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Preventing, anticipating and dealing with natural disasters

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At a time when major hazards are becoming more numerous and more violent because of the Anthropocene, the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development called on States to be aware of the need to prevent, anticipate, take into account and monitor natural disasters, and to prepare national strategies for dealing with these extreme events.

The report by Simon Moutquin (Belgium, SOC), unanimously adopted today by the committee, which cites the example of the 2021 floods in Germany and the earthquake that hit Türkiye and Syria last February, advocates “a holistic response to natural risks”, so that the most vulnerable people do not find themselves isolated and abandoned. In this respect, the committee stressed the importance of providing financial and technical assistance to Türkiye and Syria “based on human rights”, to address immediate, medium and longer-term needs.

Furthermore, the parliamentarians regretted the general lack of investment by member States in Council of Europe instruments centred on nature, landscape and major hazards, and the withdrawal of some States Parties, and proposed that the Committee of Ministers consider these activities as part of the core mandate of the Organisation. They recalled the ground-breaking role of EUR-OPA (the Council of Europe's European and Mediterranean Major Hazards Agreement) and its value in preparing standards.

The committee also called for better co-operation between the United Nations, the European Union and the Council of Europe to ensure greater complementarity in the face of natural disasters.

Finally, in the run-up to the 4th Council of Europe Summit, the member States must put the right to a healthy environment at the top of the agenda, according to the committee, which has asked the Committee of Ministers to draw up an additional protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights on the right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment.

Meeting this Friday afternoon, the Parliamentary Network for a Healthy Environment, at the request of its President Rik Daems, held a minute’s silence to remember victims of the earthquake in Türkiye and Syria.