Human rights mechanisms
In addition to the European Convention on Human Rights and its control bodies, there are a number of agreements that have been concluded since the late 1980’s. One of the most important is the 1987 Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. All Member States have ratified it.
To monitor compliance with the Convention against Torture, there is a special committee, the CPT, which makes both planned visits and unannounced visits to prisons, police stations, prisons and care facilities. The Committee shall cooperate with the audited Member State and, in agreement with it, a report may be published. Sweden received its fourth visit in June 2009. Criticism was then leveled, among other things, at the fact that many detainees were imposed restrictions, such as a restraining order and other forms of isolation.
Several of the Council’s new members in Eastern Europe have been criticized for their treatment of minorities, not least the Roma. A specialist group was set up in 1995 to improve the long-term situation of Europe’s Roma. Against the background of the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia in particular, the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities was added in 1995.
The Committee of Ministers has a special steering committee for human rights. There are also various expert groups and training programs on human rights. To reach out with information about human rights, there are several documentation centers. A human rights prize is also awarded.
The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, ECRI, was set up following the Vienna Summit in 1993. The Commission visits all Member States every few years and writes reports with problem descriptions and proposals for action. In its third report on Sweden in 2005, the Commission called for action against discrimination in working life and recommended stricter legislation against racism. A new report is expected in September 2012.
Following the Strasbourg Summit in 1997, the Commissioner for Human Rights was appointed to disseminate knowledge about human rights. The Commissioner also visits the Member States and makes recommendations. Sweden was visited in 2004.
The European Social Charter of 1961 is considered the Council of Europe’s second most important convention. It contains a number of basic economic and social rights, including the right to work, fair working conditions and fair pay. The charter also provides protection for family, children and young people, the health of the individual and social security.
Social legislation in the Member States has changed significantly since the 1960’s. A revised version of the Social Charter was therefore opened in 1996. The amendments concerned, for example, gender equality, parental responsibility, protection against dismissal, association and bargaining rights, fair working conditions and protection for children, the disabled, the elderly and immigrants.
In January 2012, 32 of the member states of the Council of Europe had ratified the revised Charter, including Sweden (1998). Eleven countries had ratified the original charter and begun the process of adopting the revised one. The only ones that did not ratify either were Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
The European Social Rights Committee (ECSR) has the task of monitoring the compliance of Member States with the Charter. The Committee publishes so-called conclusions which sometimes result in the Committee of Ministers issuing a recommendation to the State concerned.
The members have not been able to agree to regard social and economic rights as absolute rights, but they are considered more as goals. They are considered more controversial and more difficult to monitor than political and civil rights. Therefore, the Charter does not have the same developed control system as the European Convention.
A number of conventions have also been drawn up to give foreigners the same rights as their own nationals, such as the European Convention on Social Security, the Convention on Medical and Social Assistance and the Convention on Migrant Workers, ie workers moving between different countries.. The Council also seeks to coordinate Member States’ refugee and asylum policies.
The Council of Europe’s Development Bank (CEB) is tasked with strengthening social cohesion in Europe. Since 1997, there has also been an expert committee (Moneyval) with the task of monitoring that member states effectively combat money laundering.
CEB is a multilateral bank that in 2012 consisted of 40 member states, including Sweden. The bank was founded in 1956 to help refugees in Europe. The goal has since been broadened. The work of strengthening social cohesion takes place, among other things, by the bank assisting in disaster situations and financing social projects, thereby improving the conditions for vulnerable groups in society. Investments are made in infrastructure, employment, housing construction and support for refugees. Furthermore, priority is given to protection of the natural and cultural environment. Since the beginning of the 1990’s, the bank’s projects have mainly been concentrated in Eastern Europe.
The Bank provides loans to Member States or their institutions. In 2010, the bank co-financed almost 2,300 projects in 23 countries and disbursed close to EUR 1.8 billion. In total, the bank had receivables of EUR 12 billion in 33 countries. The Bank is the Council of Europe’s only instrument for concretely influencing economic and social development through financial support. However, it has been criticized for not meeting its social objectives and for shortcomings in financial management and internal administration.
Sports and youth issues
Sports cooperation is regulated by the Cultural Convention. There is a special sports charter since 1992 (revised 2001) to which a code of sports ethics is linked. The council’s goal is to work for ordinary people to play sports, which is enshrined in the charter “Sports for all” from 1975. The cooperation concerns everything from sports in schools and the importance of sports clubs to issues such as doping. Since the 1980’s, there has been a special anti-doping convention and a convention against grandstand violence. The council also has a special sports fund.
Efforts are being made to promote tolerance in the world of sports and counteract racist or sexist tendencies. Special efforts are made to increase girls’ and women’s participation in sports. There is also a program aimed at new members of the Council aimed at democratizing sport in these countries and modernizing their sports legislation.
Since the 1960’s, the Council of Europe has been working increasingly on youth issues and information on democracy and human rights for children and young people. The Council has a steering committee for intergovernmental cooperation on youth issues. There are two youth centers, one in Strasbourg since 1972 and one in Budapest, which opened in 1995. In addition to language courses and trainings of youth leaders, they prepare ministerial conferences on youth issues. In addition, they fund study programs and travel for youth organizations as well as special courses for members in Eastern Europe.
Short for COE on Abbreviationfinder, The Council of Europe has a youth fund that provides financial support to various European youth organizations and helps with administration. The fund is financed through the Council of Europe’s regular budget and through voluntary contributions from Member States.