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The European Social Charter, the human rights treaty on social and economic rights, guarantees the right to housing in Articles 16 and 31.

Under Article 31 of the Charter, States Parties must guarantee to everyone the right to adequate housing and they should promote access to housing in particular to the different groups of vulnerable persons, such as low-income persons, unemployed persons, single parent households, young persons, persons with disabilities including those with mental health problems. Furthermore the obligation to promote and provide housing extends to security from unlawful eviction. In order to comply with the Charter, legal protection for persons threatened with eviction must be prescribed by law.

Article 16 of the Charter guarantees a right to decent housing for families in the context of securing the right of families to social, legal and economic protection. Under Article 16 of the Charter, States Parties must promote the provision of an adequate supply of housing for families, take the needs of families into account in housing policies and ensure that existing housing be of an adequate standard and include essential services (such as heating and electricity). Adequate housing refers not only to a dwelling which must not be sub-standard and must have essential amenities, but also to a dwelling of suitable size considering the composition of the family in residence.

The right of persons with disabilities to social integration provided for by Article 15§3 of the Charter implies that barriers to mobility be removed in order to enable access to transport (land, rail, sea and air), housing (public, social and private), cultural activities and leisure (social and sporting activities). Public transports (land, rail, sea and air), all newly constructed or renovated public buildings, facilities and buildings open to the public, and cultural and leisure activities should be physically accessible. The needs of persons with disabilities must be taken into account in housing policies, including the construction of an adequate supply of suitable, public, social or private housing. Further, financial assistance should be provided for the adaptation of existing housing.

The European Committee of Social Rights (ESCR) monitors the implementation of the Charter, not only in law, but also in practice. The ECSR examined the situation and measures taken by States Parties with regard to Articles 16 and 31 in its Conclusions 2015. The ECSR examined the measures taken by States Parties with regard to the implementation of Article 15§3 of the Charter in its Conclusions 2016.

 

Local authorities are key players in achieving this and other goals. However, in order to be efficient in fulfilling their tasks, they need to be empowered – through decentralisation policies, and enabled – through capacity-building tools. The Council of Europe offers assistance to its member States in both areas.

 

The Council of Europe is the leading international organisation in respect of strengthening local government and “creating sustainable communities, where people like to live and work, now and in the future” (Final Declaration of the Third Council of Europe Summit). It has the only international treaty concerning decentralisation, the European Charter of Local Self-Government (“the Charter”) and a number of recommendations  and other standards, a solid knowledge base, specific tools, expertise and experience with supporting reforms both of central and local government. The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities monitors the Charter and ensures regular exchanges between local and regional government representatives,  while 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 Council of Europe’s Intercultural cities programme (ICC) has pioneered a new policy framework for inclusion and sustainable diversity management at the local level, supporting local authorities in the building of cohesive culturally diverse cities which are resilient to conflict. This policy framework has been endorsed by the Committee of Minsters in their Recommendation CM (2015)1 on intercultural integration. Today, over 130 cities on the five continents are applying the intercultural integration approach to local policies. They represent a powerful voice for the recognition of diversity as an asset for societies’ development and a rich source of experience and know-how which can help shape policies at other levels of governance. The ICC concept is based on the principles of diversity, equality and interaction. It helps cities conceive policies that enable migrants and refugees to enjoy equal opportunities and realise their potential. Various studies have revealed a strong link between local intercultural policies and cities' social and economic performance, and demonstrated that countries where intercultural policies are co-ordinated between the national and local levels, have better overall integration results. An Inclusive Integration Policy Lab has been launched in the context of Intercultural cities, to foster constructive dialogue and co-development of migrant and refugee inclusion policies based on the intercultural principles.

A series of projects are currently being implemented to support local administrations with presence of Roma communities in improving the quality of their governance, such as the Council of Europe/European Commission joint programmes “ROMACT” and “ROMACTED”, which aims to increase the capacity of local authorities to develop and implement inclusive policies and public services, with particular focus on Roma.

