President Michael D Higgins met Ms Justice Síofra O’Leary, president-elect of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), in Strasbourg today (11 October).
Judge O’Leary will take office on 1 November, when the current president Judge Robert Spano steps down. The Irishwoman will be the first female president of the court.
President Higgins also addressed the parliamentary assembly of the 46-member Council of Europe, which promotes human rights and democracy in Europe.
Ireland currently holds the presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, with its term running until 7 November.
In his address, entitled ‘Reasserting the Moral Weight of the Council of Europe’, the President said that there was a need for a longer-term vision for the organisation’s role.
He referred to the “extreme challenges” currently facing multi-lateralism – including the consequences of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
President Higgins also praised the European Convention on Human Rights as something that was “admired and emulated” across the world, while also calling for it to be “re-invoked, extended, bolstered, and re-asserted” in order to become part of “the discourse of the European street”.
He stressed that citizens must be engaged with the work of the Council of Europe, and urged member states to provide “mechanisms of transparency and accountability” for the work of global and regional institutions.
The President argued that the council must focus on the indivisibility of human rights, in all its dimensions, and commit to a wider definition of 'comprehensive security' in Europe.
“Such a definition could contribute a European step towards a universal human-rights-based approach to security, a security that includes the rights to live free from food insecurity, and all of the rights of participation,” he said.
Addressing the threat of famine in the Horn of Africa, President Higgins highlighted the need to address the structural factors contributing to food insecurity, dealing with issues such as debt, and “monopolistic control of production and distribution” of staples in food.