The EU is arguably the most significant supporter of democracy, the rule of law, justice, security sector reform, good governance, gender equality and support for vulnerable groups worldwide. Political prisoners and human rights defenders across the world have been released or their cases revised due to EU action including in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Bangladesh.
Alongside this, the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights funds vital work by civil society organisations, in oppressive countries where freedoms are restricted.
The EU is the leading institutional actor in the fight against the death penalty and uses its diplomatic power to campaign for worldwide abolition.
Direct action has also played a key role in a number of wider developments. For example, restrictive measures such as sanctions and arms embargoes are a cornerstone of the EU's external action. Countries are financially and politically restrained by such actions and this can lead to significant results such as recently in Iran.
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Due to strong EU action, conflict minerals found in everyday products ranging from mobile phones to hearing aids are now required to be responsibly sourced and certified in order to stop profits from trading minerals - including tin, tantalum, tungsten, gold and diamonds - to fund armed conflicts in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
The EU was a key negotiator of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on climate and its institutions remain a supporter of the UN's effort to create international climate agreements, such as the recent COP21 negotiations in Paris, to limit global warming and emissions.