Access to justice

Goal 16, as it refers to providing “access to justice for all”, is an important objective and reference for a number of Council of Europe Conventions (for instance, on fighting trafficking in human beings, violence against women and domestic violence, sexual exploitation of children) and transversal Strategies (notably on Gender Equality, Children Rights, Disability), and it is as well addressed through activities and cooperation with the 47 member States and the South-Mediterranean countries (Jordan, Morocco, and Tunisia).


The Council of Europe, through its European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ), develops concrete measures and tools aimed at policy-makers and judicial practitioners in order to analyse the functioning of judicial systems. CEPEJ prepares benchmarks, collects and analyses data and defines instruments of measure and means of evaluation. Through the collection of quantitative and qualitative data, this process enables a detailed photograph of the functioning of justice and the measurement of its evolution.


The Consultative Council of European Judges (CCJE) and the Consultative Council of European Prosecutors (CCPE) are the first bodies consisting solely of judges and prosecutors ever set up within an international organisation. They support the Committee of Ministers in carrying out the priorities for safeguarding the status of judges/prosecutors and strengthening of their role in Europe. They enrich the corpus of European standards in the judicial field by adopting Opinions on issues of common interest and examine the situation of the judiciary and judges/prosecutors in the member States. They highlight regularly main challenges to judicial independence and impartiality in Europe and contribute to the implementation of the Council of Europe’s Plan of Action on strengthening judicial independence and impartiality.


The Council of Europe has also adopted standards and guidelines enhancing children’s access to the justice systems (see in particular the 2010 Guidelines on child-friendly justice). They aim at adapting the judicial system to the specific rights and needs of children.


It is also currently implementing a joint programme with the European Commission on access to justice for Roma and Traveller women (“JUSTROM”) aimed at providing legal aid and assistance through legal clinics and raising awareness of women and girls about human rights and complaint mechanisms. CM/Rec(2017)10 on improving access to justice for Roma and Travellers in Europe was adopted by the Committee of Ministers in October 2017.


The Parliamentary Assembly most recently covered issues related to the effective access to justice in its following texts prepared within the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights:


The Commissioner for Human Rights has called on member states to provide effective access to justice in the scope of country monitoring work. In addition, the Commissioner has raised awareness on the importance of accessing justice in several contexts including transitional justice and missing persons.

See in particular:

Thematic webpage on Transitional Justice and Human Rights Protection in Europe

Human Rights Comment ‘Reconciliation stalled in the Western Balkans’

Issue Paper ‘Post-war justice and durable peace in the former Yugoslavia’

Issue Paper Missing persons and victims of enforced disappearance in Europe

 Constitutional Justice

Most national constitutions provide for democratic institutions but often these constitutions are not implemented sufficiently in practice in order to make these institutions effective, accountable and inclusive. Constitutional courts and equivalent bodies (constitutional councils and supreme courts exercising such jurisdiction) are pivotal in ensuring that all branches of power respect the constitution. The Venice Commission of the Council of Europe tries to strengthen constitutional courts and equivalent bodies by providing various services for the courts and by directly supporting them when they come under undue pressure. This cooperation is steered by the Venice Commission’s Joint Council on Constitutional Justice, which shapes the tools provided by the Commission that enable the exchange of information and cross-fertilisation between courts. These tools are the Bulletin on Constitutional Case-Law, the CODICES database (some 9500 cases submitted by the courts) and the Venice Forum. Upon request by the courts, the Venice Commission provides amicus curiae briefs, assisting the Courts. The Venice Commission also acts as the Secretariat for the World Conference on Constitutional Justice which unites 114 Constitutional Courts and Councils and Supreme Courts in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Australia/Oceania and Europe. It promotes constitutional justice – understood as constitutional review including human rights case law – as a key element for democracy, the protection of human rights and the rule of law.

Desistence from crime and social reintegration of offenders

The European Committee on Crime Problems (CDPC), the Council for Penological Cooperation (PC-CP) and the Committee of Experts on European Conventions on Cooperation in Criminal Matters (PC-OC) update and develop standards, and promote best practice to help legislators, the judiciary, prison and probation services in preventing impunity for crime, ensuring just and proportionate responses to it, better rehabilitation and societal reintegration of offenders and facilitating international co-operation to these ends.

In 2018, combating transnational organised crime was a priority, notably through a quicker and more efficient use of the Council of Europe instruments on international cooperation in criminal matters. A Committee of Ministers recommendation on witness protection was reviewed and modernised and several new practical tools were put at the practitioners’ disposal on the PC-OC website.

A new Recommendation, concerning restorative justice in criminal matters was adopted. A special meeting on artificial intelligence and criminal law launched a project on the criminal law aspects of the advent of automated vehicles.

In 2018, some 7000 prison/ police/ probation officers, out of which 33,9% were women, benefitted from assistance provided through Council of Europe technical co-operation activities and projects in the areas of prison and law-enforcement.


Corruption -– in all its forms and manifestations of unethical and dishonest behaviour – undermines the principles of the rule of law and respect for human rights, provokes mistrust in the way public affairs are managed and feeds populism. The Council of Europe, through its anti-corruption monitoring Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) and a vast programme of targeted technical assistance against economic crime, promotes its democratic standards and supports the “more vigorous implementation of the United Nations Convention against Corruption” called for in the Synthesis report of the Secretary-General on the post-2015 sustainable development agenda.

