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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 respect of housing in its Conclusions 2019 . Under Article 31§1 (adequacy of housing), most of the non-conformities concerned the substandard housing conditions of Roma/Travellers, while other non-conformities concerned more general problems such as substandard housing for a large number of dwellings and the lack of rules imposing obligations on landlords to ensure that dwellings are of an adequate standard. As regards Article 31§2 (reduction of homelessness), most of the non-conformities concerned the insufficient legal protection for persons threatened by eviction (forced eviction), including specific issues under this topic such as the prohibition of evictions during winter: Some non-conformities refer specifically to evictions of Roma, while other non-conformities are based on the insufficient measures to reduce and prevent homelessness in general. Another ground of non-conformity was the insufficient protection of the right to shelter. Finally, under Article 31§3 on affordable housing, the non-conformities concerned the shortage of social housing and the lack of equal treatment of foreign nationals lawfully residing with regard to social housing and housing benefits (length of residence requirements). Other non-conformities concerned access of Roma/Travellers/Sinti to social housing or housing assistance.

The ECSR examined the measures taken by States Parties with regard to the implementation of Article 15§3 of the Charter in its Conclusions 2020 (to be published in March 2021) .

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, whilste the European Committee on Democratic Governance (CDDG) brings together central government representatives to elaborate legal standards and guidance documents dealing inter-alia with good, democratic and multi-level governance, issues and good practices related to the management of public affairs including at local and regional level, as well as to exchange experience in those fields on an on-going basis. In addition, the Centre of Expertise for Good Governance. offers practical support to central governments which who want to reform their legislation, institutions or policies, and to local authorities which wantwishing to improve the quality of their governance and public services. For example, the 12 Principles of Good Democratic 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 waycan help public authorities develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels based on inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making. Together with the CDDG, it helps promote sustainable, resilient, metropolitan governance reforms..

 

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 and it is now implemented by over 150 cities around the world.

People” and the “society” have been gaining a central role in the scope of sustainable development until the latter became the foundation for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. However, while there is extensive guidance, scientific knowledge, legally binding instruments, and relatively big funding for a more sustainable development of our societies, there are still important gaps in dealing with the green transition in a way that is truly inclusive.

For this reason, the ICC has recently launched work Sustainable Intercultural Cities, with the view to ensure that sustainable development policies and actions contribute to achieving equal rights and opportunities for all, build on the diversity advantage, and enable meaningful intercultural interaction, active participation, co-creation, co-development and co-evaluation. The first area on which the ICC programme focussed in 2021 is circular economy, an alternative to linear economy and a model which devises solutions from a systems and human-centric design perspective. In 2022 the programme will address the inclusive transition to green infrastructures by collecting good practices, conducting a study visit and producing policy guidance for its members.

Finally, it should be noted that various studies and research have revealed strong links between local intercultural policies and citizens’ well-being, with positive impact on cities' social and economic performance. These studies also demonstrated that countries where intercultural policies are co-ordinated between the national and local levels, have better overall integration results. The ICC programme will continue contributing to the work of the Committee of Experts on Intercultural Integration of migrants, under the Steering committee on anti-discrimination, diversity and inclusion (CDADI), to extend and adapt the intercultural integration policy framework to the national level.

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 Union 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, both promoting good governance but also Roma participation and empowerment at local level. The socio-economic recovery from the COVID19 pandemic of the local Roma communities is at the heart of the priorities of these programmes. The ROMACTED programme is piloting a participatory methodology of Roma Responsive Budgeting at local level in the Western Balkans and Turkey to achieve resilient and sustainable local responses to the needs and aspirations of the Roma communities. 

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 for all their citizens.

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, to promote safe and healthy local communities.

 

The Steering Committee on Anti-discrimination, Diversity and Inclusion (CDADI) contributes to this goal by developing standards and tools in the field of intercultural integration. This work is based on the experience gained in the Intercultural Cities Programme and on the monitoring work of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance. The CDADI Working Group on Intercultural Integration (GT-ADI-INT) has developed a Model framework for an intercultural integration strategy at the national level and a draft Committee of Ministers Recommendation on multilevel policies and governance for intercultural integration, which was finalised in December 2021 and is to be presented to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe for discussion and possible adoption. The CDADI furthermore adopted a Review report on the implementation of the Committee of Ministers Recommendation CM/Rec(2015)1 on intercultural integration.

For the years 2022-2025, the Committee of Ministers established the Committee of Experts on Intercultural Integration of Migrants (ADI-INT), which is tasked to prepare a capacity-building programme and tools for migrant integration supporting its implementation at national level. It shall furthermore produce a feasibility study and possible new legal and/or benchmarking instrument on comprehensive strategies for inclusion.

