COMMITTEE ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
Malaga (Spain), 13-14 March 2008
Summaries of the reports
R: Chamber of Regions / L: Chamber of Local Authorities
ILDG: Independent and Liberal Democrat Group of the Congress
EPP/CD: Group European People’s Party – Christian Democrats of the Congress
SOC: Socialist Group of the Congress
NR: Member not belonging to a Political Group of the Congress
I. For examination on 13 March 2008
1. Services of general interest in rural areas, a key factor in territorial cohesion policies
Rapporteurs: Claudette Abela Baldacchino, Malta (R, SOC)
Michael Neureiter, Austria (R, EPP/CD)
Services of general interest in rural areas are crucial to the wellbeing of populations and to overcome the challenges of out-migration, urban sprawl and globalisation. Given the interdependencies and complementarities of urban and rural areas, preserving dynamic rural zones is vital for territorial cohesion.
In the face of demographic challenges and rising infrastructure costs, the different levels of governance need to coordinate their policies and build a variety of partnerships so that rural populations can enjoy services based on the principles of equality, solidarity, continuity and transparency.
The capacity to organise services appropriate to needs is inextricably linked to local and regional dynamism. Therefore innovative forms of organisation and delivery of public services need to be encouraged to offer ways of maintaining populations whilst preserving rural areas from environmental threats and ensuring their economic development.
2. City diplomacy
Rapporteur : Onno VAN VELDHUIZEN (Netherlands, L, ILDG)
City Diplomacy is a tool of local governments and their associations to promote conflict prevention, conflict resolution and post-conflict reconstruction with the aim of creating a stable cohesive environment in which citizens can live together in peace, democracy and prosperity.
The growing awareness of City Diplomacy is reflected in the organisation of the First World Conference on City Diplomacy, to take place in The Hague, Netherlands on 11-13 June 2008.
The Congress asks the Committee of Ministers to prepare a recommendation to member States on the subject, underlining that it is a legitimate expression of European citizenship sharing the values of democracy, rule of law and human rights.
It also commits itself to work in close cooperation with the other relevant international organizations to draw up a charter for city diplomacy and to set up relevant pilot projects.
3. Integration through Sport
Rapporteur : Wolfgang SCHUSTER (Germany, EPP/CD)
The Committee on Culture and Education examines sport activities as a tool for reinforcing social ties and supporting the integration of young people, in particular those from immigrant backgrounds.
The Committee is convinced that municipal policies for the promotion of sport must take into account all sectors of society, with the help of sports associations, who are privileged partners in providing “sport for all”.
4. Biodiversity policies for urban areas
Rapporteur : Willy Borsus, Belgium (L, ILDG)
Biological diversity is not only the prerogative of the countryside, it is also very well-established in urban areas where numerous species of flora and fauna live and flourish. Urban biodiversity is undoubtedly a matter requiring regulation and action on the part of local and regional authorities.
Biodiversity in towns and cities offers many benefits: the biomass acts as a climate regulator and contributes to water retention. It recycles organic waste and absorbs numerous greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide. Biodiversity also makes for interaction between different species and is conducive to relaxation, aesthetic pleasure and health. Furthermore, it also serves to educate young people in towns and cities who are often cut off from nature.
Protecting and extending urban biodiversity is the responsibility of territorial authorities which should take steps to control and monitor biodiversity, encourage urban planning projects that incorporate nature, foster awareness and education on biodiversity and offer integrated urban ecology plans in partnership with civil society. Relevant international texts should reflect the growing importance of biodiversity in urban areas.
5. Local and regional authorities committed to sustainable consumption
Rapporteur : Valery Kadokhov, Russian Federation, (R, SOC)
Human activities are having an increasingly adverse impact on ecosystems and health. One of the main reasons behind the growing risks facing current and future populations is the unrestrained growth in the consumption of goods and services, resulting in a growing scarcity of certain natural resources and irreversible damage to the environment. These trends will gain in strength over the next few years as demand increases in the emerging and developing countries and as the needs and expectations of industrial countries evolve.
