Parliamentary Assembly session : 23 – 27 September 2002 

Message from Lydie Polfer, Chairman of the Committee of Ministers

To mark 50 years of international NGOs’ consultative status with the Council of Europe and 25th anniversary of the Liaison Committee

24 September 2002

Mr President,

Mr Secretary General,
Members of the Assembly,
Your Excellencies,
Ladies and gentlemen.

An anniversary is often a time for reviewing the progress made so far and making plans for the future.

Today we celebrate 50 years of international NGOs’ (INGOs) consultative status with the Council of Europe, and also the 25th anniversary of the Liaison Committee.

This latter event in itself tells us something about co-operation between the Council of Europe and the INGOs.

You have all, I am sure, at some point, had contacts or even relations with NGOs, to one degree or another. It is quite plain that NGOs – a quintessential product of civil society - are a vital part of European society, and that they are central to the lives of its 800 million citizens.

NGOs operate as much at local or regional as at national level, in crucial areas which are also the main focus of the Council of Europe’s activities: from protection of human rights to social policy, to environmental conservation or promotion of culture and enhancement of heritage, to give just a few examples.

It is only natural, then, that the Council of Europe should recognise the key role played by NGOs in this great democratic Europe which it has been building so patiently for more than five decades. And it is even more natural that this recognition should gradually evolve into ever closer co-operation, the effectiveness of which has now been proven beyond doubt.

All this brings us to the quadrilogue involving the international NGOs, the Committee of Ministers, the Parliamentary Assembly and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe.

This quadrilogue allows the Council to meet a three-fold need:

the need to listen to European citizens and to civil society in the broad sense;
the need to provide them with direct representation;
the need to makes its activities known through these associations.

These anniversaries which we are celebrating today give us an opportunity to explore new ways of making participative democracy an integral part of representative democracy.

Within the Council of Europe, work is under way to devise a new status that will reflect the active part played by INGOs in the Council’s policy, decision-making and work programme. When the time comes, the Luxembourg Chair will support the adoption of this new status which will give legal expression, through a Committee of Ministers Resolution, to the developing co-operation between the Council of Europe and INGOs.

I hope that this co-operation will grow, so that together we can forge an ever closer union between our states and our peoples, a union that is the expression of our common commitment to respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law. This is the kind of Europe that we want to see our children grow up in, and this is the kind of environment we want to create for future generations.

Thank you for your attention.