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Foreign Policy

Protection of Human Rights

The respect of human rights is enshrined in the Basic Law. On the global level, too, Germany is committed to protecting basic freedoms.
Schutz von Menschenrechten
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 “Human dignity shall be inviolable. To respect and protect it shall be the duty of all state authority.” This is the clear mandate in Article 1 of the German Basic Law, in which Germany acknowledges “inviolable and inalienable human rights” as “the basis of every community, of peace and of justice in the world”. Germany also takes this obligation seriously in its relations with foreign countries. The protection and strengthening of human rights play a special role in the foreign-policy and international context, as systematic human rights violations are frequently the first step towards conflicts and crises. Together with its partners in the EU and in collaboration with the United Nations (UN), Germany advocates the protection and improvement of human rights standards.

Commitment to international human rights institutions

Germany is a contracting party to the UN’s important human rights treaties and their Additional Protocols (Civil Pact, Social Pact, Anti-Racism Convention, Women’s Rights Convention, Convention against Torture, Children’s Rights Convention, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance). Germany was the first European nation to ratify the Additional Protocol to the Children’s Rights Convention, which makes an individual complaints procedure possible.

Support for projects worldwide

The Federal Government supports protection from discrimination and racism, takes an active stand worldwide against the death penalty and for political participation and legal protection, defends the freedom of religion and belief, fights human trafficking, and pushes for enforcement of the right to housing and the right to clean water and sanitation. 2.2 billion people worldwide have no access to clean water. Germany, as one of the largest donors in this sector, is helping to change this situation by spending 400 million euros annually on several projects. Access to water, one of the more recent human rights issues, is a key focal point of German development cooperation.

Human rights efforts at the UN

Germany was elected a member of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, for the fourth time for the period from 2020 to 2022. The Human Rights Council’s most important tool is the Universal Periodic Review, which provides all UN member states with an opportunity to declare what actions they have taken to fulfil their human rights obligations and answer critical questions. Germany underwent this procedure in 2018 for the third time.

Efforts on the European Council

Germany is one of the most active countries on the European Council, which has 47 member states and champions the protection and promotion of human rights, the rule of law, and democracy throughout Europe. With landmark conventions, in particular the European Human Rights Convention, the European Council plays a strong role in establishing a common European judicial area and monitors adherence to binding common standards and values on the European continent.

Defence of human rights in the digital space

The protection of human rights is also an important field of activity for cyber foreign policy. In 2013 and 2014 the UN General Assembly passed resolutions on the right to privacy in the digital age. They were on the back of a German-Brazilian initiative. Germany is of the opinion that human rights online are just as valid as offline. In 2018 Germany emphasised its commitment to protecting personal privacy in the cyber age and assumed the chair of the Freedom Online Coalition, which champions promoting human rights in the digital age.