Representing EcoPeace, today Israel Deputy Director, Dalit Wolf Golan, accepted the Council of Europe Democracy Innovation Award for our Green Blue Deal initiative after her presentation in the finals at the World Forum for Democracy.
Closing Speech by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Marija Pejčinović Burić,
Firstly, congratulations to Dalit Wolf Golan and everyone at EcoPeace Middle East on winning this year’s Democracy Innovation Award.
Dalit, your initiative won over this audience not just because of the environmental aspect of your work, especially around the need for water, but also because of the collaboration it fosters between communities with the noble aspiration of building trust and contributing to the conditions for peace.
You should be particularly proud given the high standard of this year’s competition including, of course, the original and inspiring entries from all three finalists.
Clever and effective ideas like yours are more important than ever.
Because as the years go by and the evidence mounts, the reality of humankind’s damage to the environment is simply too great – too urgent – to ignore.
Understanding it, preventing it, and mitigating it:
Each of these is vital as the clock ticks ever closer to midnight.
Over the course of the last two days, this World Forum has heard from so many individuals, experts and organisations that have taken on the challenge.
We have heard wonderful, original examples of what citizens and civil society organisations can do within their democracies to bring about real change on the ground.
And I hope that in airing those ideas here in Strasbourg, you might be inspired to spread the word and good practice on your return home.
After all, each of us has the capacity and the responsibility to make our own contribution to saving the environment, and to share the knowledge we acquire.
We need not wait for a green light, but must instead move forward now and with determination.
That’s true for individuals and civil society and it’s true for business and industry and governments and international organisations too.
Everyone must play their part.
And this surely is what sets democracies apart –
That ideas, action and responsibility are not hoarded at the centre but are allowed to flourish at every level of our societies.
At our best, we don’t just allow them – we encourage and nurture them too.
So, I am glad that this Forum’s plenary sessions looked at what contribution we all can and should make:
Whether it is national governments, international organisations or citizens that are setting the pace for change;
What governing still is most effective;
And what roles the public and private sectors should play.
Many interesting things have been said.
You have heard repeatedly about the need for trust as a basis for action:
And that citizens, the public sector and public institutions must work hand in hand.
One speaker suggested that only democracy can save the environment;
And that perhaps saving the environment will save democracy too –
By proving its effectiveness and bolstering trust at a time when many are out to undermine it.
There was also a very interesting plenary session this morning on the role of multilateral organisations.
This is particularly relevant to us here at the Council of Europe.
Our Organisation exists to protect and promote human rights, democracy and the rule of law among our 47 member states and the 840 million people who live in them.
Where damage to the environment threatens the standards we set, our job is to act.
And we do.
The European Convention on Human Rights is clear about the rights to life, to respect for private and family life and to the protection of property.
Where environmental harm has threatened these, the European Court of Human Rights has been clear that governments must act – and its judgments are legally binding.
And more such cases will likely be brought to Strasbourg.