2020 North-South Prize Ceremony

Lisbon 9 December 2021
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As delivered by Bjørn Berge, Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe



President of the Republic,

President of the Assembly,

Distinguished Parliamentarians,

Distinguished Laureates of the North-South Prize,

Chair of the Executive Committee of the North-South Centre,

Executive Director of the North-South Centre,


Ladies and gentlemen,

I begin by congratulating the ICDP, the International Commission against the Death Penalty, and MedECC, the network of Mediterranean Experts on Climate and Environmental Change –

And of course, their representatives here today, Marta Santos Pais, Dr Joël Guiot and Professor Wolfgang Cramer -

On winning this year’s North-South Prize.

I believe for all of us it is a pleasure to acknowledge the extraordinary work that they do.

For more than a decade now, the ICDP has built and deployed a network of high-level personalities around the world to advocate for the universal abolition of the death penalty.

It has established itself as a key player in the international abolitionist movement.

And its efforts have proven crucial to expanding the circle of countries that have ended the use of the death penalty.

MedECC has also brought together an impressive international coalition –

With 600 scientists drawn from 35 Mediterranean countries, conducting the first ever scientific assessment of the impact of climate and environmental change in the Mediterranean basin.

And by building up a network of States and societies that produces knowledge-based analysis on which good environmental policy can be built.

These are two very different areas of work.

But the approach of the two prize winners has a great deal in common.

Each contributes to the advance of human rights,and very much complements the Council of Europe’s work.

Article 1 of Protocol 6 to the European Convention on Human Rights is crystal clear when it comes to the death penalty, stating that:

“No-one shall be condemned to such penalty or executed”.

And we can take pride that this is indeed no longer used in any of the Council of Europe’s 47 member states. 

Where climate change and environmental harm threaten people’s enjoyment of their human rights, our Court and our Organisation also act.

On this we again rely on the European Convention, as well as the European Social Charter and the specific, environment-related treaties that we have developed over time.

None of us can be indifferent to climate change today.

And given the urgency of the issue, there is a new impetus for action across our Organisation,including work on a new CM recommendation to member states.

But what links the two prize winners this year is not only their contribution to human rights, but also the way in which they go about their work.

None of them sits still and waits for governments to prompt them, but instead pursue their activities to the good of our societies.

None of them thinks that one individual or organisation has all the answers, but instead opt toreach out and work with others.

And none of them believes that the pressing challenges that concern them can be remedied by one country, but instead work across borders, in a spirit of co-operation and solidarity underpinned by dialogue.

I believe that this outlook – this world view – is the same one that inspired the creation of the North-South Centre:

Providing an important, ongoing platform for the Mediterranean region, Europe and the wider world to engage in dialogue, develop mutual understanding, and come together to solve our common problems.

So, our gratitude goes to the Portuguese authorities for hosting the Centre, for supporting the North-South Prize and for helping us remain faithful to multilateral co-operation.

And, once again, I congratulate the winners of this year’s Prize and all of the laureates who have dedicated themselves to working with others in pursuit of a better future – for us all.

Thank you for your attention.