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Brief analysis from a disability perspective of the EC new Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy
25 Mar 2020

On 25th March 2020, The European Commission adopted an Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy Plan for the next 5 years. The Plan will mark the EU's commitment to play a more relevant role in the promotion and defense of human rights and democracy. However, does this Plan include disability as a relevant subject?

The analysis below briefly highlights the sections where disability is included and the context in which they are set.

The Action Plan drafted consists of five lines of action:

  1. Protecting and Empowering Individuals. Through this line of action, the Commission means to ensure that everyone can fully enjoy civil and political rights, as well as economic, social and cultural rights. Empowering all people (‘leaving no-one behind’) involves enabling them to realise their full potential as equal and active members of society. The rule of law is the cornerstone of societal cohesion, solidarity and trust, both between the state and citizens, and among citizens.

This line of the plan contains three actions that explicitly mention people with disabilities:

  • Establish measures to combat all forms of discrimination and continue to urge all countries to respect, protect and fulfill the human rights of people belonging to minorities.
  • Advocate for countries to ratify and implement the UN CRPD. Help prevent and eliminate attitudinal, institutional and environmental barriers. Ensure the accessibility of infrastructure, transport and information and communication technologies (ICTs), and guarantee inclusive services such as education, including distance learning, healthcare, justice and employment.
  • Curb inequalities by promoting non-discriminatory access to social services, including quality and affordable health care and education (also online), and fostering the ability of professionals to respond to the specific needs of different groups.


  1. Building Resilient, Inclusive and Democratic Societies. Through this line of action, the aim is to work in societies made up of independent media, responsible institutions, representative parliaments and committed citizens, providing a safe and supportive environment in which civil society and the independent media can voice their concerns, influence policy, monitor decision-makers and hold them accountable. 

This particular action explicitly mentions people with disabilities and initiatives closely linked to the rights of people with impairments:

  • Promote active citizenship and participation in public and political life. Civic education, including distance learning, and online media literacy measures should target in particular women, children, youth, people with disabilities, people from minorities, indigenous communities and others in situations vulnerable.
  • Promote the principle of open, safe, affordable, accessible and non-discriminatory Internet access.


  1. Promote a world system in the field of human rights and democracy. The EU's strategic response to the changing international environment is to strengthen its coherence and unity in multilateral forums, expand and deepen bilateral alliances, and build new interregional coalitions.


  1. New Technologies: Harnessing Opportunities And Addressing Challenges New technologies can contribute significantly to the protection and promotion of human rights and democracy, by making public participation easier and more effective, increasing access to public services, facilitating the documentation of violations and abuses, and supporting online activism.

This section of the plan contains an action that explicitly mentions people with disabilities:

  • Promote the accessibility of technologies for everyone, including persons with disabilities, already at the design stage of new technologies covering all sectors including education.


  1. Delivering By Working Together. This action plan expects solutions to emerging challenges to be reached through focused action and coordinated efforts and its implementation and monitoring to be subject to a broad stakeholder dialogue. Global, EU-based and national civil society organizations are key partner organizations.


On the other hand, it should be noted that climate change is present in the plan, however, from the point of view of the direct impact of climate change on people's rights and not of the potential impact of measures for the transition to an economy low carbon in human rights. Similarly, the plan mentions the need to work in a future of people-centered work. In addition, many of the actions of the plan that are generally described should consider people with disabilities, such as access to health care and the right to benefit from medical treatment always and especially in times of crisis. None of these issues specifically affects the protection and promotion of the rights of people with disabilities.


Click here for full information about Human Rights and Democracy Action Plan 2020-2024