The EU is uniquely placed to protect and promote human rights, democracy and the rule of law in relation to both its own 500 million citizens and citizens around the globe. No other supranational organisation has a deeper commitment to human rights or disposes of such a great variety of policy tools and powers to promote human rights. Respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms is at the core of the EU. The EU has gradually expanded its human rights actions over the course of the past decades. However, to date, serious problems and new challenges have emerged, both externally and internally. In particular, EU policies are largely sectoral; funded projects lack programmatic consistency; the EU’s knowledge base appears limited; and turf battles continue to rage between institutions, bodies and Member States in Brussels and abroad at the United Nations (UN) and other fora, where EU positions increasingly face objections. Moreover, human rights are far from being uncontested and are subject to changing dynamics such as globalisation, new forms of violence and war and new actors that question human rights and democracy norms. Even where international standards are generally accepted, implementation at the national level often remains slow. The entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, with its commitment to put human rights, democracy and the rule of law at the centre of the EU’s external action and to ensure consistency between the different areas of its external action and internal policies, has brought renewed impetus for the EU to confront these problems.