24 September 2002
Madame Chairman of the Committee of Ministers,
I am very glad to have this opportunity to address you on behalf of the 374 INGOs with consultative status, the 50th anniversary of which we are celebrating today. Back in 1952, the Council of Europe officially recognised the INGOs’ influence by giving them the option of acquiring consultative status. I am pleased to welcome among us the Honorary Chair of the Liaison Committee, Mr Genty, who was one of the main architects of this Status.
We are lucky enough to have, within the Council bodies, a forum for dialogue between INGOs, representatives of states, parliamentarians and local authorities. This forum is a source of credibility and enrichment, and also an opportunity for the Council of Europe.
The diversity of the INGOs, the variety of our activities on the ground in order to be accessible to ordinary people, our expertise and personal testimonies provide us with a rich fund of experience, which we are keen to share with all the Council of Europe bodies. This experience, the new solutions that we are constantly trying to find to the problems of society, allow us to make proposals to the Council, to play an active part in the discussions and in the drafting of key texts. Civic participation is not a method or a luxury but a necessity.
This work that we do with you is something we pride ourselves on.
Many international bodies are only now discovering (eg draft consultative status with the European Union institutions, IMF, World Bank, dialogue with Civil Society within the World Trade Organisation) what we at the Council of Europe discovered years ago!
Today, numerous INGOs are involved in the planning process, the drafting of conventions, charters, they play an active part in this. Real life has thus overtaken the existing texts governing our mutual relations. The idea that we should use this anniversary to move from consultation to participation, in order to strengthen relations between the various partners in the Quadrilogue and the INGOs, is a powerful message, and one that will give fresh impetus to our partnership.
I wish to thank the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers, the President of the Parliamentary Assembly and the Secretary General’s Representative most sincerely for assisting us in this move. I know I can also rely on the support of the CLRAE, represented by Mr Suaud, and on that of Ambassador Gogoberidze, rapporteur on INGOs to the Committee of Ministers.
The Council of Europe remains an ideal setting for developing civil society, and for advancing the cause of democracy and human rights. By strengthening its relations with INGOs in this way, the Council will be retaining a firm lead over all the other international institutions and acting as a pioneer, responding to topical issues and citizens’ new needs through the development of this structured dialogue.
The Liaison Committee whose 25th anniversary we are celebrating, and which is elected by the INGO plenary conference, intends to remain a “link” between the various Council bodies, and to promote wherever possible the expertise of the INGOs who work here, among whom we find some of the most prestigious and most proficient.
All of these proposals are, in our view, a way of raising the profile of INGOs in the Council of Europe, a practical acknowledgement.
Rest assured, ladies and gentlemen, that the INGOs believe firmly in the work that is done here in Strasbourg, and that we are all willing, as in the past, to provide expertise, to participate in the framing of ambitious policies and progressive legislation for the good of society, that we are all keen to communicate the Council’s achievements wherever we operate and to reaffirm that, thanks to your support, the core values which bring us together will always remain alive and well.