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International Partnerships

The EU supports democratisation and fundamental freedoms in partner countries by encouraging broad participation in political decision-making and local ownership of sectors that are key to sustainable development. Depending on the particular objectives of each action, we work with a wide range of partners, including grass-roots organisations, international parliamentary associations, advocacy and watch-dog organisations, electoral bodies, political foundations, parliaments and the media. Particular emphasis in based on facilitating the involvement of women and youth in civic and political life.

Democratic governance

Democratic governance is about how interests are articulated, resources are managed and power is exercised. Underlying it are the rules, processes and behaviour which determine how the state serves its citizens.

Principles for good governance are participation, inclusion, transparency and accountability. It focuses on the 'duty bearers' of the Rights Based Approach. Support to democratic governance also encompasses the non-state actors that contribute to a functional democratic system. Good governance can also be thought of as a system whereby the state applies the Rights Based Approach to its actions.

Civil registration

Registration of citizens lies at the backbone of any attempt to improve democratic governance, particularly for the most marginalised and disadvantaged people. An estimated 1 billion people are without legal identity, the majority are women and children in Sub Saharan Africa and South Asia.

Without such identity, individuals do not have access to basic rights and services, and governments cannot plan and allocate resources in an equitable fashion. Civil registration is also linked to e-governance, improving government services.

Electoral support

Election assistance may be defined as the technical or material support given to the electoral process. It has been the mainstay of democracy support for many years, and still represents the bulk of EU funding.

Elections are the visible manifestation of a democratic system, giving voice to citizens and presenting a vital and powerful symbol to the country and international community.

Our support looks at the entire electoral cycle, encompassing all the elements that contribute to an inclusive, credible and transparent election.

The EU is increasingly focusing on election observation, and the role of both domestic and international (EU) observers in ensuring democratic progress isn't restricted to the election period.

Parliaments and political parties

Parliaments and political parties remain the key institutions of political representation and participation. Elections count for little – however impressive in their technical efficiency – without them. Independent, inclusive, transparent and effective parliaments and capable, democratic and policy-oriented political parties, acting within fair multi-party systems, are an essential element of a healthy political system. They are also important partners for sustainable development as recognised in the new European Consensus on Development.

Beyond this, new and wider forms of citizen engagement are emerging, including increasingly through the use of digital technologies. EU support to this wider democratic ecology runs risks, and can be politically sensitive, particularly in a climate of authoritarianism and intolerance. However, these areas have been relatively underfunded in recent years, and the recent EIDHR Mid Term Review highlighted the importance of stepping up EU support.

Fundamental Freedoms

Freedom of opinion, freedom of expression and the Right to information are essential to democratic governance. Recent years have seen these freedoms under particular threat, exacerbated by increasing populism and authoritarianism, even within the European Union. Support to independent media and civil society provides an essential counter to these regressive tendencies, ensuring that alternative voices are heard, injustice flagged and authority challenged. Digital technologies have fundamentally changed the landscape - for good and ill - underlining the importance of protecting fundamental freedoms online as well as off.


Fighting corruption is essential to achieve the SDGs, impacting upon the efficiency and legitimacy of our programmes as well as poverty alleviation and wider development outcomes. It also has an important human rights and gender aspect, as corruption impacts predominantly on the most marginalised sections of society – women and youth in particular. As EU support transitions to large scale investment operations, the importance of ensuring funds ultimately benefit those for whom they are intended becomes all the more challenging, and adequate anti-corruption mechanisms all the more important.

The European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights - EIDHR

The European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) is a thematic funding instrument for EU external action aiming to support projects in the area of human rights, fundamental freedoms and democracy in non-EU countries. This programme is designed to support civil society to become an effective force for political reform and defence of human rights.

The EIDHR is considered as a unique tool due to its specific features and represents a key added-value to the EU policy toolbox, being complementary to other EU external assistance instruments.

It offers independence of action, as it cooperates directly with human rights defenders and local civil society organisations without the need for approval of national authorities. It has the ability to address sensitive political issues (such as death penalty, torture, freedom of expression in restrictive contexts, discriminations against vulnerable groups) and can respond to emerging and complex challenges, due to its high flexibility in terms of implementation modalities.

The EIDHR has a global scope and can intervene anywhere outside the European Union, operating worldwide at national, regional or even international level, both in developing and non-developing countries.

The 5 main objectives are the following:

  • Support to human rights and human rights defenders in situations where they are most at risk.
  • Support to other priorities of the Union in the field of human rights
  • Support to democracy.
  • EU Election Observation Missions (EOMs)
  • Support to targeted key actors and processes, including international and regional human rights instruments and mechanism

Related documents

8 MARCH 2022
Multiannual Indicative Programme 2021-2027 for Human Rights and Democracy - annex
25 JULY 2022
Multiannual action plan 2022-2024 for the thematic programme on human rights and democracy
Annual action plan 2021 for Human Rights and Democracy
16 DECEMBER 2021
Annual action plan 2021 for the Thematic Programme “Global Challenges” - People
5 APRIL 2022
Study on the global fight against impunity