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PACE President: 'to lead or not to lead – that is the question'

In his opening speech, PACE President Rik Daems referred to the emergence of a new generation of rights, such as the right to know the truth, the right to privacy, or the right to be equal, and urged the Assembly to address these extremely important issues in a holistic and thematic way.

He recalled that the Assembly has been “a pioneer in raising topical issues that may have serious implications for the fundamental rights of our citizens, and formulating proposals on how they can be effectively addressed. Examples of this are our recent debates on Artificial intelligence, democracy and human rights in the context of the current pandemic and violence against women or domestic violence.”

This session, he continued, will undoubtedly continue this already institutionalised practice and possibly bring it to a new level by focusing on the challenging, but tremendously important, issue of the environment and human rights: the right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment.

“I hope we will be able to deliver the whole kaleidoscope of options that might be looked into through a feasibility study to decide what is the best way of tackling this issue: is it through simple guidelines, standard setting, by having binding rules, through a convention, or through the introduction of the issue of the environment itself into the Convention?”

“Together with the Committee of Ministers, we must look into the most appropriate way to establish the fact that a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment is a human right because it is linked to the right to life which is enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights. What is life worth if you can’t live it in a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment? We have to do what the whole Council of Europe is supposed to do, namely set standards in a multilateral way to the benefit of all of the citizens in our 47 member States and even beyond that by being an example. Are we followers or are we leaders? I say we should lead.”

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