A clean, healthy and sustainable environment is a universal human right. The United Nations makes this claim and the Council of Europe reiterates as such. It would seem obvious yet is not, but above all has not been so evident in recent decades, which have left an oppressive legacy in terms of global pollution. « Our goal is a "reading with the focus on ecology" of the European Charter of Local Self-Government, namely an interpretation of its guidelines in relation to environmental protection as well as reinforcement of the position of local and regional authorities in the decision-making process on environmental matters », as stated by Congress spokesperson on Human Rights, Harald Bergmann (Netherlands), referring to the report adopted by the Monitoring Commission at its recent meeting in Istanbul. The text will be discussed next 25 to 27 October during the 43rd session of the Congress.

Bergmann calls this recognition « a crucial turning point that demonstrates the urgency of collective action, at every level of government, to protect our environment and fight climate change ».

A reading of the European Charter of Local Self-Government with the focus on ecology

The central issue consists in recognizing that a healthy and safe environment is an indispensable prerequisite for guaranteeing human rights and keeping in remembering that the goal may only be achieved through shared responsibilities.

For this reason, the Congress proposes to draw up an additional Protocol to the Charter, intended to guarantee local governance in environmental matters and to raise awareness among local authorities. Furthermore, to help local authorities and their administrations, the Congress is preparing a third volume of the series of Human Rights Manuals intended for those elected who are more in contact with the needs of the territory. The text, dedicated specifically to the environment and sustainable development, will be published in October 2022.

It is indeed an important recognition, a necessary but insufficient condition, as in the study of mathematics when there is the absence of something, an element that could transform an intent into a reality. And so too in this case the theorem is well underway but still incomplete. There are no rules, it is true, but above all there is a lack of political will to apply them, at least in certain geographical areas. The Council of Europe provides an excellent guide, which will be further perfected in the coming months, then it will be necessary to ensure that it does not remain a dead letter.

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