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04 / 07 / 2004
Gil-Robles: “Ombudsmen are symbols of the culture of democracy”

The closing session of the first round-table debate of the European Regional Ombudsmen took place in the presence of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Álvaro Gil-Robles.

The Commissioner for Human Rights in the Council of Europe, Álvaro Gil-Robles, expressed his satisfaction with the recognition of the importance of regional Ombudsmen at this first round-table debate. Among the most important conclusions was the need to create a network by which to exchange information and experiences between the regional Ombudsmen throughout Europe. In this sense, Gil-Robles made a commitment to form this network which may meet every two years. Gil-Robles thanked the Forum and the Citizens’ Advice Bureau for organizing the round-table debate which “emphasized the close links that regional ombudsmen have with the public in their role as a symbol of the culture of democracy”.

The President of the Regional Chamber of the Congress and member of the Canakkal Municipal Council in Turkey, Yavuz Mildon, also highlighted the current role of the ombudsmen as a symbol of democracy. He explained that “it is necessary to reinforce the institution in the countries where it already exists and to introduce it to countries that do not yet have it, taking into account there is no single model but each country will have to adapt its own”.

The purpose of the dialogue has been to talk about the competencies of the national and regional ombudsmen. In this sense there was agreement in the recognition of the institution at regional level and the need to reinforce it. During the two days of the dialogue, it was affirmed that the human rights defended by the citizens advice bureaux have grown in scope beyond the basic ones. For example, included now are rights such as housing, and a healthy environment.

In relation to housing, the dialogue affirmed that it is a right that varies according to the country. So it is important to establish and develop a legal framework to give access to housing for all and especially to the most vulnerable groups such as the unemployed, the elderly and immigrants. As for environmental issues, the dialogue referred to the Aarhus Convention as a legal text that constitutes the first multi-lateral agreement in terms of the environment, the objective of which is to impose on governments certain obligations in relation to the protection of the environment.