Human Rights Report 2018
Being committed to freedom means being committed to human rights
The International Human Rights Projects of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom 2017–2018.
1. Preface Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger
As in previous years, the main causes of worldwide human rights violations during 2017 – 2018 were war, displacement, poverty and corruption.
The armed conflicts in Syria, Yemen and South Sudan remain unresolved and result
in terrible war crimes and human rights abuses almost daily. Globally,
nearly 70 million people are fleeing from conflict or trying to escape the poverty
and hopelessness of their home countries. On their desperate journeys, women
and children are commonly subjected to horrific human rights abuses. Basic human rights are under severe pressure, not just in the global South, but also
Recent declines in media freedom and freedom of expression are especially
worrying. In North Korea, Iran, Saudi Arabia and China, such freedoms are
non-existent. In Russia and Turkey, journalists are systematically harassed. Since
the attempted coup in Turkey in 2016, more than 100 journalists, some of them
German,have been arrested on grounds of terrorism. Some have been convicted.
Even in the European Union (EU), the safety of journalists is not guaranteed,
as illustrated by the murders of the journalists Daphne Galizia in Malta
and Jan Kuciak in Slovakia, who were investigating corruption and stories linked
to the leaked Panama Papers, in which prominent politicians and businesspeople
Globally, authoritarianism and right-wing populism are on the rise,endangering
freedom of the press and freedom of expression. Those who deliberately
deploy false facts and lies to fuel the public’s fears, to divide society and
draw political capital from such splits, have no use for a professional and critical
In Germany, journalists attending some right-wing demonstrations and
rallies require police protection because of credible threats of violence. Certain
European states, such as Poland and Hungary, have systematically defamed and
undermined the free press by enforcing public media conformity and purchasing
Without effective freedom of expression and freedom of the press,
which guarantee our right to information, our democracy is deliberately weakened
and destroyed. The existence of the constitutional state is also threatened because
legislative independence is being systematically eroded, as shown by
the constitutional crises in Poland and Hungary, which have triggered so-called
rule of law procedures by the EU.
These human rights challenges are the reason why the Friedrich Naumann
Foundation for Freedom (FNF) offers civic education in Germany and
abroad. Seventy years after the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights, and sixty years after the Foundation’s founding, it promotes human rights
in more than 50 countries. Freedom of the press and freedom of expression are
cornerstones of democracy and therefore deserve our particular attention.
In the globalised, digital world of the 21st century, human rights crises
concern us all, no matter where they occur. We feel the effects of such crises,
such as flight, migration or extremism, on our own doorsteps. The initial political
response should not be to pass repressive laws that further limit freedom; rather,
it should be to support and strengthen human rights locally.
Our first human rights report gives an overview of our human rights
projects on several continents. Simultaneously, we wish to stimulate debate on a
coherent human rights policy framework for Europe and the world. The report’s
publication date is 4 November, which marks the signing of the European
Convention on Human Rights in 1950. Up to now, 47 states have pledged to observe
universal human rights. It is a date we should keep in mind not only today,
but one that we should take to heart every day.
2. Freedom of speech and freedom of the press
Throughout the world, freedom of expression and freedom of the press are under pressure. Reports of journalists being murdered as in Mexico or put on trial as in Turkey feature regularly in the news. Even in the EU, investigative journalists risk their lives, as shown by the murders in Malta and Slovakia in 2017 / 2018, which have not yet been solved. The Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom has been fighting globally for a free press and greater freedom of expression for decades, and continues to do so through its International Journalists and Media Dialogue programme.
- Raif Badawi Award for courageous journalists 2017 & 2018
- While everybody is talking about refugees,we talk to them: the Divan series with Berlin’s “Tagesspiegel” daily newspaper
- Malaysiakini – Going online for freedom of the press and freedom of information
3. Business and Human Rights
In our increasingly globalised world, where production networks and supply chains cover virtually every part of the planet, multinational corporations are having a growing impact on human rights. This poses the question: how can we benefit from a growing global economy while still protecting human rights? The Foundation for Freedom
is pushing for the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in Germany and abroad. In addition, in countries where the Foundation
has a footprint, it campaigns against business-related human rights abuses. A fundamental part of this is ensuring that workers in the agricultural sector of the global South have land rights.
4. International Human Rights
Human rights challenges differ from country to country, and there is no onesize-fits-all approach. The Foundation for Freedom therefore tailors its human rights activities to local requirements, focusing on the most pressing issues in each region. The main thread running through our work is to educate people about their human rights. Doing so helps prevent human rights abuses in the long term and lays the foundation for a fair and tolerant society. As such, the Foundation also interprets its core mission – to
promote civic education and democracy – as including human rights education.
5. Closing words Gyde Jensen MdB
Human rights express an attitude towards life
Feeling free is something specific to each individual, but freedom is
also a regulating principle that transcends borders. The same applies to human
rights: although they are universal principles of order, they also reflect an individual
wish to work towards a world that grows more connected on the basis of
shared fundamental values.
The philosopher Isaiah Berlin illustrated this challenge by describing
human rights as inalienable, global goods which lie in the interest of every human
by virtue of being human, and not by virtue of belonging to such and such a religion
or nation or having such and such a job or character. In Berlin’s conception,
doing the right thing means satisfying these demands and protecting people
from those who would abuse or deny them.
Human rights therefore have to be every government’s guiding principle.
When we talk about countries, we are not talking about artificial constructs,
but the actual living conditions of people. Acting in accordance with the universal
applicability of human rights means having a real interest in improving concrete
As we celebrate 70 years of human rights this year, we do so knowing
that together, we have achieved much. 1966 saw history being made with the recognition
of two covenants – the International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights (“civil rights and liberties”) and the International Covenant on Economic,
Social and Cultural Rights (“social rights”). Seeing human rights as the basis of
our political, cultural and social existence, rather than just rights of defence, was
considered revolutionary then.
Let us also think back to 2002, when the International Criminal Court
(ICC) was finally established in The Hague. The ICC has not yet lived up to its full
potential, but it still represents a major milestone on the path to making human
rights enforceable and to protecting people against crimes against humanity. The
greatest achievement in the 70 years of the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights is that, to this day, it has provided people all over the world with orientation
in their fight for freedom and dignity.
Gyde Jensen, MP Chairperson of the Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs Committee of the German Bundestag.