Main Council of Europe building in Strasbourg with the flags of various Member State nations. A tree can be seen on the right hand side. It is a sunny day with light blue and cloudless sky.
09 Mar 2023

Four key priorities that the Council of Europe’s Fourth Summit must commit to

With war against Ukraine and overall backsliding on human rights, democracy and rule of law across Europe, a strong Council of Europe is more crucial than ever. It is vital that Council of Europe Member States recommit to the Council of Europe’s foundations and take effective and concrete steps to advance implementation of human rights, democracy and rule of law in Europe. The upcoming Fourth Council of Europe Summit is an unmissable opportunity to do so.

At the upcoming summit, National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) and ENNHRI recommend that Summit delegates commit to four key priorities.    

The first of these is to better bridge the Council of Europe with domestic realities. Better integration of key domestic human rights defenders, such as NHRIs, can enrich the Council of Europe’s processes, while vice versa, it will also advance awareness and impacts of the Council of Europe domestically. The Council of Europe can better connect with national contexts by:

  • Ensuring participation rights at the Council of Europe for key independent domestic actors such as NHRIs and their network, ENNHRI;
  • Further developing protection and support for human rights defenders and combat shrinking civic space across the Council of Europe.

The second is to prioritise implementing the European Convention of Human Rights and executing judgments of the European Court of Human Rights (Court). Key actions for achieving this goal are:

  • Providing more resources to the Court and the Council of Europe Department for Execution of Judgments;
  • Further strengthening and supporting the role of independent domestic actors such as NHRIs and NGOs to advance implementation on the ground;
  • Bringing together all Court judgments and Council of Europe monitoring body recommendations per country for periodic review and decision-making by the Committee of Ministers to advance implementation – this should be with the participation of independent domestic actors such as NHRIs.

The third is to address new challenges such as climate change and artificial intelligence through a human rights-based approach. The Council of Europe should prove its continued relevance to European societies, including youth, by building consensus among European states to tackle these vital issues. It can achieve this through:

  • The introduction of urgently needed, binding Council of Europe standards on the right to a healthy environment and artificial intelligence;
  • Strong accountability and redress at national and regional level, guaranteeing the  rights of current and future generations.

The fourth is to continue to prioritise work addressing the devastating impacts for human rights, democracy and rule of law from the war against Ukraine. The Council of Europe should support accountability and access to justice for citizens through a hybrid approach, including:

  • Setting up regional mechanisms such as a registry of damages from the war;
  • Providing dedicated (capacity building/expert) support for Ukrainian domestic actors, such as the NHRI and NGOs, to monitor, report and address human rights violations on the ground in line with regional standards.

For further details, see ENNHRI’s submission to the Council of Europe High-Level Reflection Group, and ENNHRI’s submission to the survey of the Icelandic Chairmanship of the Council of Europe.