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Democracy is in distress, finds the Council of Europe Secretary General’s annual report for 2021

The Secretary General of the Council of Europe has published its annual report for 2021, titled “State of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. A democratic renewal for Europe.”

Based on the findings of different Council of Europe (CoE) bodies, including the European Court of Human Rights, the report assesses recent developments in areas including political institutions and judicial independence, freedom of expression and association, human dignity, anti-discrimination and democratic participation.

The report highlights a series of challenges to the state of democracy in some of the CoE member states. In particular, according to the European Court of Human Rights and the Platform to promote the protection of journalism and the safety of journalists, freedoms of expression and assembly have been suppressed in many member states. Apart from this, COVID-19 has had a regressive effect on gender equality. Despite the importance of the Istanbul Convention for better protecting women from violence, the convention and the rights it defends continue to come under attack. These trends have been coupled with the increase of hate speech and hate crimes against Jews, Muslims, Roma, Black people and other minorities, particularly on the Internet, which is posing a growing challenge to anti-discrimination, diversity and inclusion policies.

The report encourages member states to use existing and future Council of Europe mechanisms to address the challenges identified, by returning to fundamental democratic principles and recommitting to Council of Europe legal standards and fully embracing the multilateralism embodied by the Council of Europe. Moreover, the report suggests that COVID related restrictions and measures must not only be necessary and proportionate but also limited in duration.
The full report is available at the link below.