Demand for technical cooperation against corruption is increasing. In 2018, most of the interventions were based on country Action Plans. Assistance was tailored to the beneficiary priorities in the implementation of the recommendations of monitoring mechanisms. The Council of Europe action supported the EU enlargement in South-Eastern Europe as well as its Neighbourhood Policies (Eastern Partnership). As a result, twenty-two countries saw improvements in their primary and secondary legislation relevant to corruption prevention, conflict of interests, whistleblower protection, codes of ethics for parliamentarians, political party financing and electoral compaigns, asset declaration and asset recovery. Institution and human capacity building continued to be a strong focus of co-operation.


In this field, the Parliamentary Assembly notably adopted Resolution 2060 (2015) on Improving the protection of “whistle-blowers” inviting all Council of Europe member States to strengthen accountability and bolster the fight against corruption and mismanagement, both in the public and private sectors, and Resolution 2098 (2016) on Judicial corruption: urgent need to implement the Assembly’s proposals, calling for better compliance with and implementation of Council of Europe standards by member States.

In June 2017, the Parliamentary Assembly adopted Resolution 2170 (2017) and Recommendation  2105 (2017) on Promoting integrity in governance to tackle political corruption, with a view to stepping up the fight against corruption and restoring trust in the efficiency and effectiveness of democratic institutions, which must be a priority for many European democracies, including European institutions.

Promoting the rule of law (target 16.3), the fight against corruption (target 16.5) and developing effective and accountable institutions (target 16.6) are generally among the priorities in the Assembly’s relations with parliaments enjoying partner for democracy status (Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Morocco, and the Palestinian National Council). This status directly contributes to the strengthening of national institutions, including through international cooperation, and to building capacity at all levels, in order to prevent violence and combat terrorism and crime.

Based on reports by its Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media the Assembly also recently adopted Resolution 2171 (2017) and Recommendation 2106 (2017) on Parliamentary scrutiny over corruption: parliamentary co-operation with investigative media and Resolution 2192 (2017) on Youth against corruption.

Trust and confidence in the quality of education are also essential in sustaining a democratic society. In order to raise awareness of the risks involved and the responsibilities of providers and learners alike, a Pan-European Platform on Ethics, Integrity and Transparency in Education has been launched in the autumn of 2015. The initial work of the Platform is to propose ethical principles for all actors in education and discuss such issues as diploma mills and plagiarism.

Co-operation against cybercrime

Societies all over the world exploit the opportunities that information technologies bring for sustainable human development and democratic governance. However, reliance on such technologies makes societies vulnerable to risks, including cybercrime. Cybercrime thus threatens the human development potential of information and communication technologies and achievement of SDGs.

For this reason, the Council of Europe is supporting countries in all regions of the world in the implementation of the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime of the Council of Europe and its additional Protocol on Xenophobia and Racism committed via computer systems.

Many States (including countries in Africa, the Americas and Asia-Pacific) have decided to join these instruments.

The effective application of the Budapest Convention is supported by the Cybercrime Convention Committee (T-CY), serving as an international forum to reach agreement on how to deal with cybercrime and evidence as a matter of criminal justice. The T-CY is tasked not only to assess the quality of implementation of the Convention, but also to map the challenges to criminal justice in cyberspace and possible solutions to address these challenges.

As a result, the T-CY in 2017 commenced the negotiation of a 2nd Additional Protocol to the Budapest Convention on enhanced international cooperation and access to electronic evidence on cloud servers. This is to facilitate, among other things, direct cooperation with Internet service providers across borders with rule of law and data protection safeguards.

The T-CY in 2018 also completed a mapping study on cyberviolence and concluded that “measures to prevent, protect against and – in cases where it constitutes a criminal offence – prosecute cyberviolence should be conceived as contributing to the implementation of the UN Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, in particular, Sustainable Development Goal 16.”

While cybercrime, cyberviolence and other offences entailing electronic evidence on computer systems are thriving, capacity building remains the most effective way ahead to help countries on all continents meet this challenge. For this reason, the Council of Europe established in 2014 a dedicated Cybercrime Programme Office (C-PROC) in Romania, the sole purpose of which is to support capacity-building programmes worldwide. From 2014 to 2018, C-PROC supported the strengthening of legislation, the training of judges, prosecutors and law enforcement officers, and other measures through more than 620 activities in Africa, Asia and Pacific, Latin America and Caribbean as well as Europe. These activities help societies meet the challenge of cybercrime while contributing to the development agenda at the same time.

Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism

In 2018, MONEYVAL (the Council of Europe Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism) proceeded with its 5th round of mutual evaluations. This round focuses on the practical implementation of the global standard against money laundering and terrorist financing (AML/CFT) in MONEYVAL’s 34 members.

MONEYVAL also continued to look into recent trends, such as virtual currencies, the laundering of proceeds from human trafficking and the phenomenon of “de-risking” (where global financial institutions terminate business relationships with regional banks). It also undertook action on how to improve the understanding of terrorist financing risks in financial centres.

The Council of Europe technical co-operation against money-laundering and terrorism financing covered, amongst others, improved international cooperation in criminal matters and better prevention policies. In 2018, twenty-two countries benefitted from such co-operation.

