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United States Withdrawal from UNHRC: bad move or bad timing?

Posted by [email protected] on June 25, 2018 at 5:45 AM Comments comments (0)

By Lucia Lombardo

On June 19, the United States stated it would drop out of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) after months of American attacks against the body. US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley stated the US reasoning behind the sudden move was due to “chronic bias” against Israel by the Council. This move was seen as unfortunate but not surprising from many US allies and other members of the UNHRC, as President Trump and Haley had threatened to withdraw from the Council last year unless major changes were made to the Council’s agenda. The main grievance the US had against the Council was its investigations into and criticisms of Israel’s human rights record, shown with a permanent agenda item simply titled ‘Item 7.’ This item has been discussed at every Council meeting since June 2006. The US is not alone in criticizing the Council for focusing on the Israel-Palestinian conflict; former UN Secretaries General Kofi Annan and Ban Ki-Moon, the European Union and Canada have accused the UNHRC of focusing disproportionately on the conflict. Personally, I take greater issue with the makeup of the Council’s membership; since countries are voted onto the Council for three-year terms, at any given time the Council could contain members that have been accused of or are guilty of serious human rights abuses. Currently membership includes the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Philippines, and Venezuela, all of which have spotty human rights records at best.

Regardless of the reasoning, what makes this move worse is the optics surrounding the decision. This withdrawal came only one day after Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, the UN's high commissioner for human rights, spoke out against President Trump’s recently implemented zero tolerance policy at the US-Mexico border, calling it “government-sanctioned child abuse.” Because of this timing, the decision to withdraw the US from the Council was seen as a response to the condemnation and as the US having complete disregard for human rights. I believe that on the international stage, it is better to remain in organizations to try to fix those that are not perfect than to leave as a pariah. The US cannot hope to improve the UNHRC from the outside, a fact that UK foreign minister Boris Johnson acknowledged in his response to the US decision.

This decision has made waves across the international community and within the US, with supporters and detractors not split down party lines. What is not surprising is this administration’s overt preference to back Israel on the world stage even more strongly than past US presidents, all of whom received criticism for what some say is turning a blind eye to Israel’s human rights abuses. What is also not surprising is Trump’s proclivity towards taking the US out of international organizations and commitments. However, what is somewhat surprising is the decision to take the US out of the UNHRC now, especially since the country’s final term on the Council is up in less than a year. Arguably, this sends a stronger message to the Council than staying the full term would, but the fall-out from the US’s early departure is still occurring and the full ramifications of this decision are still unknown.

The Rohingya: A Case for Genocide

Posted by [email protected] on June 7, 2018 at 6:05 AM Comments comments (0)

By Lucia Lombardo

Introduction and History

The Rohingya people are a historically persecuted group of Muslims living in Myanmar. Since 1962, their rights have been stripped away piece by piece by the government of Myanmar until 2015 when violence against the people intensified. This violence has cemented the Rohingya as the largest group of stateless people in the world today. Until this point international organizations and countries have stopped short of calling what is happening in Myanmar a genocide; world leaders have condemned Myanmar’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, and called on her to stop the violence, but no substantive action has been taken.

The term Rohingya is ethno-religious and roughly means Muslim people whose home is Rakhine state. The Rohingya trace their lineage back to the area between East Pakistan and Burma. East Pakistan became Bangladesh in 1971 and Burma, a colony of Great Britain, gained its independence and changed its name to Myanmar in 1948 and in 1989, respectively. The Rohingya were granted Burmese citizenship by the new government when the country declared independence in 1948 and were subsequently granted independence under the following two regimes. However, starting in 1962 military juntas took power in government; they were anti-Muslim and the Rohingya’s rights eroded away. In 1982, the military government, headed by Ne Win, authorized 135 ethnic groups as Burmese nationals in a now infamous citizenship law, leaving any group not authorized saddled with the burden of proving their ancestry in the country back to 1823. Many Rohingya had no official paperwork denoting this even though dozens of generations had lived in Rakhine state, and thus were rendered stateless.

The violence in Rahkine state has ebbed and flowed since 1982. Starting in 2012, violence against this group caused hundreds of thousands to be internally displaced within Rakhine state, living in shelters and camps. In October 2016, a new insurgent group called the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) attacked Myanmar border guards and killed a dozen military men, which caused a military lockdown in Rakhine state. The international community sent a strong message for restraint for the civilians involved in the attack but failed to mention restraint on the part of the military. About a week later, almost 90,000 Rohingya refugees reached Bangladesh, citing mass rape, extrajudicial killing and torture as reasons for their fleeing. This was the initial factor in the UN Human Rights Council’s decision to deploy a fact-finding mission to Myanmar to look for evidence of international crimes.

