Doc. 9937

27 September 2003

Follow-up to the World Summit on Sustainable Development: a common challenge
Recommendation 1594 (2003)

Reply from the Committee of Ministers

adopted at the 853rd meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies (24 September 2003)

1.       The Committee of Ministers has examined with interest Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1594 (2003) on follow-up to the World Summit on Sustainable Development: a common challenge.

2.       The Committee of Ministers refers to its Political Message to the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg last autumn which is very much in accord with the recommendation of the Parliamentary Assembly. By way of that political message, the Committee of Ministers reaffirmed the need for "a balanced and mutually reinforcing social, economic and environmental approach to sustainable development" and the commitment of member states to the principles agreed at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, and to the implementation of the goals contained in Agenda 21 and the United Nations Millennium Declaration. At the same time, member states, recognising the central role of Europe in achieving those principles, resolved “to examine the outcome of the Johannesburg Summit with a view to participating actively in international efforts to take forward the sustainable development agenda” and to make the best possible use of the Council of Europe’s political institutions.

3.       With particular regard to the intergovernmental work programme (paragraph 17.i), the Committee of Ministers is currently examining the 2004 draft programme of activities. One of its ten lines of action entitled “Human dignity and sustainable development”, devoted to, on the one hand, creating socially sustainable societies and, on the other, sustainable environment and quality of life, proposes to reinforce the contribution of the Council of Europe to sustainable development in light of the Johannesburg Summit. Furthermore, the European Committee for Social Cohesion is well advanced in producing a revised version of the Strategy for Social Cohesion, in which the links between social cohesion and sustainable development will be clearly brought out. Sustainable development implies that economic policy and social policy should be more closely integrated than has usually been the case in the past. The maintenance of stable, cohesive societies is a pre-requisite for sustainable development in the long term. Equally, as part of the follow up, the Committee of Ministers is currently considering an initiative for a possible European text on General Principles of Environment Protection for Sustainable Development aimed at structuring and enhancing existing Council of Europe instruments and initiatives, and helping their implementation. Such a text would improve the integration and visibility of the environment work carried out by the different Council of Europe sectors, to identify new grounds for action in line with the priorities set at the World Summit on Sustainable Development.

4.       With regard to paragraph 17ii, the Committee of Ministers observes that the European Committee on Legal Co-operation (CDCJ) has started a substantive review of the "Council of Europe civil liability conventions", notably the Convention on Civil Liability for Damage Resulting from Activities Dangerous to the Environment (ETS No. 150, Lugano, 1993). In the context of this review, the Bureau of the CDCJ will examine, at its meeting in December 2003, a report by the Research Unit for European Tort Law of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. The report will contain recommendations as to any future work which could be undertaken by the CDCJ in this field. The Bureau of the CDCJ will take account of the Assembly recommendation when examining the above-mentioned report and will make proposals for further action to the CDCJ at its meeting in 2004. As regards the Convention on the Protection of the Environment through Criminal Law (ETS No. 172, Strasbourg, 1998), the Committee of Ministers notes that it addresses issues that are still topical and that it is a valid instrument to deal with such problems at European level. The Convention gives the European Committee on Crime Problems (CDPC) a specific role, not only in respect of the settlement of disputes, but also on the procedure eventually leading to amending the text of the Convention. The CDPC will identify the reasons why the Convention is not in force and, if appropriate, will propose measures aimed at facilitating ratification by member states.

5.       With regards to the 5th Ministerial Conference (paragraph 17iii), the Committee of Ministers refers to the Declaration and Resolution on Biodiversity adopted by the Ministers of the region of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) at the 5th Conference of Environment Ministers in Kiev (21-23 May 2003), in which they expressed their commitment to implementing the decisions of the Johannesburg Summit and welcomed the contribution of the Council of Europe to their fulfilment. The Environment Ministers committed themselves to achieving the nine targets that had been presented to them by the Council of the Pan-European Biological and Landscape Diversity Strategy (PEBLDS) for halting the loss of biodiversity by 2010 through national efforts and regional cooperation. In doing so they highlighted as key issues for Europe: forests and biodiversity, agriculture and biodiversity, the Pan-European Ecological Network, invasive alien species, financing of biodiversity, biodiversity monitoring and indicators, and public participation and awareness. The Committee of Ministers will seek to develop appropriate programmes in those areas through the support of PEBLDS within the Council of Europe programme of activities over the coming years.

6.       With regard to cooperation with Council of Europe Development Bank (paragraph 17iv), the Committee of Ministers joins the Assembly in encouraging member states to take advantage of the funding opportunities offered by the Bank (“CEB”). It has accordingly brought Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1594 (2003) to the attention of member states, and communicated it to the Bank for information. The idea of reconciling growth, social progress and the protection of the environment fully corresponds to the objectives pursued by the CEB through the financing of projects that foster social cohesion and access to social rights in its member states. Furthermore, the Bank continues to give priority to projects aiming at remedying or preventing the consequences of man-made or natural disasters. In addition, according to its statutory rules, the CEB finances only projects that are environmentally sound. To be eligible for funding, all projects financed by the Bank within its social mandate, must comply with multilateral environmental agreements, including in particular the Council of Europe Conventions within this domain.