Since its creation, the Council of Europe has striven to give civil society and citizen participation prominence in the functioning of democratic societies. Its activities are founded on the conviction that there can be no truly democratic society without the citizens' active, responsible participation, without strong, effective, accountable local authorities, and without high-quality local governance.
These principles inform not only the member states' co-operation – within the European Committee on Local and Regional Democracy – but also the action which the Council of Europe carries out in support of territorial reforms in the member states and capacity-building for local authorities and their associations.
The Council of Europe was behind the European Charter of Local Self-Government (1985) which sets forth the principles of local self-government and specifies the guarantees enjoyed by local authorities in Europe. This treaty is supplemented by an additional protocol (2009) on access to information and participation in the affairs of a local authority. To back up these legal obligations, the Council of Europe adopted (2008) the Strategy for Innovation and Good Governance at Local Level setting out 12 principles intended to guide the functioning of local authorities and their relations with the citizens.
The current work of the European Committee on Local and Regional Democracy (CDLR) concerns citizens' participation and ways to enhance it, relations between the tiers of government, the ability of local authorities to deliver the public services for which they are responsible, and transfrontier co-operation between local authorities.
At the 17th session of their conference, the Ministers responsible for Local and Regional Government of the Council of Europe member states (Kyiv, 3-4 November 2011) adopted guidelines for their policy action in the current crisis, in compliance with the provisions of the Charter of Local Self-Government, and made a number of recommendations to the Committee of Ministers for the furtherance of intergovernmental co-operation within the Council of Europe.