on behalf of the Council of Europe


Director General of Social Cohesion

Council of Europe 
at the 
World Summit for Sustainable Development

Johannesburg, South Africa
27 August 2002

Mr/Madam President, 
Ladies and Gentlemen,

 As we meet here today millions of people across vast tracts of Africa just a few hundred miles to the north are threatened with starvation as this continent tries to come to terms with its worst famine in a decade. Sadly, sustainable development has passed them by.

 Meanwhile, more than 2.5 billion people around the world are living on less than US$2 per day, some two thirds of them in countries unlikely to see any foreign investment. At the same time most rich countries are failing to meet their solemnly declared aim of contributing 0.7% of GNP to development aid although this is more often than not a pre-condition for making a country attractive to investors. 

 Development prospects are threatened in a rapidly globalising world, which is likely to ride roughshod over the vulnerable, and socially excluded.

 Harnessing globalisation to meet the needs of sustainable development must therefore be one of the international community's priority aims if it really means business in eradicating poverty, changing production and consumption patterns or facing up to global environmental challenges.

 Over the last decade the world has changed significantly and it is now recognised that not only the environment but also economic and social considerations all have a role to play in meeting the objective of sustainable development. Likewise, many of the other threats and challenges facing mankind such as migration, aids, international crime, or terrorism affect us all on a global scale and call for concerted international responses.

The Council of Europe which is committed to respect for human rights, pluralist democracy, and the rule of law therefore approaches sustainable development not only in terms of the environment but also in terms of building cohesive societies in which every individual can fully enjoy his or her civil, political, social and economic rights.

 Human rights and sustainable development are inextricably linked. Development is unsustainable when the rule of law and equity are absent. Similarly, human rights cannot thrive without social justice and sustainable development.

 Mr/Madam President, the Council of Europe warmly welcomes the holding of this Summit and in their message to you, as the Luxembourg Minister has already stated, our member States reaffirm their commitment to the principles agreed in Rio in 1992. They also reaffirm the indivisibility and interdependence of all human rights, including civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, as set out in the Council of Europe's legal instruments such as the European Human Rights Convention and the Revised European Social Charter.

 Since 1992, Mr/Madam President, the Council of Europe has carried the sustainable development agenda forward in a number of ways.

 In the environmental field we have contributed to the development of the Rio process through the regional application of the Convention on Biological Diversity. Since the adoption of our special regional instrument, the Pan-European Biological and Landscape Diversity Strategy (PEBLDS), the Council of Europe and UNEP have carried the process forward. The PEBLDS acts as a regional forum for the Convention on Biological Diversity. Several projects and initiatives, including a Pan- European Ecological Network have been developed in that context. They include the adoption of a number of texts (a Revised Water Charter, a Model Law and Code of Conduct for Coastal Areas, a Code of Practice for the introduction of Biological and Landscape Diversity into the transport sector) and resolutions, for instance, on Biodiversity and Finance or Biodiversity and agriculture.

 The Council of Europe has also prepared: 

  • Guiding Principles for Sustainable Spatial Development of the European Continent as a contribution to the implementation of Agenda 21;

  • The European Landscape Convention which aims to achieve sustainable development based on a balanced and harmonious relationship between social needs, economic activity and the environment.
At Parliamentary level, the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly has helped raise awareness about sustainable development issues in the political sphere and in public opinion. It has focused attention on economic and environmental questions such as climate change and the need to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. To date, 35 out of 44 of our member states have signed the Protocol and 26 have already ratified (or accepted) it. 

At local and regional levels the Council is helping to create sustainable cities and regions through the work of its Congress of Local and Regional Authorities. That body will in due course contribute to the application of relevant decisions taken here in Johannesburg since, at the end of the day, it is up to the municipalities to guarantee the sustainability of, for instance, water and energy in an equitable manner.

In the social field, the Council of Europe is developing a social cohesion strategy which is a prerequisite for socially sustainable development. The starting point is that poverty and exclusion destroy the social fabric of our societies, endangering our most immediate ecosystem: our communities. Thus only action taken in the social sphere to enhance social cohesion will make development truly sustainable.

The Council's approach goes beyond the mere economic aspects to englobe social, cultural and environmental issues. Our strategy aims at promoting active measures to fight poverty and improve social justice through an integrated approach in the fields of employment, health, education, housing and social protection.

Sustainable development means empowering individuals to shape their own lives by giving them access to their most fundamental rights including the right to education and vocational training, the right to a healthy life, the right to decent but also fulfilling work, and the right to social protection when they and their families are most vulnerable.

The ultimate goal of sustainable development must be for people to live in peace and dignity fully enjoying their civic, political, economic and social rights and contributing to balanced and equitable progress in a spirit of intergeneration solidarity to leave a better world for future generations. Genuine sustainable development is thus not attainable without socially sustainable development.

Financing development will also need a new approach, in order to produce sustainable results. It will have to take into account its long-term economic, environmental, and social impact, with the goal of improving access to physical, economic, knowledge-based resources for all. The Council of Europe Development Bank is helping to achieve this goal -- the only multilateral financial institution exclusively focused on the social field. Its spheres of action include aid to refugees, migrants and victims of natural disasters, job creation in disadvantaged areas, social housing and infrastructure projects for health, education and environment protection purposes. Over the last five years, the Bank has approved and financed projects worth more than 10 Billion Euros.

Although the main thrust of our activity is necessarily in the European context we are more than ready to work within the wider international community with other organisations and other regions to promote a human rights-  ased approach to sustainable development. To that end our Lisbon-based European Centre for Global Interdependence and Solidarity, or more simply our North-South Centre is already involved in promoting education for sustainable development and global citizenship and in raising awareness about the link between human rights and environmental protection as an essential tool in eradicating poverty and achieving sustainable development.

In order to pursue the progressive integration of the Rio goals at both world and regional levels the Council of Europe stands ready to work with the United Nations and other international bodies:

  •  to share our experience of developing and implementing standard-setting instruments in relevant fields with other world regions;

  • to promote the signature and ratification of relevant international and regional legal instruments, and in particular, the entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol;

  •  to participate actively in taking forward the sustainable development agenda, in particular in the light of the outcome of the Johannesburg Summit.
The Council of Europe is also committed to using its various political institutions to foster discussion with citizens in member countries to help them make appropriate decisions to achieve sustainable development.

The ultimate goal, Mr/Madam President is to ensure the sustainability of our environment, our economies and our societies through social justice and human rights.

Thank you 
Mr/Madam President