“In 2017 the human rights situation continued to deteriorate in many European countries. Old crises deepened, new crises emerged and commitment to human rights values and standards seemed to weaken”, said today Nils Muižnieks, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights while presenting his annual report for 2017. “This situation is not irremediable, though, as long as governments and parliaments recommit to the values and principles that lie at the heart of our human rights protection system.”
The annual report, the last of Commissioner Muižnieks’ mandate, both details the activities carried out during the past year and provides an assessment of the state of human rights in Europe.
“When I started in 2012, I said I would put proximity to people and objectivity in my dialogue with national authorities at the centre of my mandate. These two elements have defined the way I tried to help people in need and advise national authorities on how to address long-standing problems and new challenges.
Much has been accomplished, but an enormous amount of work still lies ahead of us. People displaced by armed conflict, migrants, children and youth, women, journalists, human rights defenders, minorities, and people with disabilities are just a few of the many groups of people who require a more principled response to their needs.
While policies and laws will have to change to achieve this goal, it is crucial to improve the quality of the debate and the level of awareness about human rights. Regaining public support for the letter and spirit of human rights law and standards must be among the top priorities for all of us: national authorities, civil society, media professionals, ombudsmen, national human rights institutions, and individuals.
Our generation has greatly benefited from the vision the founders of the international human rights system had during the dark days of WWII. If we care about our children’s future, we must leave to them well functioning institutions based on the full respect of human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
We must prevent them from growing up disillusioned with the human rights promise of their grandparents’ generation, we must hear their concerns and help them see themselves as Europeans with a stake in the system, with the knowledge, skills, and values needed to breathe life into democratic systems we have for so long taken for granted, but that we are neglecting in so many places.”