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Strengthening co-operation with the United Nations in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

Report | Doc. 14848 | 25 March 2019

Committee
Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy
Rapporteur :
Mr Adão SILVA, Portugal, EPP/CD
Origin
Reference to committee: Doc. 14261, Reference 4286 of 28 April 2017. 2019 - Second part-session

Summary

As the foundations of multilateralism are increasingly being challenged, the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy points to the need to strengthen mutual support between the United Nations and value-based regional partners. The Council of Europe, as an important multilateral player at the European level, must contribute more actively to the United Nations efforts to address key global challenges.

In this context, the report stresses the importance of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals, and welcomes the emphasis which the 2030 Agenda places on human rights, the rule of law and good governance through democratic institutions, thereby tightly linking the Agenda with the core values on which the Council of Europe is founded.

The report welcomes the fact that the Council of Europe is already contributing to the implementation of 13 Sustainable Development Goals and provides information on this contribution. The draft resolution and draft recommendation call for the strengthening of co-operation with the United Nations in implementing the 2030 Agenda and suggest a series of concrete measures to be taken to this effect.

A Draft resolutionNote

1 The Parliamentary Assembly reiterates its commitment to international order based on effective multilateralism, with the United Nations and its Charter as its cornerstone. As universal values such as human rights are increasingly being challenged, it is essential to strengthen mutual support between the United Nations, as a global Organisation, and value-based regional partners such as the Council of Europe.
2 The Assembly greatly values the fruitful and multifaceted co-operation between the Council of Europe and the United Nations founded on the complementarity of their action to protect peace based on respect for human rights. It strongly believes that the Council of Europe, as an important multilateral player at the European level, must contribute more actively to the United Nations efforts to address key global challenges.
3 In this context, the Assembly attaches great importance to the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted at the Global Summit in September 2015 and to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set out to achieve this ambitious and comprehensive Agenda by 2030. The Assembly welcomes the fact that the SDGs are accompanied by targets and indicators enable progress in achieving them to be measured.
4 The Assembly particularly welcomes the emphasis which the 2030 Agenda places on human rights, the rule of law and good governance through democratic institutions, thereby tightly linking the Agenda with the core values on which the Council of Europe is founded.
5 The implementation of the 2030 Agenda will require full mobilisation of all stakeholders. While the primary responsibility for achieving the SDGs lies with the national authorities of United Nations member States, regional organisations such as the Council of Europe can facilitate the effective translation of global sustainable development policies into concrete action at national level.
6 In this respect, the Assembly refers to United Nations General Assembly Resolution A/RES/73/15 on co-operation between the United Nations and the Council of Europe, which welcomes the contribution of the Council of Europe to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda in Europe and beyond. It notes that our Organisation is already contributing to 13 of the 17 SDGs.
7 In order to maximise its contribution, the Council of Europe should make full use of strengths such as its unique and widely recognised standard-setting role, which has resulted in a number of ground-breaking conventions, its multi-stakeholder structure, its monitoring and reporting machinery, the support it provides to its member States, its position as a platform for exchanging information and sharing experience and good practice, and its global outreach.
8 The main force of the Council of Europe is its conventional system. Its effectiveness is ensured by unique monitoring and follow-up bodies and processes which assess member States’ compliance with the conventions on the basis of measurable benchmarks and indicators. This produces unique and vital data for identifying areas of progress, as well as challenges; this data is in several cases applicable also for certain SDGs. Since many SDGs and specific targets correlate with obligations under relevant Council of Europe conventions, its member States are legally bound to complying with 2030 Agenda Goals and targets.
9 In line with United Nations General Assembly Resolution A/RES/73/15, the Parliamentary Assembly recognises the need for the United Nations and the Council of Europe to continue to work together, within their respective mandates, to accelerate the pace of the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals towards achieving the 2030 Agenda.
10 The Assembly calls on the Council of Europe member States, as well as, where relevant, observer States and States whose parliaments enjoy observer or partner for democracy status with the Assembly to:
10.1 fully honour their commitments to the SDGs;
10.2 sign and ratify and efficiently implement the Council of Europe legal instruments, in particular those which directly contribute to the achievement of SDGs;
10.3 when reporting to Council of Europe monitoring bodies, make reference, where applicable, to relevant SDGs;
10.4 make reference systematically to relevant obligations under the Council of Europe legal instruments to which they are Parties and make full use of the reporting they are carrying out in the process of monitoring their compliance, in the context of assessing progress in the implementation of SDGs, including when presenting voluntary national reviews;
10.5 include parliamentarians in their national structures and delegations at the various stages of reviewing SDGs, including at the sessions of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development and the United Nations General Assembly, as well as at thematic events, and provide them with the possibility to participate actively in the work of these processes and events.
11 With reference to Resolution … (2019) “Implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals: synergy needed on the part of all stakeholders, from parliaments to local authorities”, the Assembly further calls on the Parliaments of Council of Europe member and observer States, as well as parliaments enjoying observer or partner for democracy status with the Assembly, to:
11.1 play an active role in the implementation of the SDGs, both in setting priorities and in ensuring progress;
11.2 encourage its members to join their country’s delegation to the General Assembly of the United Nations;
11.3 ensure that voluntary national reviews are first presented to, and discussed in, national parliaments, including the budgetary aspects;
11.4 hold debates on the activities of the United Nations in order to increase public awareness of its central role as a cornerstone of multilateralism and with the aim of increasing knowledge of the benefits that the United Nations 2030 Agenda bring to every person’s daily life.
12 The Assembly calls on the Secretary General of the Council of Europe to:
12.1 continue highlighting the mutual relevance of the Council of Europe activities and the 2030 Agenda process, notably by:
12.1.1 inviting the different intergovernmental committees and structures to regularly include the item of the United Nations 2030 Agenda on their agendas, with a reference to relevant Council of Europe conventions, and by stimulating the exchange of experience and good practice, with the aim of making progress in achieving the SDGs;
12.1.2 labelling the various activities, including those in neighbouring regions, which contribute to relevant SDGs;
12.1.3 bringing up issues relating to the 2030 Agenda on the occasion of country visits, and by inviting other Council of Europe interlocutors to do so;
12.2 ensure that the Council of Europe is duly represented, and its contribution made available, at the various stages of reviewing SDGs, including at the sessions of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development and the United Nations General Assembly, as well as at thematic events;
12.3 find a way for the Council of Europe to be represented, in a visible and co-ordinated way, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York;
12.4 consider ways to engage with the business community in order to promote sustainable and responsible business, in line with the United Nations 2030 Agenda.
13 The Assembly calls on the United Nations to:
13.1 draw greater benefit from the Council of Europe's unique experience in human rights and parliamentary democracy and the relevant standards, notably the useful benchmarks that they provide, and their monitoring reports;
13.2 acknowledge, make visible and fully use the Council of Europe’s contribution to the implementation of SDGs;
13.3 further promote Council of Europe legal instruments open to non-member States.
14 For its part, the Assembly resolves to:
14.1 regularly review the implementation of SDGs and fully play its role as a platform for exchanging national experiences and good practice;
14.2 strengthen the parliamentary contribution to, and dialogue with the United Nations, focusing on the implementation of SDGs and the complementarity between the Council of Europe and the United Nations, including with its agencies based in Geneva and Vienna;
14.3 label its activities, including those in neighbouring regions, as those contributing to relevant SDGs.

B Draft recommendationNote

1 The Parliamentary Assembly refers to its Resolution … (2019) on strengthening co-operation with the United Nations in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
2 It recommends that the Committee of Ministers:
2.1 consult at an early stage the Parliamentary Assembly on the preparation of the biannual debate in the General Assembly of the United Nations and of the draft resolution on “Co-operation between the United Nations and the Council of Europe”, as well as, when applicable, in the process of preparing the Council of Europe’s contribution to the review of progress in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs);
2.2 encourage the governments of the Council of Europe member and observer States to include members of the Parliamentary Assembly in their delegations to the General Assembly for the purpose of the biannual debate on “Co-operation between the United Nations and the Council of Europe”, as well as to various stages of the review of progress in implementing the SDGs, including at the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development;
2.3 consider introducing regular exchanges of views on issues relating to the Council of Europe contribution to the implementation of SDGs at the level of Ministers’ Deputies with the participation of experts from capitals and United Nations high officials, as well as of the Parliamentary Assembly;
2.4 find a pragmatic solution enabling the Council of Europe to be represented at United Nations Headquarters in New York.

C Explanatory memorandum by Mr Adão Silva, rapporteur

1 Introduction: origin, scope and purpose of report

1 In December 2016, the Parliamentary Assembly’s Sub-Committee on External Relations went to New York and had a series of meetings with a number of United Nations high officials. During the visit, many of our United Nations counterparts shared with us concerns about universal human rights being increasingly under threat and challenged, and the role of international organisations being questioned. They felt it all the more important that the United Nations, as a global Organisation, may rely in its work on regional partners – and in particular, on value-based partners such as the Council of Europe.
2 In view of the interest, and the need, expressed by our interlocutors, to further strengthen co-operation between the Council of Europe and the United Nations, I tabled on 30 January 2017 a motion for a resolution on “Strengthening co-operation with the United Nations” (Doc. 14261). The motion was referred to the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy for report on 28 April 2017 and I was appointed as rapporteur on 29 June 2017.
3 On 11 and 12 December 2017, I carried out a fact-finding visit to Geneva (Switzerland), and had a series of meetings with representatives of the United Nations agencies based there. In January 2018, I briefed the committee on my visit. In April 2018, the committee organised a hearing with Council of Europe officials directly involved in co-operation with the United Nations.
4 Following my visit to Geneva and the hearing in the committee, and taking into account the prominent importance of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development for all United Nations activities in the coming years, I decided to focus this report mainly (but not exclusively) on the contribution which the Council of Europe has already been making to the implementation of the Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and on the ways to enhance it. Accordingly, in October 2018, I suggested modifying the title of the report as follows: “Strengthening co-operation with the United Nations in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”.
5 On 3 and 4 December 2018, I carried out a fact-finding visit to the United Nations Headquarters in New York, and I also participated in the meeting of the Sub-Committee on External Relations at the United Nations on 5 and 6 December 2018. These meetings confirmed that there was a growing concern, both among UN officials and representatives of member States, about increasingly open and frequent attacks on the very foundations of international order based on multilateralism, and on key values which international institutions aim to protect. In addition, previously agreed language on human rights issues was increasingly challenged and compromises sought to interpret human rights in a minimalistic way. From these meetings, it also became obvious that the United Nations is reaching out to regional organisations, and especially the Council of Europe, to face these challenges and to step up impetus towards achieving the SDGs.
6 This concern was publicly expressed on numerous occasions by the United Nations Secretary General António Guterres, including at the opening of the new session of the United Nations General Assembly on 25 September 2018. On this occasion, he stated:
“Together, as guardians of the common good, we also have a duty to promote and support a reformed, reinvigorated and strengthened multilateral system.We need commitment to a rules-based order, with the United Nations at its centre and with the different institutions and treaties that bring the Charter to life.And we need to show the added value of international cooperation by delivering peace, defending human rights and driving economic and social progress for women and men everywhere.”
7 The purpose of this report is therefore to explore the ways for the Council of Europe, as an important multilateral player at the European level, to contribute more actively and effectively to the United Nations efforts to address key global challenges, inter alia by contributing to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. The Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination is seized for opinion, and I look forward to their contribution on the matters within its remit. Moreover, the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development is currently preparing a report on the “Implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals: synergy needed on the part of all stakeholders, from parliaments to local authorities” which, as I am informed, puts particular emphasis on the parliamentary contribution to the implementation of SDGs; it is foreseen that both reports will be presented to the Assembly in a joint debate.

2 Overview of relations between the Council of Europe and the United Nations

8 Co-operation between the Council of Europe and the United Nations has a long history and covers a variety of domains. It is founded on the community of values and purposes: both Organisations, established in the aftermath of the Second World War, are meant to protect peace based on respect for human rights, and are complementary in fulfilling their respective statutory goals.
9 The United Nations, with its universal nature (both in terms of membership and of issues dealt with) and its central position among members of the international community, is a major partner for the Council of Europe offering a framework for global outreach. For the United Nations, the Council of Europe is an important regional partner playing a pioneering role in translating universal principles of democracy and human rights into legal standards in Europe, thus contributing to the promotion of these principles globally. In this context, it is worth mentioning that the United Nations is involved in promoting accession of non-European countries to the Council of Europe conventions open to non-member States.
10 As early as December 1951, two years after the creation of the Council of Europe, the two Organisations concluded an agreement which laid down the modalities of co-operation. It was updated in November 1971. Furthermore, Resolution 44/6 of the United Nations General Assembly (October 1989) granted the Council of Europe a standing invitation to participate as an observer in its sessions.
11 The two Organisations hold regular contacts, consultations and dialogue at the level of their respective Secretaries-General and other high-ranking officials, as well as at the working level between Secretariats. The Council of Europe works closely, both at the Headquarters and in the field, with many bodies of the UN system, including the UNHCR, OHCHR and HRC, UNICEF, OCHA, UNDP, UNECE, UNESCO, ILO, WHO, UNODC, UN SC CTC, CTED, UN Women and the World Bank. In addition, very valuable exchanges take place with the different Special Representatives and Special Rapporteurs of the Secretary General.
12 Considering that much UN work is carried out outside its New York Headquarters, the Council of Europe opened liaison offices in Geneva (2010) and in Vienna (2011). These offices contribute to strengthening co-operation with the UN agencies based in these cities. However, the capacities of these offices need to be enhanced so that they can effectively play the role of interface vis-à-vis their UN partners and contribute to greater Council of Europe input and visibility in the multilateral context. In the same spirit, there is a need to find a way for the Council of Europe to be represented, in a visible and co-ordinated way, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.
13 Protection and promotion of human rights in a broad sense remains at the heart of co-operation between the Council of Europe and the United Nations. The Joint Declaration on the reinforcement of co-operation between the Council of Europe Secretariat and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) (September 2013) provided a new impetus to it. The two Organisations co-ordinate activities and priorities on a regular basis. The latest Council of Europe–OHCHR co-ordination meeting (Geneva, June 2018) focused on “Freedom of expression in the digital age and the role of human rights defenders”. The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights maintains contacts with the OHCHR and met the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in 2017.
14 Co-operation with the Human Rights Council (HRC) has also increased. The Council of Europe contributes to the process of the preparation of Universal Periodic Reviews by providing information on human rights situation in its member States. In addition, since 2013, the Committee of Ministers holds regular exchanges of views with HRC Presidents to discuss issues of priority on the agenda of the Council of Europe. The latest one took place on 7 February 2019 with Ambassador Coly Seck (Senegal), President of the Human Rights Council for 2019.
15 The Committee of Ministers also holds annual exchanges of views on co-operation with the United Nations in the field of human rights with the participation of experts from capitals, as well as thematic discussions on specific issues. In 2018, the discussion on “Protection of migrant children” was introduced by Ms Renate Winter, Chairperson of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. The 2019 thematic discussion was dedicated to “New technologies and freedom of expression” with the participation of Mr Moez Chakchouk, Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
16 For its part, the Parliamentary Assembly has traditionally taken great interest in the work of the United Nations, provided political support to it, and participated in various activities of the United Nations and its subsidiary bodies. The Assembly co-operates with the United Nations at different levels. Its Rapporteurs maintain regular working contacts with counterparts at various UN institutions and offices. In its resolutions and recommendations, the Assembly systematically refers, and expresses support, to pertinent UN documents. Moreover, on the basis of Order 500 (1994) on relations between the Council of Europe and the United Nations, the Sub-Committee on External Relations of the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy holds bi-annual meetings at the UN Headquarters in New York and organises exchanges of views with senior UN officials on topics of relevance to both Organisations. Most recently, the Sub-Committee met in New York in December 2018. In December 2015, it also met at the UN Office in Geneva.
17 In the framework of bi-annual debates on co-operation with regional and other organisations held since 2000, the United Nations General Assembly adopts resolutions on co-operation between the United Nations and the Council of Europe. These resolutions offer an opportunity to take stock of relations between the two bodies, with particular emphasis on priority areas and new challenges. The analysis of successive resolutions shows growing dynamics in co-operation, both in the scope of issues involved and in the level of complementarity achieved.
18 The latest resolution, adopted by the General Assembly on 26 November 2018,Note calls for “the reinforcement of co-operation between the United Nations and the Council of Europe regarding the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, the promotion of democracy and the rule of law and good governance at all levels, inter alia, the prevention of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the fight against terrorism, trafficking in human beings and violence against women, the fight against all forms of racism, discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance, the promotion of freedom of expression and freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief, the protection of the rights and dignity of all members of society without discrimination on any grounds and the promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women and girls, as well as the promotion of human rights education”.
19 The resolution puts an emphasis on a number of specific areas where the two Organisations actively co-operate and reinforce each other’s actions, including the promotion and protection of the rights of vulnerable groups such as persons with disabilities, human rights defenders, national minorities, refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced persons; the fight against trafficking in persons and human organs; bioethics; the protection of the rights of the child; gender equality and the protection of women’s human rights; good local democratic governance; the right to freedom of expression and opinion and the freedom of the media; the fight against hate speech online and offline; the fight against transnational organised crime; cybercrime; terrorism and money-laundering and the protection of the rights of victims of such crimes; the prevention of and the fight against corruption; the fight against drug abuse and drug trafficking; and the promotion of integrity and inclusiveness through sport. It also refers to the key Council of Europe conventions open for accession by all States.
20 Last but not least, the 2018 resolution welcomes “the contribution of the Council of Europe to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in Europe and beyond, while also recognizing the need for the United Nations and the Council of Europe to continue to work together, within their respective mandates, to accelerate the pace of the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals towards achieving the 2030 Agenda”.

3 The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

21 At the Global Summit held at the United Nations in September 2015, world leaders approved a comprehensive plan of global action aimed at making the world a fairer, more peaceful and more prosperous place on a healthy planet Earth by 2030. It was subsequently adopted as the United Nations General Assembly Resolution “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”.Note
22 The plan contains 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) specified through 169 detailed targets to be achieved by 2030. Here are the brief titles of the 17 SDGs:Note
1. No poverty
2. Zero hunger
3. Good health and well-being
4. Quality education
5. Gender equality
6. Clean water and sanitation
7. Affordable and clean energy
8. Decent work and economic growth
9. Industry, innovation and infrastructure
10. Reduced inequalities
11. Sustainable cities and communities
12. Responsible consumption and production
13. Climate action
14. Life below water
15. Life on land
16. Peace, justice and strong institutions
17. Partnerships for the goals
23 The 2030 Agenda is a result of a world-wide consensus reached through an inclusive process of over two years of intergovernmental negotiations with input from civil society and other stakeholders. It is based on the proposal of the Open Working Group set up by the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20, June 2012) with a view to developing a set of sustainable development goals which would be limited in number, aspirational and easy to communicate.
24 The 2030 Agenda and its SDGs build on the previous UN-led initiative, the Millennium Development Goals, and seek to repair its shortcomings and unfinished business. However, the new Agenda sets out a much more ambitious and transformational vision as its Goals and targets aim to build just and inclusive societies by addressing the main problems of the modern world.
25 The Agenda clearly extends the notion of sustainable development, previously focused on developing countries, to the whole international community. Universality of sustainable development and interdependence among all nations are key principles: the old cleavages between the North and the South, between developed and developing countries, must be overcome and the progress of the global community is only possible through the progress of each member State.
26 The SDGs aim at achieving sustainable development in its three dimensions – economic, social and environmental – in a balanced and integrated manner. The Agenda recognises that the dignity of the human being is fundamental, and it stresses the universal character of SDGs and targets which are to be met for all nations and peoples and for all segments of society.
27 The 2030 Agenda is a breakthrough in the understanding of the concept of sustainable development. For the first time, it clearly establishes that issues relating to human rights, the rule of law and good governance through democratic institutions are an integral part of sustainable development. The Agenda contains a direct reference to, and reaffirms the importance of, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as other international instruments relating to human rights; it further emphasises the responsibilities of all States, in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations, to respect, protect and promote human rights and fundamental freedoms for all.
28 In the opening Declaration, the 2030 Agenda states:
“We envisage a world of universal respect for human rights and human dignity, the rule of law, justice, equality and non-discrimination; of respect for race, ethnicity and cultural diversity; and of equal opportunity permitting the full realization of human potential and contributing to shared prosperity. A world which invests in its children and in which every child grows up free from violence and exploitation. A world in which every woman and girl enjoys full gender equality and all legal, social and economic barriers to their empowerment have been removed. A just, equitable, tolerant, open and socially inclusive world in which the needs of the most vulnerable are met.” (paragraph 8)
29 It further stipulates, inter alia:
“We envisage a world in which … democracy, good governance and the rule of law, as well as an enabling environment at the national and international levels, are essential for sustainable development, including sustained and inclusive economic growth, social development, environmental protection and the eradication of poverty and hunger.” (paragraph 9)
30 The new Agenda recognises the need to build peaceful, just and inclusive societies that provide equal access to justice and that are based on respect for human rights (including the right to development), on effective rule of law and good governance at all levels, and on transparent, effective and accountable institutions. It aims at addressing inequality, corruption and poor governance which give rise to violence, insecurity and injustice.
31 An important novelty of the 2030 Agenda is the prominence that it attaches to gender equality issues: “Realizing gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls will make a crucial contribution to progress across all the Goals and targets. The achievement of full human potential and of sustainable development is not possible if one half of humanity continues to be denied its full human rights and opportunities” (paragraph 20).
32 Thus, the 2030 Agenda as a whole, and in particular Goal 5 (Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls), Goal 10 (Reduce inequality within and among countries) and Goal 16 (Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels) are of direct relevance to the core activities of the Council of Europe, including the Assembly, and to all member States.
33 The 2030 Agenda is a political commitment and not a legally binding instrument. Each country has the primary responsibility for its implementation in respecting national policies and priorities, taking into account different national realities and capacities. National ownership is therefore an essential condition for its success. However, regional frameworks can facilitate the effective translation of sustainable development policies into concrete action at the national level.
34 In order to ensure accountability to citizens, the progress made in implementing the SDGs and targets is subject to systematic follow-up and review at the various levels on the basis of measurable indicators. At the global level, the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, gathering annually under the auspices of the UN General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council, has a central role in this process.
35 In 2018, more than 125 heads and deputy heads of State and government and other ministerial level officials, and over 2 000 representatives from governments, the UN system and other organisations, civil society, non-governmental organisations and the private sector, participated in the work of the High-level Political Forum to discuss progress, successes, challenges and lessons learned on the path towards implementing the 2030 Agenda, and reviewed in depth six of the 17 SDGs.
36 The 2030 Agenda encourages member States to conduct regular and inclusive reviews of progress at national and sub-national levels. These country-led and country-driven voluntary national reviews serve as a basis for the discussions at the High-level Political Forum. To date, over 160 countries have been involved in this reporting process. From 2016 to 2018, 34 member StatesNote of the Council of Europe presented their voluntary national reviews; 13 member States will present them in 2019-2020,Note including five countries which will present their second report. Five member StatesNote have not, to date, participated in the process.
37 In addition, the High-level Political Forum also conducts thematic reviews of progress on the SDGs, including cross-cutting issues. The 2018 session of the Forum focused on “Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies”. For 2019, the general theme will be “Empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality”, and six SDGs will be reviewed in depth, including Goal 16, which is of particular relevance for the Council of Europe.
38 The implementation of the 2030 Agenda will require full mobilisation of all stakeholders – States, including governments and parliaments, the United Nations system and other international organisations, the business and private sector, the scientific and academic community, and other actors, and a high degree of co-ordination and complementarity among all.
39 However, three and a half years after its launch, the 2030 Agenda remains insufficiently known across our societies – as well as in our parliaments.

4 Council of Europe as a major contributor to the 2030 Agenda Sustainable Development Goals

40 Through its standards and action on the promotion and protection of human rights, democracy and rule of law, the Council of Europe has a huge window of opportunity to contribute to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. As Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland pointed out in his letter to the then Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon in May 2015, “[t]he Council of Europe is an organisation founded on the universal values of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Our contribution must therefore focus on these values. They are not only values in their own right, but important factors of sustainability for any societal model”.
41 Most of the Council of Europe activities contribute to the implementation of 2030 Agenda. The added value of the Council of Europe is its pan-European membership, its standard-setting through legally binding instruments, its monitoring mechanisms, and its contribution to capacity-building through technical support. Moreover, many of its conventions are open to non-member States.
42 The Council of Europe is already contributing to 13 out of 17 SDGs. The Programme of activities and budget of the Organisation for the biennium 2018-2019 indicate links to relevant SDGs, thus contributing to the visibility of its action in support of the 2030 Agenda. At the political level, the Parliamentary AssemblyNote and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe address the most challenging issues related to sustainable development. This section provides an overview of the Council of Europe contribution by specific Goal.
43 Ending poverty in all its forms everywhere (Goal 1): the European Social Charter treaty system creates a general framework of protecting every human being against poverty and social exclusion. Forty-three member States of the Council of Europe are Parties to either the 1961 Charter (ETS No. 35) or the revised Charter (ETS No. 163).Note The European Committee of Social Rights (ESCR) monitors the implementation of the Charter in practice. Committee of Ministers Recommendation CM/Rec(2015)3 on the access of young people from disadvantaged neighbourhoods to social rights puts an emphasis specifically on combating poverty among young people. The Commissioner for Human Rights has issued practice-based recommendations helping the governments to align their economic recovery policies with their commitments for human rights.
44 Ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages (Goal 3) is a significant issue for the Council of Europe. According to the European Social Charter and the European Convention on Human Rights, (ETS No. 5), health care is considered a prerequisite for the preservation of human dignity. Special attention is drawn to matters of life expectancy and the principal causes of death and sexual and reproductive health. Access to health care for all is also guaranteed by the Charter and the Convention.
45 Ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all (Goal 4): The Standing Conference of Council of Europe Ministers of Education developed a long-term strategy for more coherent and comprehensive Education for Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights Education (EDC/HRE). The Steering Committee for Educational Policy and Practice (CDPPE) included the SDG4 as a standing agenda item for its plenary meetings to exchange best practice and lessons learned.
46 The European Social Charter guarantees the right of children and young people to free primary and secondary education and encourages regular attendance at schools. In respect of equal access to education, particular attention is paid to vulnerable groups such as children from minorities, refugee children, pregnant teenagers, children deprived of their liberty, etc. As mentioned above, the ESCR monitors the compliance by States Parties with their obligations under the Charter.
47 The Council of Europe was selected as one of two regional organisations for the European and North America region on the UNESCO Global SDG4-Education 2030 Steering Committee. It contributes to the work of this Committee by presenting regional initiatives and identifying and promoting good practice in efforts to achieve SDG4 among its member States.
48 The Council of Europe significantly contributes to Achieving gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls (Goal 5) through its Gender Equality Strategy for 2018-2023. Its legal instruments include three ground-breaking, unique and comprehensive conventions: the Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (CETS No. 210, “Istanbul Convention”), the Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (CETS No. 197), and the Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (CETS No. 201, “Lanzarote Convention”). Non-member States and the European Union are also entitled to become Party to these conventions.
49 The Istanbul Convention frames violence against women as both a cause and a consequence of the inequality between women and men that persists in society and sets out a comprehensive set of legal obligations to prevent such violence. The reports and recommendations of its monitoring mechanism (Group of Experts on Action against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (GREVIO)) provide guidance on prevention and combating of all forms of violence against women. Furthermore, the Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings goes beyond minimum standards and strongly focuses on the protection of victims. Its implementation is monitored by the Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) and the Committee of the Parties. Also, the European Social Charter stipulates the right of men and women to equal opportunities and equal treatment in matters of employment and occupation.
50 Sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all (Goal 8) is promoted by the European Social Charter and the Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. The former guarantees the right to work without discrimination, the right to just conditions of work, the right to safe and healthy working conditions and the right to a fair remuneration, as well as the freedom to organise and the right to bargain collectively, while the latter tackles all forms of trafficking.
51 The Council of Europe Development Bank (CEB) actively contributes to attaining the SDGs through its three lines of action: “Sustainable and inclusive growth”, “Integration of refugees, displaced persons and migrants” and “Climate action: developing mitigation and adaptation measures”. The Bank partially finances social investment projects, in particular concerning vulnerable population groups.
52 The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities has contributed to Building resilient infrastructure, promoting inclusive and sustainable industrialization and fostering innovation (Goal 9) through its work on Intra-regional transport: a challenge for sustainable development and territorial cohesion. It promotes an effective network of transport infrastructures to ensure socio-economic development. The Congress calls on member States to develop renewed mobility policy in consideration of different modes of transport, prioritising low-carbon modes of travel and limiting dependency on fossil fuels.
53 Reducing inequality within and among countries (Goal 10) is one of the main priorities of the Council of Europe. The European Social Charter requires that the enjoyment of the rights shall be secured without discrimination on any grounds such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national extraction or social origin, health, association with a national minority, birth or other status. The ESCR monitors the implementation of the Charter by focusing on income inequalities such as the gender pay gap, income inequalities between adult and young workers or between nationals and migrant workers. Moreover, the work of the Commissioner for Human Rights concentrates on the economic and political inclusion of all people. The activities of the Commissioner in this field have been undertaken in different thematic areas such as human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people, of people with disabilities, human rights and migration, human rights of Roma and Travellers, and women’s rights and gender equality.
54 The European Social Charter guarantees the right to housing, thus contributing to Making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable (Goal 11). Under the Charter, States Parties are obliged to guarantee everyone the right to adequate housing and access to housing, in particular to different groups of vulnerable persons. Furthermore, the obligation to promote and provide housing extends to security from unlawful eviction. Other Council of Europe instruments contributing to Goal 11 include the European Landscape Convention (ETS No. 176), the Framework Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for Society (CETS No. 199, “Faro Convention”), the Convention on Offences relating to Cultural Property (CETS No. 221), as well as the European Heritage Strategy for the 21st century.
55 The Council of Europe Development Bank’s (CEB) unique mandate – promoting social cohesion in Europe – makes it a natural partner for inclusive cities seeking to diversify their financing. In recent years, the Bank has stepped up its co-operation with cities and municipalities in its member States in order to lend its full support to their social investments. In the last ten years, the CEB has invested more than 2.3 billion euros for municipal social infrastructure through loans directly contracted and implemented by cities.
56 The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities has adopted several resolutions and recommendations on Responsible consumption and solidarity-based finance in order to contribute to the goal of ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns (Goal 12). The Congress calls on the territorial authorities to ensure consumption towards sustainability through responsible, environmentally-sound procurement and delivery of services and goods. Member States are invited to encourage enterprises to develop a responsible style of consumption and budgeting.
57 The goal of Taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts (Goal 13) is addressed by the European Social Charter under the right to a healthy environment as part of the right to protection of health. In addition, the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (ETS No. 104, “Bern Convention”) is focussing its efforts on the implementation of its ambitious Programme of Work on Climate Change and Biodiversity. It outlines, in particular, the development of healthy ecosystems through the establishment of a pan-European network of areas of special conservation interest (Emerald network). The issue of adaptive management of the Emerald Network areas is a main objective for the biennium 2018-2019.
58 Protecting, restoring and promoting sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably managing forests, combating desertification, and halting and reversing land degradation and halting biodiversity loss (Goal 15) is addressed by the Bern Convention. It ensures harmonised national policies and guidance for the conservation and the sustainable management of wild species and their habitats. The European and Mediterranean Major Hazards Agreement (EUR-OPA) is supporting scientific and technical research programmes on regions threatened by drought, desertification, floods and fires in order to better understand the vulnerability of human beings and ecosystems and increase community awareness of environmental changes.
59 Promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, providing access to justice for all and building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels (Goal 16) is of particular relevance to the Council of Europe. This Goal is one of the top priorities of the Organisation. The Council of Europe, through its legal instruments and monitoring and consultative bodies and mechanisms, seeks to address the different targets covered by Goal 16. Activities directly contributing to it include providing access to justice for all, strengthening constitutional justice, social reintegration of offenders, the fight against corruption, co-operation against cybercrime, anti-money laundering, countering terrorism, guaranteeing freedom of expression, supporting States in adhering to human rights standards, internet governance and data protection, fighting against discrimination, ending violence against children, empowering civil society, addressing post-conflict situations through confidence-building measures, etc.
60 Promoting the rule of law (target 16.3), the fight against corruption (target 16.5) and developing effective and accountable institutions (target 16.6) are the main messages of the Parliamentary Assembly to non-member States whose parliaments enjoy partner for democracy status (Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Morocco and the Palestinian National Council). This status directly contributes to the strengthening of national institutions, including through international co-operation, and to building capacity at all levels.
61 The European Centre for Global Interdependence and Solidarity (North-South Centre), which was established to promote North-South dialogue and to raise awareness on global interdependence, contributes to Revitalising the global partnership for sustainable development (Goal 17). The North-South Centre’s Network of Universities on Youth and Global Citizenship encourages democratic participation and global citizenship among young people.

5 Making the most of the partnership: avenues to further enhance the Council of Europe contribution to the 2030 Agenda Sustainable Development Goals

62 In this section, I will attempt to sum up the main ideas and proposals which emerged during my fact-finding visits and discussions with various interlocutors.
63 As mentioned above, the 2030 Agenda is a political commitment made by heads of State and government and not a legally binding document. Primary responsibility for achieving the SDGs lies with the national authorities of the UN member States, with the United Nations playing the central role in co-ordination and review. Regional organisations such as the Council of Europe can – and do, as shown in Section 4 above – facilitate the effective translation of sustainable development policies into concrete action at national level.
64 In order to maximise its contribution to the implementation of SDGs while remaining focused on its core business, the Council of Europe should make full use of strengths such as its unique and widely recognised standard-setting role, its multi-stakeholder structure, its monitoring and reporting machinery based on measurable benchmarks and indicators, its technical support to member States, its position as a platform for exchanging information and sharing best practice, and its broad international outreach.
65 The main advantage of the Council of Europe is its conventional system. Many SDGs and specific targets correlate with legally binding obligations under its conventions. Its member States are thus legally bound to comply with 2030 Agenda Goals and targets. This creates a qualitatively different degree of responsibility.
66 The bodies set up to monitor compliance with standards by regular reporting based on measurable indicators are essential for the proper functioning of the conventional system. Country reports presented to these monitoring bodies may also be of great help for preparing voluntary national reviews on specific SDGs and targets.
67 The direct link between countries’ political commitments under the 2030 Agenda and legally binding obligations under Council of Europe conventions needs to be made more visible and better explained both when reporting at the Council of Europe and at the United Nations, as well as at national level. To this effect, reports to Council of Europe monitoring bodies should refer to relevant SDGs and targets, and inversely, voluntary national reviews should contain references to relevant legal obligations under Council of Europe conventions.
68 Furthermore, the Council of Europe should be represented, and its contribution highlighted, at various stages of reviewing SDGs, including at High-level Political Forums and the UN General Assembly. The Council of Europe also needs to further confirm its role as a major actor, and ensure a high-profile presence, in different formats at the UN European sites. With this in mind, and in order to strengthen the synergies between the Council of Europe and the United Nations, the capacities of the Council of Europe liaison offices in Geneva and Vienna must be enhanced. One should also consider ways of ensuring a Council of Europe presence at the UN Headquarters in New York.
69 Many Council of Europe conventions are open to non-member States. Systematic reference to these instruments in the context of reviewing the implementation of SDGs would contribute to promoting them globally, thus helping to put the 2030 Agenda on a more solid legal ground. This would also lead to a greater visibility of the Council of Europe’s input in the process of implementing SDGs.
70 The success in implementing the SDGs depends on continued and enhanced commitment on the part of national authorities, as well on ensuring public awareness of the challenges at stake, and adherence to reaching the aims of the 2030 Agenda. The multi-stakeholder structure of the Council of Europe offers good opportunities for spreading the message on the vital importance of the 2030 Agenda and its complementarity with the Council of Europe’s core values across national institutions in member States at multiple levels (governments, parliaments, regional and local powers, the judiciary, human rights institutions, political parties, civil society, general public).
71 In addition to its traditional interlocutors, and bearing in mind the importance of promoting sustainable and responsible business, the Council of Europe could consider establishing co-operation with the United Nations Global Compact, an initiative aimed at mobilising private companies for the respect of universal principles on human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption.
72 The Council of Europe has already made important steps to highlight the mutual relevance of its activities and the 2030 Agenda process, notably by presenting the programme of activities and the budget of the Organisation for the biennium 2018-2019 with links to relevant SDGs, as well as by creating a website indicating how the work of various bodies and instruments contributes to specific Goals and targets. Further steps in this direction could be considered, for instance by introducing regular exchanges of views at the level of Ministers’ Deputies with the participation of experts from capitals and United Nations high officials, by bringing up issues relating to the 2030 Agenda on the occasion of country visits by the Council of Europe’s high officials, as well as by “labelling” various activities, including those in neighbouring regions, as those contributing to relevant SDGs.
73 At the level of the Assembly, the joint debate in April 2019 will offer the opportunity to raise awareness among colleagues of the importance of the 2030 Agenda and its relevance to the Council of Europe. To maintain parliamentary awareness of, and support to this process, one could consider holding regular thematic debates in the Assembly on the follow-up of the progress in implementing the SDGs. Such debates could offer a platform for exchanging national experience and learning from best practice, as well as for building new thematic parliamentary networks in support of sustainable development in addition to the existing ones. Moreover, I appreciate that the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the contribution by parliamentarians will be one of the themes for the European Conference of Presidents of Parliaments in October 2019.
74 At the national level, parliamentarians have a more active role to play in giving a higher profile to public debate on issues relating to sustainable development as a necessary condition for ensuring broad public support. They must be key actors in strengthening national ownership of SDGs which still remains a challenge. For this, parliaments must integrate the SDG dimension in carrying out their regular legislative, budgetary and oversight duties. In the framework of exercising oversight on government activities, parliaments can ask that the voluntary national reviews be presented to them prior to their submission to the High-level Political Forum, which would contribute to ensuring more transparency and accountability. They must also be fully involved in identifying national priorities and co-ordinating policies aimed at implementing the SDGs.

6 Conclusions

75 The international order based on multilateralism, with the United Nations as its cornerstone, is in crisis. Universal values such as human rights are increasingly being challenged. It is important that the United Nations, as a global Organisation, can rely in its work on regional partners, and in particular on value-based partners such as the Council of Europe.
76 The 2030 Agenda, negotiated in a broad multilateral format, is an inspiring example of a wide-ranging compromise between international actors. Its implementation will require the full mobilisation of all stakeholders. The international community cannot afford to fail on Sustainable Development Goals as it would not only further undermine the principles of multilateralism and global interdependence, but would also put at risk the future of mankind.
77 The Council of Europe, as an important multilateral player at the European level, must co-operate more actively with the United Nations efforts to address key global challenges, notably by contributing to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. The Agenda is a major breakthrough as it clearly establishes that issues relating to human rights, the rule of law and good governance through democratic institutions, which belong to the core business of the Council of Europe, are an integral part of the comprehensive concept of sustainable development. Its ground-breaking standards, that can be used as indicators, should be fully exploited in reporting progress.
78 National parliaments must play an active role in the implementation of the SDGs, both in setting priorities and in measuring progress.
79 Accordingly, I formulate proposals for action in the draft resolution and recommendation.

Appendix

List of the 2030 Agenda Sustainable Development Goals and summary of main targets

Goal 1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere

  • Reduce at least by half the proportion of men, women and children of living in poverty
  • Implement nationally appropriate social protection systems
  • Ensure access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property
  • Reduce the vulnerability to climate-related extreme events and disasters

Goal 2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture

  • End all forms of malnutrition
  • Double the agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers
  • By 2020, maintain the genetic diversity of seeds, cultivated plants and farmed and domesticated animals and their related wild species

Goal 3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages

  • Reduce the global maternal and neonatal mortality ratio
  • End the AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, tropical diseases, hepatitis, water-borne diseases
  • Strengthen the prevention of narcotic drug abuse and harmful use of alcohol
  • By 2020, halve the number of global deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents
  • Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services
  • Access to safe, effective, quality, affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all

Goal 4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all

  • Ensure free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education for all girls and boys without any gender disparities in education
  • Ensure education for the people with disabilities, indigenous peoples and children in vulnerable situations
  • Provide safe, non-violent, inclusive and effective learning environments for all

Goal 5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

  • End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere
  • Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation
  • Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation
  • Recognize and value unpaid care and domestic work through the provision of public services, infrastructure and social protection policies and the promotion of shared responsibility within the household and the family as nationally appropriate
  • Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life
  • Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights as agreed in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome documents of their review conferences
  • Undertake reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance and natural resources, in accordance with national laws
  • Enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women
  • Adopt and strengthen sound policies and enforceable legislation for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls at all levels

Goal 6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

  • Achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all
  • Adequate sanitation and hygiene for all

Goal 7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all

  • Increase substantially the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix

Goal 8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all

  • At least 7 % gross domestic product growth per annum in the least developed countries
  • Create decent jobs, promote creativity, innovation
  • Growth of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises
  • Employment for all women and men, young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value
  • Eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking, child labour
  • Promote sustainable tourism that creates jobs and promotes local culture and products
  • Encourage and expand access to banking, insurance and financial services for all

Goal 9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation

  • Develop quality, reliable, sustainable and resilient infrastructure

Goal 10. Reduce inequality within and among countries

  • Progressively achieve income growth of the bottom 40% of the population at a rate higher than the national average
  • Empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status
  • Ensure equal opportunity and reduce inequalities, including by eliminating discriminatory laws, policies and practices and promoting appropriate legislation, policies and action
  • Implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies
  • Reduce to less than 3% the transaction costs of migrant remittances

Goal 11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

  • Ensure access to adequate, safe and affordable housing, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all
  • Strengthen efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural heritage
  • Pay special attention to air quality and municipal and other waste management

Goal 12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

  • Halve per capita global food waste, reduce food losses
  • Ensure environmentally sound management of chemicals
  • Reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse

Goal 13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

  • Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies and planning
  • Improve education, human and institutional capacity on climate change

Goal 14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development

  • By 2025, prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution
  • Effectively regulate harvesting; end overfishing or illegal fishing practices

Goal 15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss

  • By 2020, ensure the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of terrestrial and inland freshwater
  • Halve deforestation and combat desertification
  • Protect and prevent the extinction of threatened species

Goal 16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels

  • Significantly reduce all forms of violence and related death rates everywhere
  • End abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children
  • Promote the rule of law at the national and international levels and ensure equal access to justice for all
  • By 2030, significantly reduce illicit financial and arms flows, strengthen the recovery and return of stolen assets and combat all forms of organized crime
  • Substantially reduce corruption and bribery in all their forms
  • Develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels
  • Ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels
  • Broaden and strengthen the participation of developing countries in the institutions of global governance
  • By 2030, provide legal identity for all, including birth registration
  • Ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements
  • Strengthen relevant national institutions, including through international co-operation, for building capacity at all levels, in particular in developing countries, to prevent violence and combat terrorism and crime
  • Promote and enforce non-discriminatory laws and policies for sustainable development

Goal 17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development

;