Parliamentary Assembly session: 23 – 27 September 2002 

Address by Klaus SCHUMANN, Director General of Political Affairs of the Council of Europe

“The international NGOs and the Council of Europe » 50 years of partnership from consultation to participation

24 September 2002

Madame la Présidente du Comité des Ministres,
Mr President of the Parliamentary Assembly,
Monsieur le Président de la Commission de Liaison des ONG
Distinguished members of the Parliamentary Assembly
Excellencies,
Dear NGO friends,

On behalf of the Secretary General and as head of the Department dealing on a daily basis with our about 400 partners from the International NGO community, it gives me a particular pleasure to be associated with today’s event.

As so often, the Council of Europe was a pioneer when it granted, 50 years ago, consultative status to NGOs.

To associate, already in the early fifties, the local and regional authorities, as well as the non-governmental and voluntary sector with the Council of Europe’s intergovernmental and interparliamentary levels of activities, was a logical move in order to keep touch, as close as possible, with the citizens’ Europe.

However, the decisive steps towards active partnership-relations, have developed over the past 25 years.

NGOs became aware of the importance and effectiveness of collective representation and action.

A Plenary Conference and a NGO Liaison Committee, as its representative body, were set up. The driving force behind this development is still among us, Mr Claude-Laurent Genty, the Honorary Chairman of the Liaison Committee.

Today, thematic groupings cover such essential activities as human rights, education, equality, poverty, social cohesion, North-South solidarity, civil society in the new Europe.

They became the representative and competent civil society interlocutors for the Council of Europe’s intergovernmental, interparliamentary and local and regional authorities’ cooperation structures.

The Council of Europe has been a pioneer again in developing constantly this Quadrilogue, this four sided dialogue and cooperation, as an expression of democratic pluralism and of a Europe close to its citizens.

The North-South Centre has been formally established on this Quadrilogue structure.

From consultation → to active participation. This is the development of 50 years of Council of Europe – NGO relationship.

At yesterday’s opening sitting, President Schieder underlined the discrepancy between the declamatory character of the Assembly reports, resolutions and recommendations on the equality issue and the reality of the composition of certain national delegations to the Parliamentary Assembly.

With regard to the role of NGOs, we are all unanimous in our call for a strong and responsible civil society as an essential building block of democratic Europe. As a consequence, the wish of our NGO-partners, to receive recognition for the participatory nature of their contribution to the Organisation’s work, therefore, merits to be considered favourably.

This looks to me as an appropriate anniversary present.