Genocide in Law

Genocide was deemed a crime under international law in 1946 by the UN General Assembly and was codified into international law in 1948 with the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. This convention defined genocide as any of five acts committed with the intent to destroy a national, ethnical, racial and religious group. These acts are as follows: killing members of the group, causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group, deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part, imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group, and forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

The Rohingya

Whether the Rohingya persecution could be treated as a genocide and whether persons could be tried in the ICC is a subject of intense debate between both scholars and governments. Most of the academic literature published on the situation in Myanmar was published in or before 2017 right when the latest breakout of violence occurred and thus did not have access to what has occurred since then. Most reports, albeit for some NGO reports, have described mounting evidence of genocide or increased evidence of genocide, but have not outright condemned the attacks as genocide in nature.

However, the international community is beginning to reach a consensus on a possible genocide of the Rohingya. As stated above, the UN Human Rights Council appointed a fact-finding mission to Myanmar in March 2017. The mission concluded its mandate in March 2018 and is preparing their final report for the General Assembly, to be published in September of this year. However, the chair of the mission gave an oral report during the 37th session of the Human Rights Council on March 12, 2018 and gave an outline of the mission’s findings. The mission’s focus for Rakhine state was to understand the pattern of human rights abuses broadly and to collect information on specific incidents since August 2017. The chair stated that international crimes had been and were being committed, mainly against the Rohingya in Rakhine state. Images obtained by the mission show 319 villages that were burned either partially or completely, including homes and mosques. These so-called clearance operations by the military are commonplace in Rakhine state, with entire villages emptied before being burned.


The fact-finding mission commissioned by the U.N is promising, but a UN Security Council recommendation to the ICC to prosecute will need to occur before any charges are brought. Given the initial findings of the mission, this step may be able to be taken after the final report is submitted to the General Assembly in September. The Rohingya have been targeted by the Myanmar government since the 1960s and have endured decades of verbal abuse and dwindling rights as well as increasing violence and crimes committed against them. This has caused a mass exodus of the Rohingya from Rakhine state and most have fled into neighboring Bangladesh, which is unequipped to deal with the influx of over 600,000 refugees; living conditions in the refugee camps here are at times no better than what the Rohingya fled. The sharp increase in so-called clearance operations since August 2017 have made this genocide impossible to ignore and the Rohingya deserve justice from the ICC before they are completely exterminated.

EU-Moroccan Relations: The Western Sahara Issue and Democratic Reform

Posted by [email protected] on March 28, 2018 at 8:50 AM Comments comments (0)

By Hiba Senhaj


The European Court of Justice ruled on February 27 on the very controversial case of the EU-Morocco fishery debate. The most disputed question was the issue of the Western Sahara territory being included in the agreement. The UN regards the Western Sahara was a “non-self-governing territory” and according to international law, Morocco has an illegal occupation of the Western Sahara. The European Court of Justice ruled that the EU-Morocco fisheries agreement “is valid in so far as it is not applicable to Western Sahara and to its adjacent waters. If the territory of Western Sahara were to be included within the scope of the fisheries agreement, that would be contrary to certain rules of general international law.”

The issue of the Polisario Front

The Western Sahara was occupied by the Spanish until 1975, when the colonial power withdrew from the region as a result of Moroccan annexation. This is when the hostilities between Morocco and the Polisario Front, the governing body of the region, began. A year after Spain relinquished control over the Western Sahara territory, the Polisario Front declared themselves an independent region and named their new principality the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic. The conflict heightened when Mauritania wished for control over the region and went to war with Morocco and against the Polisario Front for 16 years until the UN stepped in to help broker a cease-fire deal between Morocco and the Polisario Front. As a result, Morocco control two-thirds of the land while the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic only controls one-third of the land. Since then there have been two Sahrawi intifada movements that occurred from 1999 until 2004 and in May 2005. The first Sahrawi Intifada solidified the basis of the modern-day independence movement of the Polisario Front from Moroccan occupation. The Independence Intifada broke out in May 2005 where civilians took to the streets to protest against Moroccan occupation in many Moroccan controlled regions in the Western Sahara territory. The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic has formal recognition from 37 states and is a member of the African Union, a continental union of African states. Morocco recently re-joined the African Union in 2017 after leaving for thirty-three years as a result of the 1984 African Union decision to recognize the independence of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic.