In its Resolution 2130 (2016) on Lessons from the “Panama Papers” to ensure fiscal and social justice, prepared by the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development, the Parliamentary Assembly addressed the issue of “dirty” money by, inter alia, drawing attention to the importance of ensuring technical compliance with already existing international standards in the field of anti-tax evasion and anti-money laundering policies.

A report on “Fighting organised crime by facilitating the confiscation of illegal assets” is currently under preparation within the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights to encourage wider use of reversal of the burden of proof, subject to safeguards, when confiscating assets from organised criminals.

 Countering Terrorism

The Riga Additional Protocol to the Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism (CETS No. 217), in force since 2017, has promoted the consistency of recently adopted legislation relevant to foreign terrorist fighters and returnees, and has thus facilitated international legal co-operation. The network of national contact points, available in real time, on a 24/7 basis has facilitated first alerts about the travel of foreign terrorist fighters.

The Council of Europe successfully implemented its 2015-2017 Action Plan on the fight against violent extremism and radicalisation leading to terrorism. In July 2018, the Committee of Ministers adopted the Council of Europe Counter-Terrorism Strategy for 2018-2022. The strategy is built around prevention, prosecution and protection. In line with the strategy, the Council of Europe Committee on Counter-Terrorism (CDCT) has set up working groups on terrorism and organised crime and on the establishment of a set of indicators for assessing the risk that a terrorist attack may be carried out by radicalised individuals. CDCT will also work on the conduct of criminal trials against, and the prosecution of foreign terrorist fighters, including returnees and relocators.

The Committee of Ministers Recommendation on “Terrorists Acting Alone” (CM/Rec(2018)6), aims at improving member States’ ability to detect and intercept terrorists acting alone and prevent radicalisation leading individuals to terrorism.

As to the work of the Commissioner for Human Rights regarding human rights and counter-terrorism, the Commissioner has stressed that while terrorism constitutes a serious threat to human rights and democracy and action by states is necessary to prevent and effectively sanction terrorist acts, there is a compelling duty for states to protect the general interest of public security and the rule of law without jeopardising the core of human rights, which are enshrined notably in the European Convention on Human Rights. For more information, see the Commissioner’s thematic webpage ‘Counter terrorism and Human Rights’.

Freedom of expression

Freedom of expression, media freedom and pluralism, as well as high ethical standards and quality of journalism, are pillars of true democracy and a pre-condition for effective accountability of democratic institutions to their citizens. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, through its Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media, is particularly active in this domain and recently adopted Resolution 2143 (2017) on Online media and journalism: challenges and accountability and Resolution 2141 (2017) on Attacks against journalists and media freedom in Europe, Resolution 2171 (2017)1 Parliamentary scrutiny over corruption: parliamentary cooperation with the investigative mediaResolution 2179 (2017) Political influence over independent media and journalists.

Further reports are currently prepared on “The protection of editorial integrity”, “The status of journalists in Europe” and on “Media freedom as a condition for democratic elections”, “Are social media contributing to limiting freedom of expression?”, “The importance of public service broadcasting in the context of fake news, agitation and propaganda”.

The Committee of Ministers Recommendation (2016)4 on protection of journalism and safety of journalists and other media actors provides specific guidelines to member states to act in the areas of prevention, protection, prosecution, promotion of information, education and awareness rising.

Also, issued in April 2017, the study “Journalists under pressure: unwarranted interference, fear and self-censorship in Europe”, conducted among 940 journalists and other news providers in the 47 Council of Europe member states and Belarus, assesses the prevalence and impact of unwarranted interference on journalists.

Freedom of expression, media freedom and pluralism, but also high ethical standards and quality of journalism, are pillars of true democracy and a pre-condition for effective accountability of democratic institutions to their citizens. The Parliamentary Assembly, namely through its Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media, is particularly active in this domain and recently adopted Resolution 2143 (2017) on Online media and journalism: challenges and accountability and Resolution 2141 (2017) on Attacks against journalists and media freedom in Europe.

Further reports are currently prepared on “New methods of political influence over independent journalism”, “The protection of editorial independency”, “The status of journalists in Europe”, “Are social media contributing to limiting freedom of expression?”,  “Media freedom as a condition for democratic elections” and “Media education in the new media environment


The work of the Commissioner for Human Rights concerning freedom of expression covers different aspects of this freedom, including media freedom. In this respect, the Commissioner has stressed that free, independent and pluralistic media based on freedom of information and expression is a core element of any functioning democracy. Freedom of the media is in fact essential for the protection of all other human rights. For more information, see the Commissioner’s thematic webpage ‘Media Freedom’.

Internet governance

The Council of Europe puts a great deal of emphasis on the development of standards and policies related to the information society and internet governance since human rights apply equally online as well as off-line. The Council of Europe’s Internet Governance Strategy 2016-2019 aims at ensuring that public policy relating to the internet is people-centred and contributes to building democracy online, protecting internet users, and ensuring the protection and respect for human rights online.

In its efforts to promote rights and freedoms and maximise the enjoyment of benefits in the information society while minimising restrictions but ensuring an appropriate level of security to users, the Council of Europe has developed a Guide to Human Rights for Internet Users. This is a unique tool for individuals when facing difficulties in exercising their rights, for governments and public institutions to discharge their obligations to protect, respect and remedy human rights as well as an instrument to promote corporate social responsibility by encouraging the private sector to act responsibly and with respect for the human rights of individuals.


