The European Consensus on Development, adopted by the Council and the Representatives of the Governments of the Member States, the European Parliament and the Commission on 22 November 2005 [Joint statement] states that the primary and overarching objective of EU development cooperation is the eradication of poverty in the context of sustainable development, including pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The eight MDGs are to: eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; achieve universal primary education; promote gender equality and empower women; reduce the mortality rate of children; improve maternal health; combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; ensure environmental sustainability and develop a global partnership for development. However, the European Union is founded on the values of democracy, the rule of law, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and seeks to develop and consolidate commitment to these values in partner countries and regions through dialogue and cooperation (Articles 2 and 21 TEU). Therefore, the Consensus states also that the EU acknowledges the essential oversight role of democratically elected citizens’ representatives and encourages an increased involvement of national assemblies, parliaments and local authorities.
In addition to the Millennium Development Goals the EU Programme for the Prevention of Violent Conflicts, endorsed by the European Council, underlines the EU's "political commitment to pursue conflict prevention as one of the main objectives of the EU's external relations" and states that EU development cooperation instruments can contribute to this goal and to the development of the EU as a global player. In pursuit of this objective, the Regulation establishing an Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace provides, for the period from 2014 to 2020, direct support for the Union's external policies by increasing the efficiency and coherence of the Union's actions in the areas of crisis response, conflict prevention, peace-building and crisis preparedness, and in addressing global and trans-regional threats [Regulation 230/2014]. It allows the Union to undertake development cooperation measures, as well as financial, economic and technical cooperation measures, with third countries, regional and international organisations and other State and civil society actors with the following objectives: (a) in a situation of crisis or emerging crisis, to contribute swiftly to stability by providing an effective response designed to help preserve, establish or re-establish the conditions essential to the proper implementation of the Union's external policies and actions in accordance with Article 21 TEU; (b) to contribute to the prevention of conflicts and to ensuring capacity and to address specific global and trans-regional threats to peace, international security and stability preparedness to address pre- and post-crisis situations and build peace; and (c) to address specific global and trans-regional threats to peace, international security and stability. EU assistance under the Instrument for Stability is complementary to that provided for under related EU instruments for external assistance [see also sections 24.1, 25.2 and 25.4]. It may be provided only to the extent that an adequate and effective response cannot be provided under those instruments.
In fact, under the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) the Union provides assistance to the development and consolidation of democracy and the rule of law and of respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms [Regulation 235/2014]. The financial envelope of the EIDHR for the period 2014-2020 is 1.3 billion EUR. Union assistance, which is provided independently of the consent of the governments and public authorities of the third countries concerned, focuses in particular, on: (a) support to and enhancement, in line with the overall democratic cycle approach, of participatory and representative democracy, including parliamentary democracy, and the processes of democratisation, mainly through civil society organisations at the local, national and international levels; (b) promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, as proclaimed in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international and regional instruments in the area of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, mainly through civil society organisations; (c) strengthening of the international framework for the protection of human rights, justice, gender equality, the rule of law and democracy, and for the promotion of international humanitarian law; and (d) building confidence in, and enhancing the reliability and transparency of democratic electoral processes and institutions, at all stages of the electoral cycle.
The term ‘civil society’, mentioned in the two instruments above, includes non-governmental organisations, organisations representing indigenous peoples, local citizens' groups and traders' associations, cooperatives, trade unions, organisations representing economic and social interests, local organisations (including networks) involved in decentralised regional cooperation and integration, consumer organisations, women's and youth organisations, teaching, cultural, research and scientific organisations, universities, churches and religious associations and communities, the media and any non-governmental associations and private and public foundations likely to contribute to the development or to the external dimension of internal policies [Regulation 230/2014].