Human Rights, Justice & Equality

Why is this topic a priority for the EU?

The EU initially began as a purely economic union and has gradually evolved into an organisation spanning many policy areas including climate, environment and health and also justice, equality and human rights.

Today, the EU is more than just an economic union and is firmly committed to promoting and protecting human rights, democracy, freedom, equality and the rule of law worldwide, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. 

EU policy as stated in the European Pillar of Social Rights includes: 

  • promoting the rights of women, children, minorities and displaced persons
  • opposing the death penalty, torture, human trafficking and discrimination
  • defending civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights
  • defending human rights through active partnership with organisations on international and regional level and at all levels of society
  • inclusion of human rights clauses in all agreements on trade or cooperation with non-EU countries

The EU works to tackle these issues through the European Democracy Action Plan, the Gender Equality Strategy, the LGBTIQ Equality Strategy and the Anti-Racism Action Plan

These initiatives build upon anti-discrimination rights established in the Charter of Fundamental Rights that prohibit any discrimination based on any ground such as race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, disability, as well as ethnic or social origin. 

Relevant EU Policies and Objectives 

European Democracy Action Plan

The European Democracy Action Plan is designed to empower EU citizens and build more resilient democracies across the EU by: 

  • promoting free and fair elections
  • strengthening media freedom and
  • countering disinformation

How ill it impact Irish civil society organisations?

The plan encourages the use of EU funds to support civil society and build capacity as well as infrastructure for civic engagement, enhanced political participation and trust in democracy. 

The current EU funding programmes dedicated to the protection and promotion of democracy are: 


Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025 

The Gender Equality Strategy presents policy objectives designed to promote a gender-equal Europe. The primary objectives of the Strategy include: 

  • ending gender-based violence,  
  • closing gender employment gaps,  
  • closing gender pay and pension gaps,  
  • and promoting gender balance in politics. 

How will it impact Irish civil society organisations?

The EU provides funding and support for projects and initiatives that raise awareness of violence against women and girls.

This funding is available under the following programmes:

  • The Daphne strand of the Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values programme (CERV) supports projects that fight violence, including gender-based violence and violence against children and other groups at risk. 
  • The Justice Programme funds organisations that help victims access justice, and organisations working on the correct implementation of EU legislation on protection orders. 


LGBTIQ Equality Strategy 2020-2025 

The LGBTIQ Strategy is designed to promote inclusivity and acceptance in the EU and to enable people to be open regarding sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics. It is focused on ensuring the safety of LGBTIQ people and on ensuring that European society is LGBTIQ inclusive.

How will it impact Irish civil society organisations?

The European Commission financially supports civil society organisations in ending discrimination and promoting LGBTIQ rights. 

Organisations can benefit by applying for the Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values programme (CERV). An annual call for proposals is aimed at fighting discrimination against LGBTIQ people and promoting LGBTIQ equality. 


Anti-Racism Action Plan 2020-2025 

The Anti-Racism Action Plan sets out a series of measures to tackle racism and racial discrimination across society. Its primary aims include the enforcement of existing EU law, the improvement of protection in terms of discrimination and reinforcing anti-discrimination funding. 

How will it impact Irish civil society organisations?

The EU aims for a strong partnership with civil society actors and equality bodies to promote social inclusion, fundamental rights and equality from the policy design to the implementation. 

Additionally, the EU provides various ways to obtain funding to combat racism and xenophobia. Funding opportunities for civil society exist for 

Useful Links

EU Charter of Fundamental Rights

Your rights in the EU

Have Your Voice Heard

Decisions that are made at the EU level can have a big impact on our daily lives. At The Wheel we believe that citizens’ active participation in society is vital so they can play a part in influencing the decisions that affect them.

Here’s how you can connect with the EU:

Join is an online community of pan-European active citizens interested in learning from each other and finding common ground on EU issues. Created by the European Parliament during the 2019 European elections, encourages everybody to participate in democracy through virtual events and activities.   

In the lead-up to May 2019, volunteers helped raise awareness about the issues that matter most to them, their friends and families. From climate change to data protection, thousands of EU citizens throughout Europe organised activities, events and debates to remind others that participation in pan-European platforms is essential to dealing with today's challenges.

Check out the latest events organised by the European Parliament and the community, happening online and across Europe, by joining  here.  


Vote in European elections and get to know your MEPs 

Following the European elections in May 2019, 11 MEPs representing Ireland's three constituencies, Dublin, South and Midlands-North-West, took their seats in the European Parliament on 2 July 2019 for Parliament's 9th term. 

With the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union on 31 January 2020, Ireland gained an additional two MEPs.  Barry Andrews (Fianna Fáil/ Renew Europe), Dublin, and Deirdre Clune (Fine Gael/ EPP), South, took up their seats in the European Parliament on 1 February 2020. 

Who are your MEPs and how can you contact them? We have gathered the information for you here.

Engage in EU-funded projects  

Through involvement in EU-funded projects, you’ll deliver on current EU policy and programme goals while helping to shape future policy.

Learn more about the various EU funding programmes and the projects they support here.

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