Volume 48
Issue 4
Summer '17

Can the EU be Held Accountable for Financing Development Projects that Violate Human Rights?

Written By: Kirsten Leube


The European Union (EU) is one of the largest providers of development cooperation worldwide. The EU proclaims that poverty reduction and the furtherance of individuals’ human rights are among the primary goals of its development aid. However, how does the EU ensure that these goals are actually met? Moreover, what mechanisms does the EU provide in order to address adverse effects its development cooperation might trigger? Given that the EU often provides funds for countries with already weak state structures and often times deplorable human rights records, the possibility that further human rights violations will occur is not far-fetched. For example, from 2007-2010, grave human rights offenses, such as torture, arbitrary detentions, and other forms of mistreatment occurred in Ukrainian detention centers funded through the EU’s Neigbourhood Policy.

This Note will focus on the individual and the means the individual has to hold the EU accountable for funding development aid projects that have adverse effects. The starting point for this analysis involves the framing of the EU’s responsibility for funding human rights violations from both the perspective of the law of international responsibility and of international human rights law. Given the legal uncertainties in these areas, the possibilities of judicially holding the EU accountable for funding development projects resulting in human rights violations are very limited. There is huge disparity between the EU’s broadly stated commitments and its obligations towards human rights and the fact that in its development aid efforts, the EU does not have mechanisms in place to ensure that these standards are actually met. Hence, it is high time for the EU to provide for an individual complaints mechanism for affected individuals.

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