A number of other legal instruments developed by the Council of Europe have other socially important targets, relevant for sustainable development and strengthening of the knowledge based society. The recommendation on protecting and promoting the right to freedom of expression and the right to private life with regard to network neutrality deals with the practice of managing internet traffic transiting through the networks that internet access providers operate. Unjustifiable interferences with internet traffic may affect the quality of the internet service delivered to users and may result in blocking, discrimination or unfounded prioritisation of specific types of content, applications or services. Some of the techniques used in this context permit inspection or monitoring of communications, which can undermine users’ trust in the internet.


The recommendation on Internet freedom provides benchmarks and references for national evaluations of internet freedom. It aims at facilitating regular evaluations of the internet freedom environment at the national level, with a view to ensuring that the necessary legal, economic and political conditions are in place. Such evaluations contribute to a better understanding of the application of the European Convention on Human Rights to the internet-related challenges in member States. The indicators serve as an analytical framework for States to implement human rights standards online and as a reference for developing international policy and approaches for internet policy development.


The involvement of young people in internet governance processes is promoted in the follow-up to the No Hate Speech Movement campaign.


With a view to ensuring Internet governance in the most effective manner, the Parliamentary Assembly Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media is currently preparing a report on “Coordination for efficient internet governance” and a targeted report on “Creation of the position on internet Ombudsman in charge of assessing the legal or illegal nature of internet contents through screening procedures”.


The Commissioner for Human Rights published an Issue Paper in 2014 on ‘The rule of law on the Internet and in the wider digital world’.

 Supporting states in adhering to human rights standards

Inclusive societies and sustainable development are not possible without the respect for Human Rights of all members of these societies.  The European Convention on Human Rights and the entire CoE convention system, as well as the case law of the European Court of Human Rights set the standards for human rights and the way they should be implemented in each country.  Council of Europe Member States increasingly rely on support of the CoE to ensure effective and coherent implementation of the European Convention on Human Rights at national level.

The CoE supports the implementation of the European Convention on Human Rights and other European human rights standards at the national level in all Council of Europe member states through cooperation programmes in line with the 2012 Brighton and 2015 Brussels Declarations. The CoE provides a combination of legislative expertise and capacity building support, paying attention to impact and aiming at sustainability, both essential and complementary elements to ensure a better protection of human rights at the national level. Through the projects, the CoE disseminates good practices and contributes to raising the standards of human rights observance in Europe.

Concrete cooperation projects aimed at improving the national legal frameworks, capacity building of national institutions, and consolidating the skills and knowledge of key justice actors including. This work focuses on implementing the criminal justice reforms and ensuring a harmonised application of European standards in national jurisdictions as well as facilitating the execution of the European Court’s Judgments. Targeted activities are carried out to maintain human rights dialogue and cooperation.


The Commissioner for Human Rights is an independent and impartial non-judicial institution established in 1999 by Council of Europe to promote awareness of and respect for human rights in the 47 Council of Europe member states. The fundamental objectives of the Commissioner for Human Rights are laid out in Resolution (99) 50 on the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights. According to this resolution, the Commissioner is mandated to: foster the effective observance of human rights, and assist member states in the implementation of Council of Europe human rights standards; promote education in and awareness of human rights in Council of Europe member states; identify possible shortcomings in the law and practice concerning human rights; facilitate the activities of national ombudsperson institutions and other human rights structures; and provide advice and information regarding the protection of human rights across the region.

The Commissioner's work thus focuses on encouraging reform measures to achieve tangible improvement in the area of human rights promotion and protection. Being a non-judicial institution, the Commissioner's Office cannot act upon individual complaints, but the Commissioner can draw conclusions and take wider initiatives on the basis of reliable information regarding human rights violations suffered by individuals. The activities of this institution focus on three major, closely-related areas:

country visits and dialogue with national authorities and civil society

thematic reporting and advising on systematic human rights implementation

awareness-raising activities

Support for the work of human rights defenders, their protection and the development of an enabling environment for their activities lie at the core of the Commissioner’s mandate. The Commissioner assists member states in fulfilling their obligations in this regard by providing advice and recommendations.

 Data protection

Relying on a sound protection of personal data is an element of freedom, which can, in turn, better enable endeavours for professional, personal and economic development, both for individuals and groups. In particular, new technologies representing a chance for developing countries, it is equally important that their development goes together with the necessary safeguards.

The Council of Europe Data Protection Convention is a unique instrument due to its international and binding nature; it can provide a worldwide basis for the harmonisation of data protection legislations and enables the participation of developing countries in this work of fundamental importance.

The Convention allows other fundamental rights to be exercised, such as freedom of expression and access to information (as set in goal 16.10 on ensuring “public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements”), freedom of assembly and association.


The multiple European crisis – austerity economic agenda, uncertainty, terrorist attacks, arrival of high number of migrants and refugees – create a climate of anxiety and fear, which is a fertile ground for hate speech and xenophobic populism. The Council of Europe, notably through the European Commission against Racism and intolerance (ECRI), the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCNM) and the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (ECRML), actively supports the UN determination to protect human rights and minority rights and promote equality for all persons. These activities also contribute to the implementation of goals 4, 5 and 11.