What does this mean for Morocco-EU relations for the future?

Morocco, has always been a key strategic and important geopolitical actor in the Maghreb region since the reign of King Hassan II in the late 1980s until now, under his son, the current King Mohammad VI. The major introduction point to this EU-Morocco bilateral agreement started with the Barcelona Declaration in 1995, and fostered and cemented strong diplomatic, political economic and social ties between the European Union (mainly the Southern Mediterranean) and Morocco its Maghreb counterparts. Spain is the closest European country to Morocco, with two Spanish cities, Ceuta and Melilla, on Moroccan soil in the North. To the European Union, migration from Northern and Western Africa is one of the European Union’s biggest security threat and that can be seen with Spain-Morocco relations. Thus, it is in the European Union’s best interest to ensure strong diplomatic relations with Morocco, so European Union interest and security can be safeguarded. There is this theme with EU-Morocco discussions that trade and foreign aid is okay, and EU encourages this, but not migration. There is this trade-off: more trading partners with European states but in return, harsher and stricter border controls. Spain and France even went the extra mile to recognize the legitimacy of Morocco’s illegal settlement in the Western Sahara.

Future for Democratization Efforts in Morocco

The Moroccan government has been accused in the past of mistreatment towards the Sahrawis who reside in the Western Sahara. Post Arab-spring demonstrations in Morocco and throughout the Western Sahara, there has been a huge strategic push from the European Union to maintain stability within Morocco for its strategic purpose but also to push forward democratization efforts towards civil society support and more. Morocco is part of the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP). The European Neighborhood Policy rests on the assumption that neighbors of the EU who would never become an EU member state could adopt and benefit from aspects of the acquis communautaire, the general, shared morals, principles and values that a country must share to be considered up for membership. Some of these principals included rule of law, democracy, free and fair elections, freedom of religion, press and the media and the maintenance of human rights.

The biggest push towards a brighter democratic future within Morocco via European Union efforts has been the recent 2014-2017 EU-Morocco Bilateral agreement. The bilateral agreement looks at 1) equitable access to basic social services 2) support to democratic governance, the rule of law and mobility 3) jobs, sustainable and inclusive growth. In Morocco, social and human development indicators have improved, but the country’s socio-economic remains with major inequalities and unequal access to basic social services: health, education, water or sanitation. The EU also states that the 2011 constitutional reform created major headway in Morocco’s democratization process, there is still much work needed to be done. Many the reforms haven’t been implemented into law, institutions and daily practice. The EU claims to fully support these reforms and institutions. Lastly, growth rates in last decade for Morocco have been able to translate into a reduction of unemployment and poverty levels. Morocco is negatively affected by Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that were implemented in the failed Union for the Mediterranean. The bilateral agreement claims that EU intervention will assist Morocco in boosting competitiveness of SMEs and reform the vocational training system and employment policies.

It’s been proven time and time again that the strongest asset to Morocco’s limited democratic history is due to the strong civil society organizations that are second best to those in Tunisia, in terms of effectiveness. Every political and economic reform the monarchy has implemented has been because of strong lobbying and protesting from civil society organizations. Activists from all different types of civil society organizations gathered to create the February 20 Movement that allowed for gradual democratic reform through the 2011 Constitutional reform. However, the least amount of money is being allocated to civil society and development


In conclusion, the recent ECJ ruling is a beacon of light for the Polisario Front independence movement, from its inception has been traded from one occupying power another. This ruling makes it illegal for the European Union to recognize the Western Sahara as a part of the Kingdom of Morocco, which the European Union has turned a blind eye towards for key strategic purposed. Nothing can be said for the certainty of EU-Morocco relations to the future, but the European Union understands how much of a key partner Morocco is in regards to security, counterterrorism, fishing, combating migration flows and so much more. This also brings upon the question of democratization efforts of the European Union and the positive effects it hopes to have on maintain a stable and strong ally in the Maghreb region.

Northern Ireland: EU benefits and the impact of the "Brexit"

Posted by [email protected] on March 27, 2018 at 4:20 AM Comments comments (0)

By Žygimantas Burnickas

Northern Ireland is a net beneficiary region of the EU and is deeply impacted by the cohesion funding. The 2014-20 multiannual financial framework (MFF) has allocated around 835 million euro to Northern Ireland. There are four main programmes implemented in order to support Northern Ireland’s development: 1.PEACE 2.INTERREG 3.Rural Development 4.ERDF. Their main aim is to strengthen social inclusion, environment protection, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), research and innovation (R&I), as well as combat poverty and climate change. Even though the NI has voted to remain in the EU Referendum by a majority of 56% to 44%, the UK and Northern Ireland with it, is leaving the EU.

