Normative aspect: D+
Final mark: C
There were no fundamental changes in set human rights and transformation policy in 2016, which is good news after two years of debate and partial amendments. The changes in approach made in recent years have yet to be felt on the ground. The main challenge for Czech human rights policy is coherence in its enforcement. In its response to the migration crisis, relations with China, and its approach to the Syrian war, the Czech Republic has not shown that it wants to number among the defenders of human rights and adhere to the humanist tradition of its foreign policy. In fact, it has conducted itself in completely the opposite manner. On the other hand, the promise of extra funds in support of transformation cooperation can be seen in a positive light.
The long-running dispute between those advocating a focus on civil and political rights on the one hand, and the movement promoting the expansion of priority areas to include economic, cultural, and social rights on the other, was allayed in Czech discussion on human rights in foreign policy. The only echo of this dispute was a debate on the Strategic Framework of the Czech Republic 2030. In the end, the accent on supporting democracy and promoting human rights around the world was incorporated into this summary policy document.
An amendment of the goals of the Czech Republic’s human rights and transformation policy, brought about by the approval of new policy materials in 2015, was not really reflected in the practical implementation of this policy. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not amend its methodology or instruments, and only a minor shift of emphasis – towards economic and social rights – was registered in the context of project support. This showed that, while small-scale changes are possible, the main determining factor is the capacity of the non-profit sector, which implements these projects. The discussion of priority countries for transformation cooperation, which is now to take place every year under the new concept, was a constructive step. The government resolution on a further increase in funds to be spent on transformation cooperation in 2018-2019 can also be rated positively.
The main challenge for the Czech Republic was thus compliance with the basic foundations of human rights policy: the principles of coherence, credibility, and openness. This was evident in the approach to the refugee crisis and policy relating to China and al-Assad’s regime in Syria. It became particularly apparent in the polarised debate on the approach to China that the argument between those advocating the promotion of human rights around the world and opponents of this dimension of foreign policy, who incorrectly claim that abandoning a value-based framework will benefit Czech economic interests, still rages on. The cancellation of Minister Jurečka’s meetings on his planned trip to China illustrated that not even the pointed rejection of human rights in foreign policy, brought about by public officials’ statement on strategic interests with China, helps to cement economic relations.