is continuously denounced.
Making additional human rights envelopes available to tackle the main challenges identified ahead
and during the dialogues would ensure better follow up. It would also reinforce the efficiency of the
dialogues, by enabling the EU to effectively negotiate agreements on reforms by having timely
incentive available to offer. This also applies for when the EU is negotiating new agreements with
third countries. Support for specific human rights should be available to realise human rights impact
assessments in the partner countries, to support human rights flanking measures needed to prepare
and accompany the implementation of the upcoming agreements, etc.;

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- Ensure results oriented approach by involving target groups and human rights defenders (HRDs)
in the definition of the indicators and benchmarks and in the assessment process of the impacts of
the human rights and rule of law support. Also provide for withdrawal procedures when, for
example, the EU is supporting enforcement authorities or judicial system reforms but remains
confronted to their use as a direct instrument to crackdown on HRDs;
- Distinguish the direct support to human rights provided by geographical instruments from the one
provided under EIDHR. It is fundamental to distinguish clearly between country reforms needing
government involvement (and that are to be specifically encouraged as such) and the specific nature
of EIDHR, which is able to fill the remaining gaps, as highlighted in the mid-term review of the
external financing instruments.
Human rights conditionality to be smart and dynamic
For around two decade, the EU has included conditionality clauses in the autonomous instruments
under which the EU grants financial aid to third countries. We have seen however a clear lack of
transparency and coherence, as well as a progressive disqualification of the relevance of
conditionality to foster human rights. We urge the EU to not divert conditionality from its original
human rights purpose and to avoid a shift in the use of conditionality to serve other objectives, like
the EU migration agenda. We recommend that conditionality, allowing the use of the financial
support programs as carrots and sticks, not only be reaffirmed but also clearly improved and
conceived in a smarter and progressive approach.
- The “more for more” approach should be invigorated, expanded and be better conceived to ensure
that any enhanced support actually rewards effective progress in the field of human rights, rule of
law and democratic principles. Clear procedures and efficient assessment mechanisms should be set
up to that end. In addition, regular reports should document the link between support provided and
human rights performance, so they can be used to attest that the governments that are cracking
down on civil society the most brutally are not awarded with generous new aid;
- The conditionality tool should be used to duly react to developments regarding human rights, rule
of law and democracy only. Conditionality should not be diluted in the realisation of the other
partnership objectives;
- Sanctions and reactive measures to human rights violations should remain a tool at disposal.
Enhanced dialogue and monitoring should be envisaged as first steps, fostering better engagement
of the partner government in agreeing on roadmaps and implementation. Sanctions should be
envisaged, taking into account the whole range of the instruments and policies that the EU has at its
disposal. Specific implementation mechanisms should be set up to that end. They should better
involve different EU institutions and civil society in triggering, assessing and formulating
proposals, as to ensure the reactive measures being fine-tuned to ground developments.
-Precautionary measures should be taken to ensure aid suspension, if envisaged, does not negatively
impact the basic needs of the populations. Suspension of financial support, and its redirection by
non-governmental channels to the direct benefit of the population, should necessarily be envisaged
when the aid is diverted to its end considering ongoing serious and systematic human rights
Every financial support should be designed in a way ensuring positive impacts on human rights
The architecture of the external financing instruments should ensure that activities financially
supported do not negatively impact human rights and enhance human rights benefits. Every project
and program should be designed in order to concretely benefit human rights and prevent negative
- The weaknesses in the quality of indicators in country programmes and action documents are to be
addressed with the support of civil society and HRDs. Human rights considerations are often only
raised regarding the sole activities that are expressly dedicated to human rights, rule of law or good
governance. Other sectors (energy, migration, rural support etc) generally lack of human rights

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indicators, benchmarks and human rights expected results. This has to be corrected.
- Rights based approaches should be applied to private sector when involved in financial support.
- Human rights impacts assessment should be generalized, and conducted in a manner to ensure we
can adapt the financial support in time
- Problem solving mechanisms should be provided to affected populations and NGOs to address
negative human rights impacts of financial support
Ensure the reform of the external financial instruments takes duly the shrinking space for
civil society into account
The global clampdown on civil society has deepened and accelerated in recent years. Over a
hundred governments have introduced restrictive laws limiting the operations of civil society
organisations (CSOs). Many regimes also deploy a range of other – formal and informal – tactics to
block CSOs. Restrictions on civil society are intensifying in non-democratic but also democratic
countries. The number of human rights defenders killed by governments is at a record high across
the world. The EU has begun to design a multi-faceted response to the shrinking space for civil
society. One of them is the dedicated support the EU is offering to protect human rights defenders
(HRDs) from regimes’ increasingly draconian attempts to quash civil society. Yet there are ways to
help the EU to address the more structural dimensions of the shrinking space problem.
Reinforce the support provided through EIDHR

