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On January 24, I was defeated by 4 votes by Dunja Mijatovic in the second round of the election of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights. I wish Mrs. Mijatovic the best in her new duties. Her background and qualifications speak for her. I do not forget, however, the conditions in which the second round of the election took place, with 2 candidates joining forces in order to derail my candidacy, far from the spirit of the Council of Europe's electoral rules whereby all 3 final candidates are expected to engage loyally and fairly in the first and second round before the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

I do not intend to to replay the game, nor to be a sore loser. I want to turn the page and look ahead. Life goes on. I will remain a defender of rights and freedoms. I brought ideas to my campaign which I hope to be able to carry forward as a simple citizen. I cannot bring myself to live with the dramatic crisis that undermines the European system of protection of rights and freedoms to the point of endangering it: spread of hate speech, challenge of the right to asylum, recourse to the state of urgency, questioning of the independence of the judiciary, decline of freedom of expression.

Faced with these risks, one should do not bend. We must resist, convince and act. We must not exclude anyone. The European system of protection of rights and freedoms is our common work, the bulwark against arbitrariness and injustice, the ultimate and most precious guarantee for every citizen of Europe to live free as a subject of law. It is also about values ​​and identity. Justice, solidarity and the hand extended to the most vulnerable are integral parts of it. I believe in the mobilization of consciences because Europe not only is a community of destinies, but above all a civilization.

Fighting for rights and freedoms is a constant search for progress, step by step, in contact with the diversity of our societies. It requires ongoing dialogue, opening all doors and closing none a priori. Civil society, NGOs, associations are remarkable drivers for change, engaging tirelessly and passionately, reminding people in charge of their duties when political will starts fading away or Realpolitik tends to prevail. We must never compromise on democratic values, universalism of the law and respect for human rights. We must always remember and remind ourselves that human rights are guaranteed by legally binding treaties.

The world and society are changing. Risks and challenges evolve. The fight for rights and freedoms is not static but dynamic by nature. The jurisprudence of the ECtHR embodies it regularly. We must project ourselves one generation ahead and encourage forward looking reflection on human rights and the fight against terrorism, human rights and global warming, human rights and bioethics or human rights and technological innovation. We must also bring economic and social rights back to the heart of the debate because they are an essential condition for living together.

Three particular issues matter to me as I sense their growing level of urgency. The first is the situation of children across Europe: child statelessness, refugee children, online harassment, best interest of the child, child trafficking and sexual abuse. The second is the promotion of human rights with regard to young generations in order to thwart the worrying rise of skeptical and even hostile speeches about rights and freedoms. The third is the role of the corporate world in shaping a positive and conquering agenda for human rights, in particular to fight against forced labor, against child labor and for the equality of women and men at the work place.

At this moment of uncertainty for the European system of protection of rights and freedoms, I am convinced that we, human rights defenders at large, must all stand together and unite. It truly is a fight for unity around the European Convention on Human Rights. I intend as a simple citizen to take my share of this fight.

Pierre-Yves Le Borgn’

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