It is known that Northern Ireland has had a rough past with Great Britain. Irish Republican Army (IRA) was a militant nationalist organisation, which was mainly active in last century. Its purpose was to use armed force in order to end British ruling in Northern Ireland and achieve reunification of Ireland. It was estimated that, between 1969 and 1994, the IRA killed about 1,800 people, including approximately 600 civilians. It involved bombings, assassinations and various ambushes. Therefore, the implementation of PEACE program was crucial in order to stop the violent acts and unnecessary killings. On July 28, 2005, the IRA announced that it had ended its armed campaign and instead would pursue only peaceful means to achieve its objectives.

Northern Ireland PEACE programme is one of the main and long lasting EU initiatives, which has been receiving financial support from the EU since 1989, through both EU regional policy and EU contributions to the International Fund for Ireland. Its main aim is to promote cross border cooperation between Ireland and the UK. The programme’s objectives are to reach cohesion between communities involved in the conflict in Northern Ireland and the border counties of Ireland and to enhance economic and social stability. Between 1995 and 2013, PEACE programme received a financial contribution of 1.3 billion euro.

For the 2014-2020 period PEACE programme has a total value of 270 million euro. Eighty five percent of it has been contributed by ERDF. During that period, there are four main objectives of this programme: 1.Creating shared education 2.Helping children and young people 3.Creating shared spaces and services 4.Building positive relations at a local level. A representative from European Commission González Hernandez said, “The PEACE program builds bridges for the communities, which have been divided for a very long time. It is helping to build a future with them and provide better opportunities for education, which will make a lasting impact.” There are various examples showing the benefits of PEACE program. For instance, bridges constructed, radiotherapy units built, which helped bringing the communities together and uniting people. As well as, ex-prisoners coming together and having various conversations. This would not have been possible without EU’s contribution. It is clear, that PEACE project has had an enormous impact on Northern Ireland’s community and bringing people together.

The INTERREG programme tackles the issues arising from existence of borders. It promotes greater levels of economic, social and territorial cohesion across Northern Ireland, the Border Region of Ireland and Western Scotland. During 2014-2020 period, the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) contribution to the Programme is €240m (85%). In addition, €43m (15%) will come from match funding, raising the total value of the Programme to €283m. The Programme has four key priority areas where it wants to make significant and lasting change: Research & Innovation; the Environment; Sustainable Transport and Health & Social Care.

Another important project is Rural Development in Northern Ireland. The estimated contribution for this programme during 2014-2020 is around 421 million euro. 228 million of which is funded by the EU. The project focuses on environment protection, climate change adaption, social inclusion, competitiveness of SMEs, educational training, low carbon economy and R&I. A few of its many plans are to provide 100 operations on village renewal, provide advice for around 1225 farm holders on R&I, support investments in 4500 farm holdings, benefit around 130 000 people from supported basic services.

The ERDF programme contributes to regional funding for R&I, business support and low carbon emission. These objectives are not only the EU priority but Northern Ireland’s as well. The funds allocated by the EU for 2014-2020 are 313 million euro. It is planned that around 2825 enterprises will receive support from this programme by receiving grants and other non-financial support from research and innovation. Around 102 start-ups will be supported and 2803 direct jobs will be created.

The damage that “Brexit” could do to the Northern Ireland is tremendous. Currently around 10 percent of NI’s gross domestic product (GDP) comes from the EU funding. The UK government will not provide as much funding for the infrastructure of the island as EU policies did. UK member of European Parliament (MEP) Derek Vaughan mentioned, “The EU has played an important role in promoting the economic development of Northern Ireland and it’s recovery from decades of conflict and division”. Bulgarian MEP Andrey Novakov stated, “There are regions such as Northern Ireland, where cohesion policy makes significant difference for the lives of the people. In the way the economy functions and in the way it generates new jobs”. MEP from Northern Ireland Martina Anderson said, “We cannot ignore the implication of Brexit on the lives of people as a consequence of the removal not only of the financial support but the membership of the EU, which has meant a lot to people.” With the help of EU funding, it is possible to reach a completely different level of regional development. Only with national or regional level, such development would not have been possible. Therefore, Northern Ireland will lose a significant source of income in its development and could suffer divergence in comparison with other UK’s regions. If, god forbid, the island after the “Brexit” began to develop regressively or even dwindle economically, some people of the Northern Ireland could be infuriated, which might result in country’s division and bad blood that we have seen in the past century.

