21 Jun 2023

ENNHRI’s recommendations on The Reykjavik Declaration and the future of the Council of Europe 

A landmark moment took place in Reykjavik on 16-17 May 2023: the Council of Europe held its Fourth Summit. In the context of seismic changes in Europe, heads of state and government convened to advance the implementation of human rights, democracy and rule of law. ENNHRI welcomes the will to strengthen the Council of Europe’s ability to tackle current challenges and recommends concrete steps that will turn political commitments into action.  

In the context of seismic changes, such as the war in Ukraine and the ongoing erosion of human rights and the rule of law in wider Europe, ENNHRI has made practical suggestions to strengthen the Council of Europe and to enhance its strategic partnerships with ENNHRI and NHRIs. These can help the Council of Europe live up to its potential to advance the protection and promotion of human rights, democracy and rule of law across the region. 

Recommendations on the Declaration and the Council of Europe’s future 

First, against the backdrop of severe challenges to implement the European Convention of Human Rights at the national level, ENNHRI welcomes the Reykjavik Declaration’s commitment to advance the execution of European Court of Human Rights’ judgments. It also welcomes the recognition of NHRIs’ and civil society organisations’ (CSOs) vital role in monitoring compliance with the Convention and the Court’s judgments. As suggested before the Summit, ENNHRI recommends more meaningful participation opportunities for NHRIs and CSOs concerning execution of the Court’s judgments. This would further bridge national realities with the Council of Europe’s procedures.   

Second, ENNHRI welcomes both Member States’ commitment to strengthen the Council of Europe’s work on human rights and the environment and its initiating of the “Reykjavik process” to make environmental protection a visible priority for the Council of Europe. The Reykjavik Declaration recognises the particular role of NHRIs in this. This is reflected in ENNHRI’s third- party interventions before the Court in three major climate cases and ENNHRI’s engagement at the Council of Europe’s drafting group on the environment and human rights (CDDH-ENV).  

To make commitments in the Reykjavik Declaration a reality, ENNHRI recommends starting negotiations on a binding Council of Europe instrument on the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment. It also recommends setting up an independent Council of Europe monitoring mechanism on human rights and environment, which can assist States in advancing implementation in practice. 

Third, against the backdrop of digital transformation and the rise of artificial intelligence (AI), ENNHRI recalls the need to safeguard human rights, rule of law and democracy in the context of the ongoing negotiations at the Committee on Artificial Intelligence (CAI). More specifically, ENNHRI advocates for the need to ensure a human rights-based approach throughout the Draft Framework Convention, including strong and independent oversight mechanisms. Moreover, ENNHRI emphasises the need to ensure transparent and meaningful consultation with observers, such as ENNHRI, throughout all stages of the ongoing negotiation process.  

Fourth, ENNHRI welcomes the commitment of the Reykjavik Declaration and the “Reykjavik Principles for Democracy” to ensuring a safe and enabling environment for civil society and human rights defenders. As highlighted in ENNHRI’s 2023 rule of law report, human rights defenders, such as NHRIs, are facing several challenges in many states across the region. As highlighted in ENNHRI’s input prior to the Summit, ENNHRI reiterates that more robust mechanisms are needed at the Council of Europe and in Member States to protect human rights defenders.  

Taking the next step with NHRIs at the Council of Europe 

Heads of state and government have made clear in the Reykjavik Summit and its outcome Declaration that NHRIs are part and parcel of the present and future success of the Council of Europe. They have, notably: “set the Council on a new path of increased transparency and co-operation with its stakeholders [such as NHRIs], with strengthened visibility and sufficient resources.” Indeed, NHRIs are vital actors in responding to the current and emerging challenges identified in the Reykjavik Declaration.  

ENNHRI believes that now is the time for the Council of Europe to concretely invest in and act on more meaningful engagement with NHRIs. An important step forwards would be having dedicated staff at the Council of Europe Secretariat (DG I) to foster closer and more meaningful cooperation with NHRIs. 
ENNHRI stands ready to further support the current Latvian Presidency of the Council of Europe in advancing its key priorities.  

For more on ENNHRI’s work on the Fourth Summit, read and download: