“Politicians must break the negative stereotypes and destroy the myths about the dangers of migration, engage in a deep and substantive debate about the challenges and opportunities it represents, and develop a positive political discourse that values the benefits of migration,” said PACE President Anne Brasseur, speaking at the end of a visit to UN institutions in Geneva.
“Due to a number of social and economic factors and - in particular the demographic transition - our societies need migration. We must design policies that help migrants integrate into our societies and promote social cohesion. This is all the more important today, when populist and xenophobic rhetoric is on the rise. All democratic political forces must speak out against manifestations of hate and intolerance and support the values that underpin democratic societies: human rights, respect for diversity, tolerance and living together. The Council of Europe and the UN are natural partners in the defence of these values. We must work hand-in-hand and build upon each other’s strengths and expertise,” emphasised the President, citing PACE’s NO HATE Parliamentary Alliance as an appropriate tool to combat hate and intolerance.
Speaking about the situation of refugees and asylum seekers, Anne Brasseur called on the international community to show greater solidarity and share responsibility. “Respect for human dignity is a universal fundamental value. Solidarity is not only a political necessity, if migration challenges are to be addressed in a comprehensive way, but also our responsibility as human beings vis à vis those who are most vulnerable and flee war, conflict, poverty and economic hardship,” she stressed.
Turning to human rights challenges, Anne Brasseur deplored the “shrinking of space for fundamental rights and freedoms” that can be seen in a number of Council of Europe member States, as well as globally. “Human rights, democracy and the rule of law are the three pillars of strong, stable, inclusive and sustainable societies. The UN and the Council of Europe share a political mission to defend the universality of these values. My exchanges with interlocutors in Geneva were very inspiring in this respect and I look forward to continuing these discussions with the UN Secretary-General during his forthcoming visit to Strasbourg, especially as regards co-operation between the UN and the Council of Europe in the realisation of the future Sustainable Development Goals,” continued the PACE President.
As regards standard-setting, the President highlighted the contribution that Council of Europe conventions can make to the development of international human rights standards at global level. “A number of our conventions are open for signature to non-member states, as is the case for example with the Convention on combating violence against women and domestic violence. Guided by the principle of the universality of human rights, we must work towards ensuring that the standards established by this legal instrument are not watered down in the development of legal standards at global level.”
Finally, turning to the situation in Ukraine, the PACE President welcomed close the co-operation between the Council of Europe and the UN institutions in addressing the human rights and humanitarian challenges of the conflict. Calling on all sides to stop violence and abide by what has been agreed in Minsk, she stressed the need to ensure a prompt and effective investigation into all human rights violations. “There should be no impunity for human rights violations,” she concluded.
During her visit to Geneva, Ms Brasseur met the UNHCR High Commissioner and held high-level meetings at the IOM, ILO, ICRC, UNRISD and IPU, as well as with NGO representatives working in the field of human rights.