This year marks the 25 anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action for Human Rights. This landmark text paved the way for significant human rights advances. It helped spearhead the creation of new laws and human rights institutions offering stronger protection worldwide. On this anniversary, the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) and the UN’s Human Rights Office call on EU Member States to continue to stand up for the rights of everyone across Europe.
“After 25 years the Vienna Declaration’s legacy in Europe stands tall. Laws and institutions protect millions of people and offer hope to others,” says FRA Director, Michael O’Flaherty. “But at the same time, inequalities, intolerance and injustice feature in the daily lives of too many people. Let us use this anniversary to galvanise our efforts so that the rights of everyone across Europe are respected.”
“The Vienna Declaration affirms the indivisibility of all human rights, whether civil and political rights or economic, social and cultural rights,” says Birgit Van Hout, Regional Representative for Europe of the UN’s Human Rights body. “Yet, the latter set of rights are not always given the same importance. We hope this will change with the adoption by EU Member States of the European Social Pillar and the Sustainable Development Goals, so no one is left behind."
In June 1993, world leaders convened and committed to advancing human rights. They underlined how human rights contribute to peace and security as well as social and economic development. As Europe faces growing intolerance and greater inequalities, this message remains as true today as it did back then.
It also reaffirmed the principle that human rights are universal, applying to everyone, and should be promoted and protected by all countries. With many people across society feeling alienated, marginalised and under attack, a concerted effort is needed to unite and halt the erosion of support for human rights that is happening in many corners of Europe.
This has led to many parts of society – the young, the old, women, as well as minorities and migrants – suffering discrimination, intolerance and hate in their daily lives.
After 25 years, we have built a solid base of laws and institutions across the EU to promote and protect rights. The EU’s Fundamental Rights Charter is a case in point. It offers human rights guarantees for everyone across the EU for issues ranging from education to employment, from data protection to justice.
FRA and the UN will continue to work hand-in-hand to build on the solid base that we already have. Together with the EU and its Member States we will further our efforts to ensure Europe delivers in practice on its existing laws and policies. These include enabling fair and just working conditions, greater social security, protection of privacy and more political participation. The Vienna Declaration 25 years on is a reminder to us all to stand up for human rights.