All things considered, Northern Ireland has received a lot of financial support from the EU, which has not only quickened the region’s economic growth but also united the communities and provided support in delivering peaceful environment. The EU membership is important to more than half of the NI’s citizens but despite that, it will most likely be taken away. The “Brexit” will probably affect the region’s development in a negative way. It will slow down the island’s growth and enhance the differences between other regions of the country, which could result in tearing its economy as well as the community apart.

Reinvigorating NATO: The need for increased multilateral defense efforts in the 21st century Europe

Posted by [email protected] on November 21, 2017 at 4:40 AM Comments comments (0)

By Jason D'Antonio

On 26 December 1991, the free world had won. Mikhail Gorbachev, the eighth and final Soviet premiere, had resigned and the USSR dissolved into the records of history. As the world breathed a sigh of relief following the collapse of the USSR, countries (especially the United States and in Europe) began to adjust for a post-Cold War world. One of de-escalation, economic development and liberalization, reconstruction of diplomatic relationships, and above all, peace. Yet recently, Russia, under the control of Vladimir Putin, has attempted to establish itself as the primary global play, and increasingly, aggressor.

In 2013, after President Yanukovych refused to sign an association agreement with the EU, pro-European Ukrainians launched the “Euromaidan” revolution to bring the country closer to its eastern neighbors. They succeeded in ousting Yanukovych, but threw the country into chaos. The awaiting Russians seized the opportunity, and soldiers (dressed in unmarked, but suspiciously Russian-style uniforms with Russian military weapons) took control of major Crimean areas. By March of 2014, Crimea was annexed by the Russian Federation. This new type of hybrid warfare threw many leaders (who were capable of handling conventional warfare) into confusion. It was the signal for a new threat.

Such an action sparked outrage around the world, causing many liberal democratic states and institutions such as the UN and NATO to issue strong condemnations of Russia’s illegitimate actions. “Ukraine is a valued partner for NATO,” the alliance said, and it would continue to “support Ukrainian sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity, and the right of the Ukrainian people to determine their own future, without outside interference.”

Following the Crimean annexation, NATO agreed to increase its rapid reaction force from 13,000 soldiers to 30,000, and create a 5,000-strong “spearhead” force that can mobilize and deploy into combat zones in a matter of days. These forces would be assigned to strategic bases in states bordering Russia such as Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Romania, and Lithuania. Adhering to their 1997 promises, NATO agreed to not permanently station large quantities of soldiers in Eastern Europe but instead renewed its commitment to Eastern Europe.

Aside from territorial expansion, Russia poses intangible threats to the West and liberal democracies around the world. As of June 2016, NATO classified cyberwarfare as a domain of war making it equivalent to land, sea, and aerial combat. Therefore, any NATO member can invoke Article 5 of the group’s North Atlantic Treaty calling for an attack on an individual member to be considered an attack on all members. This is a crucial step in combating the Russian threat. Recently, Russia has utilized its advanced cyberwarfare apparatus to inflict damage to regions beyond the reach of traditional Russian influence from remote locations using minimal resources. In a series of information campaigns, Russian-backed hackers more than likely caused major power outages in Ukraine and released troves of private emails and alerted voter tallies in the country’s 2014 presidential election. Several German officials also credited Russian efforts to steal documents from German Parliamentary investigations only to sell them to WikiLeaks for publication. The most famous and recent incident of Russian misinformation campaigns can be seen in the 2016 US presidential campaign where an estimated 10 million Americans viewed Russian-created advertisements just on Facebook alone. While these actions may not constitute cyberwarfare, they are a testament of the Putin regime’s efforts to influence (and eventually control) democratic elections and essential government functions. Part of NATO’s budget and strategy should be to train its member states and to facilitate measures to protect against Russian military cyberwarfare. Such measures will allow the organization to prevent a crippling cyberattack that would pave the way for invasion and hinder counteroffensive coordination, and to also allow NATO to conduct similar cyber offenses if appropriate.

