As delivered by Bjørn Berge, Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe
Distinguished guests and speakers,
Ladies and gentlemen,
The Council of Europe has for over seven decades protected human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
Through the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights, the fundamental rights of over 700 million people are safeguarded.
Over recent years, we have seen outbreaks of populism and extreme nationalism that have challenged multilateralism, national and international institutions, and even the very fabric of a democracy.
An obvious and extreme example is the Russian Federation’s military invasion of Ukraine.
What happened on 24th of February was completely unacceptable.
Yes, it was a direct attack on Ukraine, but at the same time an attack on all of us.
On our values and rights –
On all that we believe in, and all that we stand for.
That’s why there is no room for “business as usual,” for indifference, or the role of the spectator.
We need instead to contain this form of aggressive, violent nationalism –
Not only for the sake of our Ukrainian friends and the independence and sovereignty of Ukraine - which in itself is important –
But also for the future of Europe and for international peace and stability.
So what should we do?
To start with, we must do everything we can to uphold and secure vibrant and free democracies throughout Europe and beyond.
This means going back to the “fundamentals” – “the basics”:
Reassembling the core building blocks of democracy, and start to construct something that is stronger and more resilient than ever before.
Yes, it means a focus on freedom of expression, free media, free and independent courts and judiciaries, and a vibrant and independent civil society.
But it also involves reaching out more broadly, focusing also on youth and education, as well as on sports.
The Council of Europe’s four-year strategic priorities for sports makes an important contribution to that drive.
In these, we are clear about the need for the protection of human rights in sports.
Here, the European Partial Agreement on Sports - EPAS - plays an important role, as a unique platform for co-operation, that brings governments and sports organisations together.
The Council of Europe also have important co-operation programmes with other organisations that promote our standards and values –
And we have very good working relations with sports organisations like UEFA, FIFA, and the IOC through which we can help to reinforce the integrity of sports.
All of these joint efforts also contribute to meeting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
And we also have specific treaties that address particular challenges that affect the sports world.
Our Anti-doping Convention;
In combating doping world-wide, we have excellent co-operation with WADA, and I very much welcome the agreement signed yesterday between the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) and WADA.
Our Saint Denis Convention on an Integrated Safety, Security and Service Approach at Football Matches and Other Sports Events;
And our Convention against the Manipulation of Sports Competitions.
Widely known as the Macolin Convention, this remains the only international treaty tackling manipulation and corruption in sports.
It seeks co-operation between public authorities, betting operators and sports organisations and competition organisers –
And it is designed to detect, report and sanction the manipulation of sports competitions.
GRECO, our Group of States Against Corruption, has built on its 20 years of wide experience by offering advice to governments and contributing to the work of our various partners, including in sports.
Also the International Partnership Against Corruption in Sports (IPACS) is crucial, as we bring together international sports organisations, governments, inter-governmental organisations, and other relevant stakeholders, to strengthen and support efforts to eliminate corruption and promote a culture of good governance in and around sport.
More broadly, our recently revised European Sports Charter champions “sports for all” –
In this way, sport is a great leveller that can bring people together in a way that nothing else can.
So, we do need good partnerships to make that happen.
Certainly, the Council of Europe benefits greatly from working with others.
And we are eager to share what we do with those who would be interested.
Lastly, I want to express my gratitude to the UK government for organising this event.
It gives us a unique opportunity to share our experiences –
And to find new ways forward.
Among the Commonwealth members, there is certainly a wealth of insight and experience.
This year, it is the tenth Commonwealth Sports Ministers Meeting, but at the same time it will be ten years since you adopted the Charter, that is so important in safeguarding vital principles such as democracy, human rights, freedom of expression, sustainable development, access to health and education, and gender equality throughout the Commonwealth and in sports.
This is such a solid foundation to continue the work also in the coming decades. And you can count on our support and co-operation in the years to come.
Finally, let me also wish you all the best for the ‘Friendly Games’, renowned throughout the world for inspiring athletes to compete in the spirit of friendship and fair play.
Thank you for your attention.