ECRI is a human rights monitoring body which helps member States to overcome problems of racism, intolerance and discrimination on grounds such as “race”, national or ethnic origin, colour, citizenship, religion, language, sexual orientation and gender identity. ECRI prepares country monitoring reports and issues General Policy Recommendations (GPRs) to member States. It puts a special focus on the implementation of effective hate crime and anti-discrimination legislation (GPR No. 7), the establishment and impact of equality bodies (GPR No. 2), combating hate speech (GPR No. 15) and hate crime (GPR No. 11), running effective integration policies (GPRs No. 10, 13 and 14), implementing policies to combat discrimination vis-à-vis LGBT people and implementing a gender perspective. With its GPR No. 15 on combating hate speech ECRI has recently designed a tool that enables member States to give an effective response to hate speech and xenophobic populism, while respecting freedom of speech.


The FCNM  is a comprehensive treaty designed to protect the rights of persons belonging to national minorities. Parties to this Convention undertake to promote the full and effective equality of persons belonging to minorities in all areas of economic, social, political and cultural life together with the conditions that will allow them to express, preserve and develop their culture and identity. An independent  and impartial Advisory Committee prepares an opinion on the implementation of the FCNM by the parties, based on which the Committee of Ministers adopts recommendations to the parties.


The ECRML aims to protect and promote the use of regional or minority languages in all spheres of public life, notably in the areas of education, administration, public services, the judiciary, media, cultural activities and facilities, economic and social life and trans-frontier exchanges. The Charter contributes to the maintenance and development of Europe’s cultural wealth and traditions, and stresses the values of cultural diversity and multilingualism. The languages of indigenous peoples are covered by the Charter. An independent Expert Committee publishes a report on the implementation of the ECRML by the parties, based on which the Committee of Ministers adopts recommendations to the parties.


The Council of Europe Recommendation CM/Rec(2010)5 of the Committee of Ministers to member States on measures to combat discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity is a unique instrument which identifies very specific measures to ensure full respect for LGBT persons, promote tolerance towards them and ensure that victims have access to legal remedies. Through its cooperation activities, the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Unit addresses issues related to hate crime and hate speech against LGBTI persons, homophobic and transphobic violence and bullying, multiple discrimination, legal gender recognition of transgender persons, as well as protection of intersex children, and has helped improving the legal framework, practices and policies of the member States that seek its expertise.


The Council of Europe’s Intercultural Cities programme supports local authorities in preventing and combating discrimination in all areas of life by encouraging more open, inclusive institutions, neighbourhoods, schools, enterprises, and public space as well as by combatting prejudice and stereotypes via the pioneering anti-rumours approach.


The Council of Europe Strategy on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities - Human Rights: A Reality for All (2017-2023) aims to achieve equality, dignity and equal opportunities for persons with disabilities. This requires ensuring independence, freedom of choice, full and active participation in all areas of life and society. The Strategy addresses a number of areas covered by the SDGs, notably equality, inclusion and accessibility, acting as an implementing tool, at regional level, of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.


The No Hate Speech and Cooperation Unit runs cooperation projects with CoE member states in the areas of combating discrimination, racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and intolerance, with a particular emphasis on tackling the use of hate speech on line and off line. The unit builds on the legacy of the No Hate Speech Movement campaign that has mobilised national authorities and civil society organisation in 45 countries raising awareness on the risks hate speech poses to human rights and peaceful democratic societies. Guided by the findings and recommendations of ECRI, FCNM and ECRNML, the unit supports national authorities to reform the Criminal, Civil and Administrative law, improve data gathering and implement capacity building and awareness raising measures through a multi-stakeholder approach. In line with UN goals 16, the unit enables vulnerable groups, including persons belonging to national minorities and LGBT, to make full use of their rights and participate in society. The units work strives to strengthen gender equality (UN Goal 5), sustainable cities and communities (UN Goal 11) and reduce inequality (UN goals 10).

The involvement of young people in Internet governance processes is promoted by the follow-up to the No Hate Speech Movement Campaign.


Youth participation in decision making at all levels which concern them is promoted through the Youth for Democracy programme and informs capacity-building measures that are organised for member States and youth organisations.  These measures adopt participatory approaches to youth policy and youth work, based inter alia on the Council of Europe Congress’ Revised European Charter on the Participation of Young People in Local and Regional Life and in the Youth Department’s manual “Have Your Say!”. Specific attention is paid to promoting the participation of vulnerable or disadvantaged young people, notably Roma youth. Standards and approaches to meaningful youth participation in decision making also inform Euro-Arab youth co-operation activities.


The Council of Europe also combats inequality and discrimination through raising awareness and training legal professionals in the member states.  Several courses of the European Programme for Human Rights Education for Legal Professionals (HELP) target issues relevant to gender equality.  These include courses on Anti-Discrimination, Labour Rights, Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence, Child-friendly Justice, and a course on Combatting Trafficking in Human Beings.  The Council of Europe also contributes to the strengthening of the capacities of national human rights institutions, such as Ombudspersons and dedicated equality bodies in addressing issues of discrimination and gender inequality.


The activities of the Council of Europe in the field of promoting gender equality and empowering women in girls, described extensively under SDG 5, are also relevant to the implementation of SDG 16.


