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Two priorities for Human Rights Day: a healthy democracy and a healthy environment

On the occasion of the Human Rights Day 2020, the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Rik Daems, made the following statement:

“Human rights should not be allowed to become the collateral damage of emergency measures that are being taken to protect the lives and the safety of our citizens. This is one of the lessons that we have learnt from the COVID-19 global pandemic. Guided by the principles of the European Convention on Human Rights, whose 70th anniversary we are celebrating this year, we must ensure that the restrictive measures that affect our fundamental rights and freedoms are lawful, necessary, proportionate and non-discriminatory.

As cornerstone institutions of democracy, parliaments should be vigilant guardians of respect for the standards of the Convention in times of crisis. Through its reports on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Parliamentary Assembly seeks to equip the parliaments of Council of Europe member, observer and partner States with the relevant tools and expertise to guarantee that the “red lines” set by the European Convention on Human Rights are not crossed.

At the same time, it is equally important to continue advancing human rights by addressing – in a constructive and innovative way – a new generation of rights which we see emerging. The right to live in a healthy, clean and safe environment is, in my view, the most important of these. A paradigm shift is needed because a healthy environment is not only a matter of policy but also a substantive human right.

Marking Human Rights Day 2020, I believe that addressing the impact of the pandemic in a human-rights-compliant way and making the case for the drafting of an additional Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights, guaranteeing substantive protection of the right to a healthy environment, should be two of the key political priorities of the Parliamentary Assembly in 2021.

Human rights can never be taken for granted. Therefore, let us stand up for our rights and unite our forces to have a significant impact on the daily lives of the 830 million citizens within our 47 countries.”