Why do we need rights and democracy groups?
Everyone wants properly working hospitals, right? And decent schools to educate the next generation? And well-trained police officers to serve our communities? Of course we do. And we also want a government that acts in the public interest and keeps their hands off our freedoms. But for that to happen we also need healthy, well-resourced rights and democracy groups.
What do these groups do?
Human rights defenders call out governments when they break the law. They keep the public informed about how laws and policies can affect them. And they give the people a way of getting organised to speak with one voice on issues that concern them. You're not happy about cuts to your pension or a decision to tear down a forest? You want to join a protest or write to your politicians? You can bet that there's an organisation out there helping people like you get organised and stay informed.
Why are these groups in trouble?
Some governments, like those in Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Poland and Romania, are cutting or blocking funding to human rights defenders. In some cases, governments are also drowning activists in bureaucracy and attacking them through smear campaigns. All so they can't do their job of helping the public have its say about how it is governed. Although the problems are more serious in some countries, there are difficulties across the EU. The EU should invest in rights defenders at home, like it does abroad, to protect shared values like the rule of law, democracy and civil liberties.
Why should the EU support them?
At the moment in Europe, human rights defenders just don't have the resources they need to fight abusive governments and stand up for fairness and justice. The EU funds organisations like this outside Europe to the tune of hundreds of millions of euros a year. But there's no EU money to help Europeans protect rights and democracy inside the EU - even though the EU is legally committed to defending these commonly shared values. Instead, organisations rely on money from philanthropists and a few non-EU governments, especially Norway. But this is not enough. The EU has to play its part to keep the flame of democracy burning bright.
OK, this is a good idea, what can I do?
The European Parliament recently endorsed the creation of the European Values Instrument by a large majority and asked the European Commission to include it in its upcoming bill for the EU's next seven-year budget. This is a step towards victory for Liberties. But we still have a long way to go. The signs are that the Commission will ignore
the European Parliament and only make small changes to existing rules when it publishes its proposals on new funding programmes on 30th May. This will not be enough to
help organisations fighting for civil liberties to keep democracy alive
and healthy across Europe. Make your voice heard before 30th May and tell the Commission to create the European Values Instrument. Send our model email on the right of this page to Frans Timmermans, First Vice President of the Commission, and Gunther Oettinger, Commissioner in charge of the EU budget, in just a few clicks.