 

The Enlarged Partial Agreement on Sport (EPAS) aims to make sport fairer, safer and ensures that it conforms to high ethical standards. In this regard, sports policies implemented by EPAS promote secure, threat-free environments that are supportive and inclusive. Under the three pillars of ethical, inclusive and safe sport, EPAS runs different projects to help integrate migrants through sport. With regard to making cities more sustainable, EPAS also supports the creation and improvement of sports facility mapping systems which helps countries and local authorities to provide sports facilities to all their citizens. Together with the Club de Strasbourg, EPAS is involved in getting cities together to work on the integration of migrants through sport and on the idea of sport as a medical prescription.

The activities of the Convention on an Integrated Safety, Security and Service Approach at Football Matches and Other Sports Events (CETS No. 218) help State parties to set up safe, inclusive and sustainable sports events, in appropriate facilities, in the local communities.

A series of projects are currently being implemented to support local administrations with presence of Roma communities in improving the quality of their governance, such as the Council of Europe/European Commission joint programmes “ROMACT” and “ROMACTED”, which aims to increase the capacity of local authorities to develop and implement inclusive policies and public services, with particular focus on Roma.

 

With the adoption of the European Landscape Convention, the member States of the Council of Europe have taken an important step acknowledging that the landscape is an important part of the quality of life, in particular in urban areas. Each Party undertakes to “integrate landscape into its regional and town planning”. Activities carried out on “Landscapes for urban, suburban and peri-urban areas”, on “Landscape, towns and peri-urban and suburban areas” and on “Landscape and public spaces”, as well as achievements presented in the framework of the Landscape Award Alliance of the Council of Europe present concrete experiences of cities and human settlements that are inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

 

The Council of Europe Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for Society (Faro Convention) sets a framework for more democratic heritage governance, focusing on the role of heritage in addressing societal challenges and encouraging increased cooperation and inclusive policies. The biennial Faro Convention Action Plan is instrumental in translating the principles and criteria of the Convention into practice, providing field based knowledge and expertise, and bridging the gap between declared values and reality on the ground.

 

The European Cultural Heritage Strategy for the 21st century is a strategy to meet the challenges facing cultural heritage in terms of citizen participation, and economic, social and environmental conditions. The Strategy’s recommendations seek to reconnect communities to their heritage values, and encourage member states and relevant stakeholders to practise participatory mechanisms based on "good governance".

 

The 2017 Council of Europe Convention on Offences relating to Cultural Property is the only international treaty specifically dealing with the criminalisation of the illicit trafficking of cultural property. It is open for signature to any country in the world and aims to foster international co-operation to fight the crimes that are destroying the world’s cultural heritage.

 

The work on natural and technological risks developed by the European and Mediterranean Major Hazards Agreement (EUR-OPA) provides guidance to decision-makers to improve infrastructures and population resilience to disasters, taking into account in particular vulnerable groups (migrants, asylum seekers, refugees, people with disabilities, children, etc.). Member States are provided with common tools for developing disaster risk reduction, promoting the risk culture to increase awareness and resilience of populations, protect cultural heritage and environment, through an inclusive and participatory approach. The EUR-OPA programme of work is being developed and implemented in cooperation with the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction and the European Union.

 

The Council of Europe Development Bank’s (CEB) unique mandate – promoting social cohesion in Europe – makes it a natural partner for inclusive cities seeking to diversify their financing. In recent years, the Bank has stepped up its co-operation with cities and municipalities in its member countries in order to lend its full support to their social investments. In the last ten years, the CEB has invested more than € 2.3 billion for municipal social infrastructure through loans directly contracted and implemented by cities.

In 2018 the CEB signed a Memorandum of Understanding with “100 Resilient Cities - Pioneered by The Rockefeller Foundation” to support eligible cities with project preparation and implementation, as they endeavour to build resilience to physical, social, and economic challenges. The agreement will help cities across Europe prepare for and respond to shocks such as natural disasters, as well as chronic stresses such as water shortages, homelessness, and unemployment.

 

In 2015, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities adopted a Strategy to fight radicalisation at grassroots level and developed a Toolkit (for the use by local authorities)  to promote intercultural and interreligious dialogue available on its website radicalisation in 36 languages.

 

The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities organised the Third Summit of Mayors for the Alliance of European Cities against Violent Extremism,  Barcelona, Spain, 15 November 2017

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

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