High-Level Conference on Environmental Protection and Human Rights

Strasbourg, 27 February 2020

Speaking notes by Ms Kristīne LĪCIS (Latvia)

Vice-Chair of the Steering Committee for Human Rights (CDDH)

Chair of the Drafting Group on Human Rights and Environment (CDDH-ENV)


Mister President,


Dear Colleagues,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This Conference raises crucial issues, and my primary and spontaneous wish would be to express my views as a lawyer, as a European citizen, as simply a human being… 

Today, the protection of the environment appeals our individual and collective consciousness in ways that we had not thought before. 

Whether or not you agree with Greta Thunberg’s passion in her speeches or her movement, we cannot be indifferent to the expectations, demands and action that our youth puts in front of us.

It is our duty to face and live up to their expectations.

The protection of the environment is no longer vague or unenforced international regulation. Cases regarding the impact of pollution on the enjoyment of our human rights are already been litigated before the Strasbourg Court. Professor Lambert has rightly drawn our attention to the case Cordella and Others v. Italy. The application was lodged by 161 victims, but 265 000 people were potential victims of the same pollution.  

What future action should the Council of Europe take in the field of environmental protection? The idea of drafting an additional protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights concerning the right to a healthy environment is ambitious. I might wish to intervene later on in discussions on this issue.

However, my task here is to briefly present the envisaged work on environment and Human Rights in 2020 and 2021 within one of the most prominent intergovernmental entities in the Council of Europe: the Steering Committee for Human Rights (the CDDH).

Indeed, this Committee of high-level legal experts has been entrusted by the Committee of Ministers last December with the task of updating the Handbook on Human Rights and the Environment and, if appropriate, developing a draft non-binding instrument of the Committee of Ministers (e.g. recommendation, guidelines) recalling existing standards in this field. 

This work should be based on developments in the member States, within the Council of Europe and in other fora. 

To this end, a Drafting Group on human rights and the environment will be set up by the CDDH in June this year. The idea is to involve in it not only member States and representatives of international organisations and civil society, but also, in the light of its transversal nature, all the relevant sectors in the Council of Europe, namely the Registry of the European Court of HR, the Secretariat of the Social Charter, the representatives of other interested steering committees and conventional bodies, the HR Commissioner, the Parliamentary Assembly, the Congress of [local and regional authorities],  etc.   

Last November, the CDDH welcomed the initiative taken by the Georgian government to convene the present event which should “constitute an excellent basis for the CDDH’s work”. I am convinced on this. Our work will start next autumn by an updating of the Handbook and the we will see how far we could go in standard-setting in order to help our member States to promote and respect, at the same time, both HR and environment.