The role of local and regional authorities
in the implementation of human rights
Debate in the Chamber of Regions of the Congress.
Wednesday 17 March, 15.50pm Afternoon Session (Hemicycle of the Council of Europe, Strasbourg)
3. Participants in the Congress debate
Rapporteur : Lars O. MOLIN, Sweden (L, EPP /CD).
Dieter Von BLARER, Switzerland (Ombudsman for the Canton Basel-City);
Stefan WOLF, Germany (Lord Mayor of Weimar).
In line with the principle of subsidiarity, local and regional authorities may be considered to be the primary players in accomplishing the Council’s human rights mission. Systematic work to implement and monitor human rights at local and regional level not only aids the implementation of human rights in the whole of Europe, it also can contribute to the reduction of the burden at national level and ensure a more effective functioning of the European Court of Human Rights.
There is a strong interrelation between human rights on the one hand and local or regional self-government on the other hand. There are no human rights without democracy and there is no democracy without local democracy.
5. Elements for the debate
· The European Charter of Local Self-Government is a cornerstone treaty in protecting human rights.
· It is as relevant to the local and regional level in Europe as the European Convention of Human Rights.
· No standard solutions - 47 member states necessitate flexibility as regards methods of implementing human rights at grass-roots level.
· The examination of local budgets from a human rights perspective (with regard to the effective monitoring of the human rights situation and for the proper implementation of programmes and policies).
· The role of the judicial process in securing human rights i.e. ensuring the right of citizens to a judicial process.
Specific aims for the Congress in implementating of human rights:
· local contributions to the elaboration of human rights indicators at national level;
· local contributions to the drafting of national human rights plans (strategies, policies, indicators, monitoring mechanisms) and establishment of co-ordination and co-operation mechanisms between territorial bodies and the central government;
· the fostering of human rights training and the promotion of consultation processes for local elected representatives and government officials;
· the systematic training of territorial political leaders and dissemination of information among citizens about their rights (particularly among vulnerable groups);
· the creation of awareness-raising initiatives and territorial action plans targeted at local populations;
· a significant role to play as a mediator of successful experiences;
· the creation of a toolkit of successful implementation methods tailored to local needs;
· the establishment of an independent complaints’ mechanism at local level (eg. decentralised ombudsman offices, local and regional ombudspersons, consumer complaints boards etc);
· the encouragement of authorities to be proactive in setting up appropriate structures for effective monitoring of human rights and their rectification;
· the role of the Institutional Committee in the systematic assessment of the human rights situation through the use of the Congress’ monitoring system and the recommendation to produce five-yearly reports on the human rights situation at local and regional level.
Activities carried out by the Congress with a view to implementing human rights:
· the Barcelona Colloquium, a first round table of European regional ombudsmen, Barcelona 2 to 4 July 2004 (co-organised by the office of the Commissioner for Human Rights);
· Report by Keith Whitmore: The links between local and regional democracy and human rights, Contribution of the Congress to the Forum for the Future of Democracy (Sigtuna, Sweden, 13 to 15 June 2007): the Report claims the right to manage local affairs to be a “collective” political right. The right to joint control over their affairs at the local level according to the European Charter of Local Self-Government is still not recognised as an individual political right, or at least has not yet been brought before the European Court of Human Rights;
· Seminar on systematic work for human rights implementation at local and regional level in October 2008.
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