Speech by Harald BERGMANN, Netherlands (L, GILD-ILDG), RES Human Rights Handbook III

Check against delivery - Seul le prononcé fait foi

Volume III of the Human Rights Handbook on the Environment and Sustainable Development

Dear members,

I am delighted to present you today the third volume of the Human Rights Handbook for local and regional authorities and the draft resolution which were adopted at the Monitoring Committee meeting in June.

This third volume is dedicated to rights relating to a healthy, clean, and sustainable environment, which belong to the “third generation” of human rights as expressed in all progressive texts of international law.  

I am very happy that the UN in its resolution of July 2022 recognized the right to a safe and healthy environment as a human right. The Committee of Ministers of the CoE in its September recommendation has also called on the member states to consider recognizing this right in their national legislation.

In our Handbook, we have therefore focused on the protection of the environment and sustainability. We believe that good governance at all levels is impossible without duly protecting the environment – including climate justice and security – and upholding human rights.  

When deciding on the topic, we were also inspired by the high expectations which our citizens place on every level of governance – including us, local and regional elected representatives – to fight climate change and protect the environment with all the urgency and seriousness which this issue requires.  

You have just adopted a resolution and a recommendation on the green reading of the Charter, and you have also heard the presentation of the rapporteurs. So, I suppose I don’t have to convince you that local and regional authorities have an essential role to play in these efforts, as they are closest to citizens and are best able to respond to local problems.

To fulfil our responsibility and to meet citizens’ expectations, the Congress set climate change as a priority of its actions for 2021-2026. This Handbook is a concrete contribution to this priority.

It is also an excellent example of how we – local and regional elected officials - can and must think globally and act locally.

And of course, this Handbook will be instrumental in assisting local and regional policy makers with the task of adopting a human rights-based approach to their environmental and climate change related policy- making.

I would therefore like to thank all of you for your resolute support and contribution to the work on this Handbook at every stage of its preparation.

Now let me say a few words about the structure and the content of the third volume.

The Handbook is divided into 7 chapters.

The introductory chapter explains why defending environmental rights and sustainable development is important, outlines the legal framework for human rights and the environment and sketches out how subnational authorities can contribute to localizing the UN sustainable development goals.

It also covers the key challenges which local and regional authorities face in the implementation of a human rights-based approach to environmental protection, such as access to expertise and know-how, financial autonomy, and ensuring transparencyand inclusion of all parts of society in decision-making

In chapters -  II to VII -  we focus on the main areas of subnational authorities’ competences linked to environmental protection, which we  have categorized according to their main sectors of activities, for example, transport and mobility; employment, inclusion and sustainable Economy; services and procurement.

Every chapter includes:

-         a collection of best practices from subnational authorities of the CoE member States which show how to make our societies healthier, greener, more sustainable, more inclusive, better informed, more prosperous, and resilient.

-         And a set of practical recommendations to local and regional authorities on how to adopt a human rights-based approach in their efforts to protect the environment and promote sustainable development.

When preparing the Handbook, we relied on your input and also the input of the secretaries of the national delegations concerning various examples of good practices of human rights implementation in your countries.  I would like to thank everyone who contributed to this work, and in particular our expert, Tatiana Kakara, who prepared the compilation of good practices and did an excellent work.

Dear members,

By adopting the present draft resolution, you will endorse the third volume of the Human Rights Handbook on environment and sustainable development. You will also give the green light to the continuation of the work on the next volume.

You will renew your call on all levels of government to unite their efforts in combating climate change and preserving the environment for the benefit of present and future generations.

You will invite local and regional authorities to disseminate, promote and use this Handbook in their local and regional policies.

Finally, you will also launch a reflection on a type of international instrument which would help regulate relations between national and subnational authorities in tackling the climate crises. This is critically important because we cannot conceive of good local governance without due consideration of environmental issues.

I am convinced that such reflection will lead to enhancing the legal basis for an effective multi-level cooperation in tackling the climate crises. 

I invite you to approve the draft resolution.

Thank you again for your support and also for your attention.