Changing collective and individual behaviour towards responsible and ethical consumption is one of the more effective means of reducing the risks. Local and regional authorities can make a very considerable contribution towards promoting changes to modes of consumption. They can act upon territorial management and offer examples of ecologically sound practices. They can also interact directly with citizens and with intermediaries such as associations, businesses and educational bodies by offering resolute support for their activities.
The success of their efforts is closely linked to the capacity of territorial authorities to mobilise and implement, in close consultation with all stakeholders, practices for responsible and environmentally virtuous consumption.
6. Climate change: building adaptive capacity of local and regional authorities
Rapporteurs: Ingrid Franzen, Germany (R, SOC)
Svetlana Orlova, Russian Federation (R, EPP/CD)
Climate change is no longer a distant threat but a very real phenomenon that affects our environment and social and economic wellbeing. Resolute public action is required to strengthen the adaptive capacity of local and regional authorities to protect people, property and resources and generally to decrease vulnerability to the consequences of meteorological hazards. Adaptation strategies at all levels of governance must be combined with mitigation policies that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Adaptation is a progressive approach that seeks to anticipate future change. Strategies must be based on risk and vulnerability assessments that identify risk prone areas and sectors. They should adopt a transversal rather than sectoral approach. Dynamic planning that enables responsive, rapid and flexible decision-making is required. Since European regions will suffer differently from the adverse effects of climate change, incentives and burden sharing mechanisms should be developed to support the adaptation challenge.
Given the proven link between human activity and climate change, and in view/light of inherent and uncertainties in climate change scenarios, awareness-raising to improve citizens’ understanding of what is at stake is crucial to successful adaptation towards climate-proof cities and regions.
II. For examination on 14 March 2008
7. Kosovo Municipal and Assembly elections (Serbia)
Rapporteur : Joe Conway, Ireland (L, ILDG)
The Council of Europe was invited by the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) to lead international efforts to observe the Assembly and local elections held there on 17 November and 8 December, 2007. Its role was to examine closely the entire electoral process to ensure that it fully complied with international standards and that the conditions for democratic and transparent elections were met.
The elections were conducted generally in line with Council of Europe principles, as well as international and European standards for democratic elections, when considering the late call for elections and the challenge of running three elections concurrently in Kosovo’s still complex political and social environment.
The elections took place in a peaceful atmosphere. Except for the Kosovo Serbs, whose participation was inconsistent and extremely low, voters from all communities participated in these elections.
The overwhelming majority of observers evaluated the voting process in positive terms, with only minor and isolated irregularities reported. However, overall voter turnout was alarming low (43% in November first round and 31% in December).
8. Presidential elections in the Republic of Srpska (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
Rapporteur : Giorgi Masalkini, Georgia (R, ILDG)
Following an official invitation from the Bosnia and Herzegovina authorities to observe an early election for the President of the Republika of Srpska (Bosnia and Herzegovina), on Sunday 9th December 2007, the Congress appointed an observer delegation comprising Mr Owen Masters, former Congress member (United Kingdom), Head of Delegation, Mr Giorgo Masalkini, Committee of Constitutional, Legal Affairs and Procedure, (Georgia ILDG, R), who were accompanied by Mr Lukas Van Damme, and Ms Gordana Tetchner (Congress Secretariat).
The role of the Congress delegation was to examine the electoral process, to ensure it complied with international standards, and that the conditions for democratic and transparent elections were met.
The early election for the President of the Republic of Srpska was as a result of the death of former President Milan Jelic.
The interest in this election had been noticeable, with rallies by the three main candidates and with good media coverage. It is unfortunate that, despite vigorous campaigning by the three main candidates, the voter turn-out was less than 38%.
It was encouraging to see the younger generation, male and female, taking on electoral responsibilities not only as members of Polling Station Commissions, but in many cases as Chairmen too.
The elections observed were generally in accordance with Council of Europe and international standards for democratic elections.