In the summer of 2017, Russia began one of its largest military exercises since the end of the Cold War, involving some 100,000 troops near the Baltic Sea and western Russia. The exercise of military maneuvers, known as Zapad, or “West”, has a worrying resemblance to the Cold War. In response, the US sent over 600 paratroopers to three Baltic states: Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. Earlier that year, Russian aircraft “buzzed” by NATO-member warships, a move seen by many as a provocative measure by Russian officials to flex their muscles. The increased and more assertive Russian presence forced NATO commanders to reevaluate their strength and response ability. Earlier this month, NATO commanders met to discuss the creation of new naval bases in northern Europe to ensure several things. An increased naval presence would 1) counteract the preexisting Russian naval militarization; 2) protect communication cables and shipping lanes from hostile warships; and 3) provide the ability for NATO to send additional troops, equipment, and supplies to strategic allies and likely targets of a Russian invasion such as those in the Baltic states and Poland. This would also aid NATO’s efforts to install a 21st century rapid response “spearhead” force.

But, the main question is, how will this all play out? In theory, it sounds like the organization is readying itself for an unprovoked assault from Russia, but let us look at current challenges to one of the guardians of the free world. Following the September 11th attacks, the US invoked Article 5 for the first time in NATO’s history. The subsequent military campaigns from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) helped the United States conduct operations within the region, and secure the country from the Taliban. By 2010, 400 of the 700 bases in Afghanistan were used by American-led NATO forces with countries like Germany, the Netherlands, the UK, and Italy all conducting substantial military operations alongside the US vanguard force.

As conflict within the region has reached its 16th year, many nations are growing weary. However, one can assume that in the event of a conflict with Russia, European NATO member states would be unwavering since the threat is so large and the possibility for defeat is so disastrous. Currently, only 5 of NATO’s 29 member states are reaching the requirement of allocating 2% of their respective GDP towards defense. The 2006 collective agreement has caused some members such as the US, UK, France and Germany, to express various levels of frustration as they bear the majority of the budget.

If Russia continues to assert itself as a global manipulator, NATO and its member states must be ready to meet the odds and prevent a large scale aggression towards the west. The protection and prevention of Russian territorial expansion, development of cyberwarfare measures, and the continuation of collective financing and cooperation will surely reduce the risk Putin poses to the free world.

Democracy Abroad

Posted by [email protected] on June 9, 2017 at 7:30 AM Comments comments (0)

Democracy Abroad: Parliamentary Election Missions

by Meghan Lowther

The European Parliament conducts election monitoring campaigns all over the world with the goal of promoting peace and democratic institutions. Th eU election observation activities undertake a number of objectives, including efforts to strengthen respect for human rights, completion of comprehensive assessments of the process, and enhance public confidence in elections. The ultimate goal through these objectives is to support peace and democracy around the world in accordance with EU values and traditions.

The European Union is 'founded on the indivisible, universal values of human dignity, freedom, equality and solidarity; it is based on the principles of democracy and the rule of law' (Treaty of the European Union, 1992). The EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) holds the promotion of democracy at the core of its operations, and when the EU establishes partnerships with other countries, they include human rights clauses and maintain that a main goal is the promotion of democracy. The EU's missions also have the added benefit of enhancing peace-building in those partner countries.

Since 2000, the EU has observed elections in 41 partner countries. The EU applies the same methodology to all observations, which includes assessment areas such as voter registration, media, and civil society; another objective is to remain unobtrusive and nondiscriminatory. The European Parliament's 2017 priorities constitute 9 elections in 8 countries, including Kosovo and Lebanon, and the 2018 early indicators show that 20 countries and at least 5 follow-up missions will be required.

The European Parliament as an institution of the EU plays a prominent role in election observation and deploys its own delegations to partner countries. Observers must follow a code of conduct, which includes principles such as respecting the law of the land and being aware of relevant information and other observing groups. Despite their commitment to democracy and the workers on the ground, the EU does not interfere with the conduct of the elections, as that is up to the host country.

Last week, the communal elections in Cambodia were held, and the results will be released by 25 June according to election officials. While those elections did not have an official European Observation Mission, Petras and the Informal Group of Friends of Democracy in Cambodia still watched the elections closely under informal means, video conferencing with representatives on the ground about the process and the potential implications. In addition, Petras met with activist Vaing Samrigth, who is currently campaigning for the rights of indigenous peoples in Cambodia. He arranges dialogues with stakeholders to raise awareness and promote human rights defenders in the region.

Citizens have an inalienable right to participate in democracy and support the rule of law in their countries. There must  be access to elections by all citizens without discrimination, and in order to protect those freedoms, the rule of law must also be protected. People have the right to choose their own government, and the EU's missions to monitor elections reflects its commitment to supporting democracy not just within the EU's borders, but in countries around the world.