The work of the Commissioner for Human Rights relating to anti-discrimination has comprises a wide range of actions focused on combating discrimination on grounds such as age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, race, ethnic origin, religion or economic or other status. The activities of the Commissioner on this theme are undertaken in different thematic areas such as human rights of LGTBI persons, human rights of persons with disabilities, human rights and migration, human rights of Roma and Travellers, and women’s rights and gender equality. The Commissioner has also carried out some country and thematic work relating to racism and intolerance and on the human rights of older persons.

See in particular:

Thematic webpages:

Concerning combating racism and intolerance, see in particular the Human Rights Comments:

Concerning human rights of older persons, see in particular the Human Rights Comments:


Ending violence against children

The Council of Europe is actively engaged in the eradication of all forms of violence against children at pan European level. “A life free from violence for all children” is one of the five key priority areas of the current Council of Europe Strategy for the Rights of the Child (2016-2021) which shall be subject to a mid-term evaluation in November 2019.The strategy stipulates its mission clearly as contributing to the implementation of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development building on its standards, intergovernmental platforms and monitoring bodies. To this end, the Council of Europe will continue to act as a regional driver of initiatives to prevent and respond to violence against children, including by protecting victims and promoting child friendly services and efficient reporting mechanisms. The work programme of the intergovernmental Children’s Rights Committee (CAHENF), entrusted with the implementation of the Strategy, includes actions to promote an integrated approach to the protection from violence, to combat sexual exploitation, sexual abuse and trafficking as well as to eliminate corporal punishment, bullying, cyber-bullying and gender-based violence, as well as to protect children from violent extremism. The Council of Europe will furthermore continue to support the mandate of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Violence against Children as well as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children.

To date, the Lanzarote Convention is the most ambitious and comprehensive legal instrument on the protection of children against sexual exploitation and sexual abuse, covering and criminalising all possible kinds of sexual offences against children, protecting child victims, prosecuting perpetrators and promoting international co-operation. Its implementation is overseen by the Committee of the Parties (“Lanzarote Committee”), which has been involving children in the current, 2nd thematic monitoring round of the Convention on “the protection of children against sexual exploitation and abuse facilitated by ICTs”. Next to the Lanzarote Convention, the Council of Europe policy guidelines on integrated national strategies for the protection of children from violence are of particular interest for States committed to promote a child rights based and holistic approach to ending violence. These instruments are extremely relevant to the implementation of Target 16.2 and continue to be promoted amongst member States.

With regard to topical challenges of child protection against violence, several co-operation projects are currently underway, and support global efforts in this area. A free online training course has been developed by the Human Rights Education for Legal Professionals (HELP) of the Council of Europe. In particular, a multilateral project to End Online Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (EndOCSEA@Europe) is currently being implemented by the Council of Europe until December 2020, with the financial support of the Fund to End Violence against Children. The project will address the contextual challenges identified at pan-European and country level in beneficiary countries (Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Montenegro, Republic of Moldova, Serbia, Turkey and Ukraine) by promoting, facilitating and supporting national efforts and actions to prevent and combat child sexual exploitation and abuse facilitated by ICTs. ,

The intergovernmental sector of the organization, representing member States, the Lanzarote Committee, and the Parliamentary Assembly have been promoting the Lanzarote Convention very pro-actively over the past years, namely through the Council of Europe ONE in FIVE Campaign to stop sexual violence against children (2010-2015). In 2019, joint action is being pursued under the current Campaign to End immigration detention of children (2015-2019).

The Parliamentary Assembly continues to keep matters of child protection and the promotion of children’s rights high up on the agenda, by regularly urging member States to take action. Amongst the most recent texts adopted by the Assembly in this area is Resolution 2204 (2018) on Protecting children affected by armed conflicts.

Ending violence against children

The Commissioner for Human Rights addresses the problem of violence against children in the context of country and thematic work on human rights for children. For more information, see the thematic webpage on children’s rights and in particular the Human Rights Comment ‘No violence against children is acceptable, all violence is preventable’.

Values in and through sports

Threats to sports integrity (such as doping and match fixing) have an impact on people’s trust in sports organisations and institutions. The Council of Europe Convention on the manipulation of sports competitions and the Anti-Doping Convention address those threats by promoting cooperation between States and the sports movement. By promoting human rights values through sports and fostering safety and good governance in sports, the Council of Europe reaches out to millions of people and involves the sports movement and economic sector in the building of sustainable societies. Besides the Convention tackling the threats of sports the activities of the Enlarged Partial Agreement on Sport (EPAS) aim at ensuring good governance in sport and defending the integrity of sport . In this sense, it plays a considerable role in building accountable and inclusive institutions and in restoring confidence/trust in these institutions. Namely EPAS has contributed to promote good governance and reduce corruption thought the publication two important resolutions in 2018. Within the International Partnership against Corruption in Sport (IPACS), composed of sports organisations, governments and other inter-governmental organisations, the Council of Europe is strengthening work that will reduce corruption and bribery in sport, and develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions. The sport migrant integration platform aims to index and share knowledge on good practices which are taking place at a pan-European level, on current activities and future projects focusing on newly arrived migrants and their integration via sport. The CoE is co-ordinating the preparation of guidelines on sport integrity within the format of the Kazan Action Plan uniting its experience and stakeholders.

