EuroMed Rights is now 25 years old!
Since the network was founded in 1997 after the adoption of the Barcelona Declaration, we have fought for human rights for all in the Euro-Mediterranean region. Today, we are proud to have 68 of the most prominent human rights organisations in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa as regular members of the network and another hundred organisations as our closely associated partners. Together, we insist on creating a Euro-Mediterranean space characterised by respect for human rights, the rule of law and civil society and built with respect for diversity, equality and sustainability.
The changing geopolitical dynamics in the region are, however, challenging.
In the Southern part of the euro-Mediterranean region, the hopes brought by the 2011 Arab Spring have been all but crushed by state-orchestrated repression, intimidation, and harassment of human rights defenders and pro-democracy activists. In Algeria, Egypt and Turkey, human rights defenders are forcefully silenced by autocratic governments. Palestinians are continually and unlawfully discriminated against by the Israeli authorities – a process that has only intensified in the wake of the election of a pro-annexation Israeli government in 2023. In Syria, the reintegration of Bashar al-Assad into the Arab League has sent a grim signal to human rights defenders and democracy activists all over the world that the political elite can escape accountability for even the most heinous crimes. And in Tunisia, President Kaïs Saïed who took power in a soft coup in July 2021 has undermined the democratic institutions built after the uprising in 2011 and groomed internal conflict by airing racist and xenophobic populist declarations.
Across the region, femicide and violence against women is still widespread and LGBTQI+ communities are deprived of their most basic rights. Migrants and refugees also continue being pawns in the geopolitical game of regional powers from Morocco to Turkey – with Libya and Lebanon as increasingly active players. The declining prospects for a stable and prosperous future for the inhabitants of many countries in the southern part of the Euro-Mediterranean region – including the financially strained Egypt – are, in combination with the continued inflation, the rising unemployment and the dawning effects of climate change, likely to push people to continue to risk their lives in perilous attempts to cross the Mediterranean .
On the Northern shore, the engagement in promoting and preserving human rights and democracy in the Euro-Mediterranean region is also challenged. The illegal Russian warfare in Ukraine exacerbated food shortages and displaced millions. In European and “Western” capitals it has furthermore drawn the attention of foreign and security policymaking towards Europe’s eastern neighbour region. This will eventually entail a risk that policymaking in the Southern neighbourhood region becomes ever more pragmatic and narrowly focused. As a network defending the principles of the Barcelona Declaration, we must be prepared to use our voices ever more insistingly to pressure these governments to let their foreign policies be based on a human rights-based approach.
Europe is also experiencing a long and deeply worrying rise of right-wing extremism. Recently, neo-fascists have taken power in Italy while solid far-right majorities impact policymaking in countries like Austria, France and Hungary. The trend is also impacting conservative parties and movements across Europe who increasingly veer to the right for tactical or ideological reasons. The trend has boosted Europe’s external border management and paved the way for increasing usage, by states, of illegal and inhumane practices such as pushbacks and a criminalisation of rescue efforts at sea. In EuroMed Rights we will continue our efforts to better inform and influence decision-makers on the illegal character and direct consequences of such practices. We believe human-rights centred policies are the only way to bring about long-term and sustainable change.
Our efforts in 2022 testify to these commitments. Following the adoption, in October 2021, of our new strategy, “Improve and Advance” our programmes have increased their internal collaboration with an aim to increase our impact and visibility. A case in point was our campaign for the rights of women migrant workers in the south of Spain, which showcased that an intersectional approach to gender, migration and social policies can be highly successful when done in collaboration with our members on the ground.
To further build on our members, we have also, in 2022, taken steps both to deepen our relations with existing regular members of the network and to look for opportunities to consolidate our collaboration with partners and associate members.
EuroMed Rights is also committed to protect our environment. As a first step, the Network had initiated a “carbon footprint audit” encompassing all its activities in 2022. The results are expected in 2023 where they will be presented alongside suggestions as to how the Network can reduce its organisational carbon footprint.
Involving youth activists has been another important focus our work in 2022. By integrating young people in our activities and in our organisation more broadly, we aim first and foremost to counter the structures and norms of patriarchy. Second, we aim to ensure that the coming generations of activists will benefit from the experience acquired by the Network and its members over the past 25 years.
Admitting that the geopolitical outlook is challenging is in no way the same as calling a defeat. On the contrary: As we leave 2022 behind us, we are ever more determined to ensure that EuroMed Rights remains a major player in protecting and promoting human rights and democracy in the Euro-Mediterranean region in the years to come. Taking stock of the smartness, persistence and innovation displayed by our members, our staff and our partners across the region is reassuring and inspiring. We have fought for a better organisation of society in the past 25 years. And we remain determined to continue doing so for the coming 25.
EuroMed Rights President
Rasmus Alenius Boserup
EuroMed Rights Executive Director