A high-level panel and interactive debate on “The environment and human rights: the right to a safe, healthy and sustainable environment”, as well as a full day of debates on this topic, forms the centrepiece of the Autumn Session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), taking place in Strasbourg from 27 to 30 September 2021 in a hybrid format.
No fewer than seven reports to be debated will cover the Council of Europe’s action to anchor a “right to a healthy environment”, and how tackling climate change will require more participatory democracy, changes in criminal and civil liability, and a greater reliance on the rule of law. Other reports will look at combating inequalities in the right to a safe, healthy and clean environment, climate and migration, and how research policies can promote environmental protection.
VIPs due to address the Assembly during session week include European Council President Charles Michel, European Health and Food Safety Commissioner Stella Kyriakides and North Macedonia’s Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs Nikola Dimitrov. Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjarto will present the Communication from the Committee of Ministers, which he currently chairs, while Council of Europe Secretary General Marija Pejčinović Burić will hold her usual Q&A session with members.
On Monday 27th the Assembly will award the 2021 Václav Havel Human Rights Prize to one of three shortlisted candidates. The 60,000-euro Prize, now in its ninth year, honours individuals or NGOs from civil society who carry out outstanding work to uphold human rights in Europe or beyond.
Other highlights include debates on the humanitarian consequences of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, restoring social trust by strengthening social rights, and strengthening the fight against so-called “honour” crimes. The Assembly will also debate gender representation in its own ranks, as well as guidelines on the scope of the parliamentary immunities enjoyed by its members.
Urgent debates have been requested on the situation in Afghanistan; increased migration pressure on the borders of Latvia, Lithuania and Poland with Belarus; and a new draft protocol to the Council of Europe’s Cybercrime Convention on enhanced co-operation and the disclosure of electronic evidence. Current affairs debates have been requested on “The Western Balkans between democratic challenges and European aspirations: what role for the Council of Europe?” and on "Political persecution of indigenous peoples in Crimea by Russia".
On the fringe of the session, there will be a special event on Thursday 30th as the Council of Europe welcomes “Little Amal”, a 3.5m-tall puppet of a nine-year-old girl who is walking 8000 km from the Syrian border to the United Kingdom in search of her mother. Parliamentarians and local schoolchildren will interact and exchange gifts with Amal.