See also:

Promotion of human rights in sport

 Good Governance

The Centre of Expertise for Local Government Reform offers practical support to central governments which want to reform their legislation, institutions or policies, and to local authorities which want to improve the quality of their governance and public services. For example, the 12 Principles of Good Governance, as well as specific capacity-building tools, training materials and benchmarks developed by the Centre of Expertise allow local authorities to improve governance and help achieve SDGs in a very concrete and practical way.

The European Committee on Democracy and Governance (CDDG) is the Council of Europe intergovernmental structure where high-level officials from the 47 member States meet to share information about policy and best practice, as well as to develop or update standards, in the fields of modernisation of democratic institutions, public administration reform, citizens’ participation and democratic governance at all levels.

The Committee promotes compliance of domestic legislation with the European Charter of Local Self-Government, and disseminates Committee of Ministers’ Recommendations and Guidelines in the above mentioned fields.

The Committee provides direct support to member States by way of exchanges among peers and rapid responses to demands regarding legal issues or established practice. It also relies on the Centre of Expertise for Local Government Reform for the provision of practical assistance or the development of country-specific programmes.

Civil Society

Civil society plays a leading role in the promotion of accountable, effective and inclusive institutions in democratic societies.  The Council of Europe is working on enhancing the space for effective civil participation in public life and in political decision-making at all levels of government. The Conference of INGOs of the Council of Europe represents European civil society within the Council of Europe and aims to defend the freedom of association, amplify the independent voices of civil society, and protect the space for civil participation.  The Council of Europe North-South Centre of the Council of Europe carries out activities to empower civil society organisations in Europe and the Southern Mediterranean to strengthen their role in the preparation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of public policies and in governance.

The Parliamentary Assembly’s Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights is currently working towards specific texts on “How can inappropriate restrictions on NGO activities in Europe be prevented?” (plenary debate expected for June 2018).

Promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development

The Youth for Democracy programme involves youth organisations in the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies, notably by supporting them through capacity-building activities and exchanges on peace education and conflict transformation. The “Youth Peace Camp” brings together young people from conflict-stricken communities and helps them to overcome hatred and prejudice, as well as to develop joint projects and initiatives to promote inter-community dialogue and, when appropriate, reconciliation. Activities promoting intercultural dialogue among young people are organised on a regular basis, notably in the framework of the Euro-Arab co-operation, and based on the Council of Europe White Paper on Intercultural Dialogue.


The role and importance of a safe, reliable and human-rights compatible cyberspace for inclusion and peace is the object of the No Hate Speech Movement Campaign and its follow-up measures. Education for media literacy as well as digital competences are important dimensions to protect societies from abuse and hate speech which fuel social rift and conflict. The use of counter and alternative narratives to hate speech is particularly important, including as a means of combating violent extremism.  Educational resources have been developed through the Campaign and are being promoted in national campaigns.


Apart from the reference in the part of Civil Society, the North-South Centre promotes intercultural dialogue among young people notably in the framework of the Euro-Mediterranean Youth Cooperation and the North-South Centre’s Network of Universities on Youth and Global Citizenship.

The Network encourages the definition of a common agenda, through the quadrilogue approach, and the implementation of common actions to foster democratic participation and global citizenship among young people, contributing to this goal of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

For the period 2018-2020 the Network has agreed for a three-year cycle under the umbrella theme: UN Sustainable Development Goal 16: “peace, justice and strong institutions”.

In the framework of the Joint Programme between the Council of Europe and the European Union, ‘South Programme III,’ the North-South Centre’s 2018 Lisbon Forum addressed ‘Youth Peace and Security: uplifting youth engagement in peace and democratic processes in the Euro-Mediterranean Region’. During the Forum, representatives from governments, parliaments, regional and local authorities and civil society from Europe and neighbouring regions, explored the opportunities for a greater youth engagement in decision making processes to ensure peace and democracy in the Euro-Mediterranean, under the framework of the UN Security Council Resolution 2250 (2015).

Building up from previous successful experiences with diaspora youth leaders – namely the African Diaspora Youth Network in Europe - ADYNE – the North-South Centre of the Council of Europe works with diaspora youth groups and young migrants who have proven to be crucial actors in the promotion of global/development education, representing an immense richness for the hosting societies. In this context, the activities of the youth cooperation programme in the framework of the iLEGEND seek to strengthen the role of youth as key actors in global and interregional development, as well as to facilitate the development of youth policies and structures for youth participation.


At the level of the Parliamentary Assembly, the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development looks into various categories of individual and collective social rights, social inclusion and good governance notably at the local and regional level; this led, for example, to Resolution 2024 (2014) on Social exclusion: a danger for Europe’s democracies. More recently, it adopted Resolution 2152 (2017) on “New generation” trade agreements and their implications for social rights, public health and sustainable development and Resolution 2197 (2018) on The case for a basic citizenship income.

The Committee has generally supported Council of Europe activities in the area of social cohesion over the past years, such as those by the European Social Cohesion Platform (PECS) and previous relevant bodies.

The Committee on Migration, Refugees and Stateless Persons has worked to promote inclusive societies through the integration of refugees, leading in particular to the adoption of Resolution 2176 (2017) on the Integration of refugees in times of critical pressure: learning from recent experience and examples of best practice. The Committee is currently (Jan. 2018) working on a report on “Recently arrived refugees and migrants at risk of radicalisation”, in order to prepare recommendations to member States on policies to avoid extremism and violence in society.

