18th Plenary Session of the Congress
Strasbourg, 17 March 2010
Speech by Gaye DOGANOGLU, President, Committee on Sustainable Development
Discussion on “The role of local and regional authorities in the implementation of human rights”
I am speaking on behalf of the Committee on Sustainable Development which has already started to discuss the issue of implementing human rights at local and regional levels, in particular in relation to the one of the most important environmental challenges of this century, which is climate change and more generally sustainable development.
I would like first and foremost to congratulate Mr Molin for his excellent report, which gives a good basis for further work on this issue within the Congress Committees.
Mr Molin, you have very wisely included in your report a reference to the so-called "emerging rights" and, in particular, to the right to a healthy environment as a fundamental human right, which is of utmost importance.
Indeed, in the Committee on Sustainable Development, we believe that all human beings are entitled to more rights than just those that are recognised, protected and guaranteed in the international and national legislative frameworks. Sustainable development as an aim has become a democratic issue and the interdependence of human rights and sustainable development is a very real one.
Rights, such as the right to life and health, to food and water, to suitable living conditions and adequate housing, to the protection of property and freedom of movement can only be fully enjoyed in a sound environment. The questions of equality, non-discrimination, access to information, access to justice are also relevant in this respect.
Moreover, climate change impacts on the basic elements of human life and thus directly affects a range of fundamental rights. Although the debate initially focused on the physical and natural impacts, we have now to take stock of the consequence on human societies.
Furthermore, we all know that people in disadvantaged situations are often those who suffer the most. We are very much aware of the link between government capacities in risk prevention and risk management and the dangers when these are lacking. The situation is often alarming in countries with weak governance and weaker local and regional institutional capacities, including on the European continent.
The close link between environment and standard of living means that this right is a "sine qua non" condition of the enjoyment and exercise of other rights.
Nowadays, the right to a healthy environment is more and more considered to be a fundamental human right, thus environmental protection is a prerequisite for the effective enjoyment of human rights.
The Committee on Sustainable Development has increasingly taken human rights into account in our activities, so much so that we have decided to draft a report on human rights and sustainable development.
The Committee will also provide input into the study on climate change and human rights which is currently being carried out by the Committee of Experts for the Development of Human Rights. We wish that this issue is included in the 2011-2012 priorities for the Congress which will be under discussion in the coming weeks.