Mission, Roles & Responsibilities

The Directorate of Social Rights, Health and Environment was established by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe in January 2024 as a follow-up to the Council of Europe Summit in Reykjavík to advance social justice, good health and a sustainable environment for all.

Democratic stability and security depend on the full enjoyment of human rights by everyone. This includes social justice, health and a clean, healthy and sustainable environment. Addressing fundamental challenges for present and future generations is a priority for our Directorate.

We thus work on such issues as combatting extreme poverty and social exclusion and leverage mechanisms such as the European Social Charter and the Council of Europe Development Bank with a view to rebuilding social ties and trust in national institutions, and ultimately strengthening democratic resilience. We are building stronger and more effective protection systems to protect the environment, as well as to counter the impact of the triple planetary crisis of pollution, climate change and loss of biodiversity on human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

The Council of Europe has played a pioneering global role in developing standards in emerging and new policy areas. We have a strong track record in protecting social rights, public health and the environment through a number of unique instruments which form the basis of our action. Our Directorate is determined to make an effective contribution to addressing current and future challenges in our field.


 Social Rights

The Department of Social Rights is responsible for the functioning of the monitoring mechanism set up by the European Social Charter: in particular, it provides secretariat to the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) in its monitoring tasks (the reporting procedures and the quasi-judicial collective complaints procedure) and to the Governmental Committee of the European Social Charter and European Code of Social Security in ensuring the follow up of the decisions and conclusions of the ECSR, in particular by preparing draft resolutions and recommendations to be adopted by the CM. It is entrusted with bilateral, regional and multilateral cooperation activities with the member States on social rights, as well as communication on the Charter (press, legal professionals, civil society and the public at large, publications) and awareness-raising activities carried out with universities, professional networks, civil society, national human rights institutions, as well as liaison with International Organisations (EU, UN, ILO, etc.). It facilitates and supports action designed to improve the Charter system and the implementation of social rights across Europe, including in the framework of the reform process (conception, implementation and organisation of meetings and other activities). It is also responsible for part of the monitoring of the European Code of Social Security and for the MISSCEO database.


 Reykjavik Process and Environment

The Department on the Reykjavík Process and the Environment is responsible for the follow up of the Reykjavík Summit Declaration’s Appendix V on the Council of Europe and the Environment, in particular as regards streamlining and coordinating the Organisation’s activities and making the environment a visible priority, with a view to promoting co-operation among member States. The Department serves the Multidisciplinary Group on Environment (GME) and leads the Inter-Secretariat Task Force on the Environment. It provides Secretariat assistance to the unique international instruments protecting the environment and countering the triple planetary crisis of pollution, climate change and loss of biodiversity and its impacts: The Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (the “Bern Convention”) and the Council of Europe Landscape Convention (the “Florence Convention”).


 Health, Detention and Addictions

The Department on Health, Detention and Addictions brings together the Secretariat of the Pompidou Group (see below, under “Partial Agreements”), the Division on Cooperation on Police and Deprivation of Liberty (CPDL) and the Unit “Medicrime +”.

The CPDL Division manages the Council of Europe Police Network, including the annual conferences on police authorities, and the Council of Europe cooperation programmes in the field of deprivation of liberty. Its main objective is to help the Member States improve their legislation and practice related to the work of the police as well the execution of penal sanctions and measures, in line with the ECHR judgments and the CPT recommendations.

The “Medicrime +” Unit is responsible for the monitoring of the “MEDICRIME” Convention on combatting counterfeit or falsified medical products and other similar crimes involving threats to public health and of the “Santiago de Compostela” Convention on the fight against trafficking in human organs. It also contributes to the follow up of the “Nicosia” Convention on offences relating to cultural property.


 Partial Agreements

Partial Agreement on the Council of Europe Development Bank (CEB)

The Development Bank supports sustainable and equitable growth in Europe. It contributes to the funding of social investment projects and responds to emergency situations.

Open Partial Agreement EUR-OPA

EUR-OPA reinforces and promotes co-operation between member states in a multi-disciplinary context to ensure better prevention, protection against risks and better preparation in the event of major natural or technological disasters. It supports the global efforts on Disaster Risk Reduction, specified in particular in the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. Building on the core values of the Council of Europe’s mission, EUR-OPA promotes a human rights-based and community-led approach to ensure that the most vulnerable groups are not left behind when it comes to disasters.

Pompidou Group

The Pompidou Group is the Council of Europe international cooperation platform in the field of drugs and addictions. It provides knowledge, support and solutions for effective, evidence-based drug and addiction policies, which fully respect human rights, based on the revised statute adopted by the Committee of Ministers in June 2021, on the occasion of its 50th Anniversary.