Most of the Assembly reports prepared in the field of education, culture, heritage, youth and sport as prepared by the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media focus on promoting diversity and dialogue to cultivate a sense of identity, collective memory and mutual understanding and to promote shared values which are the foundation of “living together” in peace and of an active and responsible citizen participation in public life. In 2016, the Assembly adopted the following resolutions in this field:

  • Access to school and education for all children
  • Sport for all: a bridge to equality, integration and inclusion
  • Culture and democracy
  • Educational and cultural networks of communities living abroad.

In its Resolution 2123 (2016) on culture and democracy, the Parliamentary Assembly recommended, inter alia, that governments support the right of everyone to participate in cultural life as a core human right, seeking to offset barriers which hamper the access to culture of women, youth, minorities, migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and other vulnerable groups, and that they promote the diversity of cultural expressions and cultural pluralism as positive factors for innovation and development.

Further reports are currently prepared on “Education and culture: new partnerships to support personal development and cohesion”, “The value of cultural heritage in a democratic society” and “Safeguarding and enhancing Europe’s intangible cultural heritage”.


The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities organised the following events:


The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities adopted the following texts of relevance:

The Commissioner for Human Rights has called upon member states of the Council of Europe to enhance social cohesion and refrain from taking measures that would have the effect of discriminating, excluding, marginalising, isolating or segregating persons or groups of persons. The approach has been to recommend better human rights protection and social inclusion for specific groups of persons. These groups include (but are not limited to) children, women, elderly people, LGBTI persons, persons with disabilities, migrants, asylum seekers and refugees, Roma and other ethnic or religious minority groups. Recent work of the Commissioner on this theme includes two documents related to social cohesion and inclusive societies containing recommendations and positions on these respective issues.

See in particular:

Issue paper on Realising the right to family reunification of refugees in Europe

Position Paper on Fighting school segregation in Europe through inclusive education

Issue paper Time for Europe to get migrant integration right

 Addressing post-conflict situations through confidence-building measures

Over the past decades, several regions of Europe have experienced armed conflicts, some of them still protracted, some frozen, others having now found a more long-term political settlement, but in all cases the countries concerned are still experiencing the consequences of the conflicts on their societies. Failure to find peaceful viable solutions to the conflicts, in particular through democracy and rule of law mechanisms, results in further isolation of the populations living in the areas concerned, gravely affecting their human rights and depriving them of guarantees provided for all Europeans, notably under the European Convention on Human Rights. As a direct consequence, the populations affected by the conflict experience multiple difficulties of a material and moral character. These situations concern the entire population of the affected regions but in particular influence the younger generations, provoking bitterness and distrust, which has serious consequences for future possibilities of conflict resolution.

The Council of Europe sees its role in proposing to the interested parties its Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) in the fields of its expertise as a valuable contribution for the conflict resolution processes. Confidence Building Measures conducted by the Council of Europe aim at facilitating dialogue among populations, in particular different professional groups across dividing lines, and at raising awareness and respect of human rights principles as contained in the relevant instruments of the Organisation. They also aim at creating a good level of mutual trust between the populations across dividing lines, notably by addressing problems of common concern and pointing at reconciliation with a view to building the foundations for a peaceful future, rather than returning to the tragic events of their common past.

The pan-European character of the Organisation, its inclusive mandate, as well as its values-oriented nature, make the Council of Europe particularly well placed for the implementation of CBM activities which are interesting and acceptable to all parties involved.

The proposed activities and programmes are designed to respond to concrete common problems faced by the populations in conflict-affected areas as identified jointly by the different actors across the divides.

Activities are technical and not political in nature, as they never address the issues of status or territorial questions, but strive to support initiatives intended to improve respect for individual rights of people affected by a given conflict and its consequences.

In general, the protracted conflicts areas are not being monitored by the Council of Europe Convention-based monitoring mechanisms. CBMs can therefore provide the Organisation’s expertise by way of sharing examples and good practices as a first step of the assistance-oriented activities. As such, they therefore constitute a pragmatic channel for dialogue on technical issues addressing the rights of the populations affected by conflicts.

Implemented since 2010, CBM activities continue to bring together professional groups from Chisinau and Tiraspol, Tbilisi and Sukhumi, as well as from Tskhinvali. Since 2016, a CBMs Programme has also been implemented in Bosnia and Herzegovina to enhance inter-ethnic dialogue at the level of municipalities and local communities, and also involving young people and women, in order to promote reconciliation and improve the respect for human rights standards.

The Council of Europe CBM activities are based on the principle of equal participation both as far as the number of participants from the interested sides and their involvement in the programme is concerned. Representatives of civil society are actively involved in the events as natural partners, not least because of their role as multipliers and a feedback channel for the impact of the projects. In recent years, their role in the Confidence-Building Measures programmes constantly increased.

 Existence of independent national human rights institutions in compliance with the Paris Principles

The Commissioner for Human Rights recommends that member states set up independent national human rights institutions in compliance with the Paris Principles. See in particular the Human Rights Comment ‘Paris Principles at 25: Strong National Human Rights Institutions Needed More Than Ever.