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Academic networks as ambassadors of Council of Europe values

In his speech before the annual HELP conference, initially set up for the training of legal professionals, the PACE President made a plea for the creation of academic networks to support key Council of Europe Conventions. The first such networks should focus on violence against women and domestic violence, combating corruption, as well as human rights and biomedicine, he said. “I picked up these three areas because, thanks to our Conventions, the Council of Europe has a strong legal mandate to deal with them: the Istanbul Convention, the Conventions against Corruption, as well as the Oviedo Convention.”

“The academic community has always been sensitive to the values of the Council of Europe. Indeed, respect for human dignity, freedom of expression and research, as well as the equal right to knowledge and dialogue, are essential pre-conditions for the existence of a scientific community and for the development of science. This is why academia can be the most sensitive interlocutors and the most effective ambassadors of our values, our conventions, our initiatives, being at the same time a natural ‘laboratory of ideas’ for our work,” the President explained.

“We need simple and practical mechanisms to collect international experience and good practice so as to make them available to all interested stakeholders – parliamentarians, government officials, legal professionals and academics,” he said.

“The aim of academic networks would be to promote knowledge of Council of Europe Conventions amongst the European academic community and through them, amongst society at large. They could also provide the necessary expertise to parliaments and governments on the implementation of our Conventions. For example, networks could act as observatories of legislation and regulations in a given field, monitoring developments and evolutions in members states and worldwide,” he added.

“Networks would link up teaching and professional training activities, so as to ensure that initial and on-the-job training curricula are co-ordinated and finally, acting as a laboratory of ideas, the networks could contribute, through academic research, to developing further our Conventions, adapting them to new realities and, as may be required, developing new Conventions. This is especially relevant in fields where multi-disciplinary research is needed, for example, biomedicine,” the President underlined.

“Eventually, the European Networks thus set up could be linked together under one single umbrella initiative. Something we could call a Council of Europe Academic Networking initiative,” he said.

Referring to “the insufficient national implementation of the European Convention on Human Rights – as well as of some other key Conventions”, the PACE President stressed the importance of providing parliamentarians with the necessary knowledge and training, so as to be able to scrutinise draft legislation against Council of Europe Convention standards and oversee their governments in the implementation of the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights. “In recent years, the Parliamentary Assembly has invested a lot of effort in supporting national parliaments in developing their human rights expertise. However, I am sure that more can be done on this front. This is exactly where HELP experience may be helpful, especially as regards the e-learning platform,” the PACE President concluded.