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 United Nations Agenda 2030 and its 17 sustainable development goals do not focus particularly on cultural heritage, except for its goal 11 that advocates making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable, and in particular to “Strengthen efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural heritage” (11.4).

In fact, many targets have specific implications in the field of culture and highlight the role that local heritage can play in this sustainable development framework. Most of them relate to protection and safeguarding (11.4), participatory mechanisms such as public, private and civil society multi-stakeholder partnerships (17), representative decision making (16.7), accessibility and inclusive spaces (11.7), education for diversity (4) and policies for sustainable development, particularly in tourism (17 and 8), develop quality, reliable, sustainable and resilient economic development and human well-being, with a focus on affordable and equitable access for all (9.1), ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities and gender equality awareness raising (5.5., 5 A/B/C) and integrating climate change measures into national policies and capacity building strategies, improve education and awareness raising (13.2, 13.3 & 13B).

National administrations should have indicators to implement these targets and work in close collaboration with local / regional administrations to raise awareness and disseminate the UN Agenda 2030 among stakeholders.

As the Strategy 21 (CoE Recommendation CM/Rec(2017)1) is a adaptative model for cultural heritage based on a holistic approach and participatory governance, it could become a useful tool for all stakeholders towards achieving mentioned targets in 2030. The recent ST21 MooC strongly recommends the application of these (above mentioned) goals.

The principles of sustainable development and its application are clearly shown in the ST21 best practices examples database (project/initiatives) and within the ST21‘s component dedicated to Territorial and economic development (D) and in the ST21 publication “The Golden Collection of Good Practices”.

The European Heritage Days, a joint initiative of the Council of Europe and the European Commission since 1999, are the most widely celebrated participatory and community-owned cultural events shared by people living in Europe. The pan-European nature of the programme contributes to bringing citizens together and highlighting the European dimension of cultural heritage in the 50 signatory States to the European Cultural Convention. Tens of thousands of events are organised each year in order to help raise awareness of the value of this common heritage and the need for its conservation for present and future generations.

The 2022 European Heritage Days will celebrate Sustainable Heritage. Although the SDG do not refer to culture and heritage comprehensively, Target 11.4 is very much aligned with the EHD approach to the role of heritage, its governance and citizens’ involvement in the context of multiple social, environmental, economic and other challenges, providing an opportunity to mobilise heritage communities and advocate for simultaneous efforts to develop a culture of sustainability and to protect cultural diversity. Sustainability discourse within the EHD will encourage identifying distinctive heritage-led initiatives and examples at a European level, sharing them through an extensive and very rich network in 50 countries and instigating a dialogue within and between communities.

The Framework Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for Society (The Faro Convention)

The Faro Convention offers a framework to engage civil society in decision-making and management processes related to the cultural heritage environment in which different stakeholders operate and evolve. It was adopted by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on 13 October 2005 and opened for signature to member States in Faro (Portugal) on 27 October of the same year. It entered into force on 1 June 2011 and currently has 21 ratification and 7 additional signatures.

A study entitled “Faro Convention and sustainable development” has been published as part of the book “The Faro Convention’s role in a changing society: building on a decade of advancement”, marking the 10th anniversary of the entry into force of the Faro Convention. The aim of the study is to show the contribution of the four principles of the Faro Convention to the UN 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

 

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 € 2.1 billion for municipal social infrastructure through loans directly contracted and implemented by cities (including metropoles and municipalities). By adding to that also projects approved since 2010 in favour of regional authorities, the total financial envelope committed by the CEB would reach €3.95 billion.

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.

 

The Parliamentary Assemblybased on the report prepared by its Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination, has adopted Resolution 2413 (2021) on Discrimination against Roma and Travellers in the field of housing.

PACE Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media has also prepared two reports which deal with innovation and the role of cultural activities and cultural industries for local sustainable development and inclusion. Resolution 2270 (2019) on the value of cultural heritage in a democratic society and Resolution 2269 (2019) on safeguarding and enhancing intangible cultural heritage in Europe, both refer to the Council of Europe Framework Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for Society (Faro Convention), which promotes a wider understanding of cultural heritage and its relationship to communities and society. The Assembly emphasises the importance of cultural heritage as it relates not only to the economies of regions and local communities but also to human rights and democracy.

The work done in the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development led to the adoption of Resolution 2285 (2019) on Sustainable urban development fostering social inclusion. A report on the “Impact of armed conflicts on transboundary environmental damage” is currently in preparation.

 

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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