The proposed list of instruments for the next Multinational Financial framework, annexed to the
Junker letter dated 1 March, plans to merge EIDHR with other thematic and geographical
instruments. While the EU staff working documents on the mid-term review state that all
instruments are “relevant and fit for purpose”, we have so far been lacking any concrete examples
to justify why a merger would bring improvements. It is only in very few cases that the merging
could generate an added value, like in the case of DCI and EDF. In the new architecture, in any
case, the EIDHR should be preserved as a separate instrument. It is crucial for the Union's
credibility. Indeed, putting the existence of the EIDHR, as a single, distinct and visible instrument
into question, would send a negative signal and would also call into question the EU’s global
leadership and commitment to protect and promote democracy and human rights. The EU must in
consequence preserve a dedicated EIDHR instrument, boost its budget, and prevent the reallocation
of funds from EIDHR to other financial lines. EIDHR should be confirmed in its unique features
and modalities: providing direct support to human rights defenders and local civil society
organisations and, in some circumstances with unregistered organisations, without the need for a
prior approval of national authorities. Its responsiveness and flexibility in terms of confidentiality,
reporting and sub- granting should be also duly preserved.

Each instrument should set up common goals including the necessity to enhance a rights-based
approach and to mainstream human rights, providing substance to Art. 21 of the TEU requiring that
the EU seek to consolidate democracy, human rights and the rule of law as a necessary objective of
external relations. Yet, EIDHR, with its specificities, remains an increasingly relevant
complementary tool in the shrinking space context. That was clearly stated in the mid-term review
of the external financing instruments that stressed the lack of interest or resistance for partner
government to working in support of human rights1;

The EU needs to map out a clearer strategic approach to address the challenges of shrinking space
and frame its external instruments to fully fit with this purpose
On June 2017 the Council of the European Union, reiterated its concerns regarding shrinking space,
insisted on the importance of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in economic, social, political,
environmental, development, security and humanitarian fields and reaffirmed that EU support to
COM (2017), 270 final, Brussels 15.12.2017

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CSOs should be featured more prominently in all partnerships. The Council added that a more
strategic engagement with CSOs should be mainstreamed in all external instruments and
programmes and in all areas of cooperation, in particular in EU Development Policy, the European
Neighbourhood Policy and the EU Enlargement Policy2. In the context of the reform of the MFF, it
means to:
- Expand Framework Partnership Agreements (FPAs) with networks of CSOs;
- Deepen the meaningful and structured participation of CSOs in dialogues on budgets and aid
priorities at country, regional and EU level;
- Ensure that the support provided to CSOs values, allows and sustains advocacy efforts and sharing
of information with EU institutions, EU Member States, regional and multinational fora;
- Make the financial instruments to provide core funding for NGOs;
- Clarify and provide more opportunities to derogate to the co-financing requirement;
- Foster multiannual partnerships with CSOs and incentivise multi-countries dynamics;
- Ensure CSO funds remain available and easily accessible at the delegation level for locally based
- Provide funds to CSOs operating outside their home country base, where regimes are imposing
restrictive conditions, and find innovative ways to support individual activists and networks that are
not registered as formal association. Financial regulations might include firmer and more significant
exceptions for those CSOs in particular danger, enabling support to flow more smoothly to such
bodies even where they might not fulfil all the EU’s normal accounting requirements.
In addition to using its external financing instruments to sustain CSOs and their activities, the EU
should also tackle shrinking space by approaching the issue overall. It should ensure better CSO
involvement at every stage of the project and programming cycle, including defining indicators and
benchmarks. It could set up dedicated mechanisms to match the assessment of each country’s
shrinking space trends with the detailed specificities of the EU programming. A monitoring role to
CSOs should be recognised, planned and supported. Their assessment should serve a better result
oriented approach and more transparent and regular evaluations of the aid provided and its impacts
also on human rights. Their assessment and ability to follow up on the implementation of the
support provided may also feed a new “early warning mechanism on shrinking space” – a
mechanism that NGOs, during the last EU-NGO forum December 2017, appealed to see set up
without delays.
Better effort should globally be made to ensure better coherence and complementarity among the
different budget lines and instruments, to avoid diverting instruments from their original purpose, to
insist on new challenges like enhancing support to sustain regional human rights courts and the
ICC, to set up and improve systems to better monitor and measure performance on a daily basis
with the help and support of human rights defenders.

Council of the European union, « EU engagement with civil society in external relations », council conclusions, 19
June 2017

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