The Council of Europe (CoE), based in Strasbourg (France), now covers virtually the entire European continent, with its 47 member countries. Founded on 5 May 1949 by 10 countries, the Council of Europe seeks to develop throughout Europe common and democratic principles based on the European Convention on Human Rights and other reference texts on the protection of individuals.
The Council of Europe should not be confused with the European Council which is a regular meeting of the Heads of EU Member States to plan Union policy.
The Council of Europe has a dedicated webpage aiming to differentiate between EU and Council of Europe instruments to avoid confusion and enhance understanding of the two organisations.
The Council of Europe is very proactive in terms of protection of human rights and promotion of social issues, many of which are of relevance to older people and are explained below. This is why AGE has applied for a consultative status to the Council of Europe to strengthen our participation in the processes which are relevant to older people.
The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) is a treaty by which the member states of the Council of Europe undertake to respect fundamental freedoms and rights. All EU member states have ratified this Convention which is guaranteed by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Thanks to the Lisbon Treaty, the EU will also become party to this treaty. The rights proclaimed in this Convention, as well as the European Court of Human Rights case law are very relevant for older people. AGE has published a briefing note where reference to the provisions of the ECHR is made in terms of human rights challenges that older people face. Additionally the European Court of Human Rights regularly publishes factsheets on landmark decisions it has taken in different areas, including issues of mental health, social welfare, ethical issues in the use of new technologies and others, all affecting older people’s lives.
The European Social Charter is a Council of Europe treaty which guarantees social and economic human rights. It was adopted in 1961 and revised in 1996.
The European Committee of Social Rights rules on the conformity of the situation in States with the European Social Charter, The basic rights set out in the Charter include housing, health, education, employment, legal and social protection, movement of persons and non-discrimination. Under an Additional Protocol to the Charter, national and European trade unions and employers' organisations and accreditated international NGOs are entitled to lodge collective complaints of violations of the Charter with the Committee. In addition, national NGOs may lodge complaints if the State concerned has made a declaration to this effect. When the Committee finds a violation of the Charter, the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers invites the respondent State to take specific measures to bring the situation into line with the Charter. The case law of the European Committee of Social Rights touches upon many issues relevant to older people, such as pensions, social assistance and access to basic services. After receiving the participatory status with the Council of Europe AGE has been included in the list of NGOs which can lodge complaints to the European Committee on Social Rights.
In 2012, the Steering Group on Human Rights of the Council of Europe (CDDH) has given a mandate to a working group comprised of experts from Council of Europe Member States (CDDH-AGE) in view of elaborating, a non-binding instrument on the promotion of the human rights of older persons. AGE and other expert representatives from international organisations, civil society and representatives of other Council of Europe intergovernmental Committees took part in the work of this group that drafted a Recommendation on the promotion of human rights of older persons adopted by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe in February 2014.
Older people’s organisations have an important role to play to ensure that the CoE recommendation is applied in practice by national authorities and that older people are consulted at all stages of its implementation. In fact, five years after the adoption of the Recommendation in 2014, Member States are supposed to report on its implementation and monitoring by civil society is crucial in this process.
The Council of Europe makes a weekly television news programme «The Journal» summarising the main events and activities of the week involving the Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights. Every edition addresses international political and social issues, which may be relevant to experts and associations dealing with global policies.
Website of the Council of Europe: https://www.coe.int/en/web/portal