Tirana, Albania – 6 September 2012

      Tirana conference acknowledges the role of local communities for the protection of human rights

      Strasbourg, 7 September 2012. - The Congress took part in a debate on “human rights at local level” in a meeting held on 6 September in Tirana (Albania) under the auspices of the Albanian Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers, presided over by the Deputy Minister of the Interior, Mr Ferdinand Poni. Lars O. Molin, Chair of the Monitoring Committee, and Congress Rapporteur on Human Rights spoke on the key role which local and regional authorities play in providing access to human rights, and in preventing or reacting to their violations. “We in the Congress are convinced that human rights are a shared responsibility. Their exercise in our societies is only successful to the extent which the political, economic and social conditions existing in our communities allow for it,” he elaborated. Topics discussed at the Tirana Conference included “Is the implementation of human rights only the Government’s responsibility?” and “The state of human rights at local level in Albania”, with the participation of the Deputy Minister of Labour, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, Mr Kastriot Sulka, representatives from Parliament, the cities of Tirana, Ellbasan and Patos, the Ombudsman, and the National Commissioner for Protection from Discrimination and NGO’s.

      Nikolaus Sitaropoulos, representing Nils Muižnieks, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, highlighted the role of the Congress as being “of great value” in the practice of human rights. “Effective protection of human rights starts and finishes at home”, he stated. Ambassador Eugen Wollfarth, Head of the OSCE Presence in Albania, echoed this sentiment, commenting that “local authorities are the first door citizens knock on when exercising basic rights”. Mr. Poni called on local authorities to take the lead: “Local authorities must not wait for uniform solutions from the government. They should determine their priorities and act”.

      “The Congress of the Council of Europe will pursue its action of awareness raising of local and regional authorities in this respect in order to strengthen local democracy by a full compliance with fundamental liberties and human rights at this level of governance” concluded Lars Molin.