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Contribution of the Conference of INGOs of the Council of Europe to the 3rd Summit of Council of Europe Heads of State and Government (Warsaw, 16 - 17 May 2005)

Recommendation INGO (2005) 1

The Conference of INGOs of the Council of Europe gathers the 374 INGOs enjoying participatory status, representing millions of Europeans. On 25 January 2005 the Conference adopted the following Recommendation:

I. The Conference of INGOs of the Council of Europe

1. Congratulates the Committee of Ministers on holding a Third Summit of Council of Europe Heads of State and Government;

2. Recalls that the Council of Europe, a forum for pan-European reflection, discussion and action, is above all:

• The defender of Europeans through its legal instruments and supervisory bodies in the fields of human rights, the rule of law and democracy;
• The guarantor of the vital conditions for balanced economic and social development, as well as of the diversity of the European natural and cultural heritage;
• The ally of all those who live out European values on a daily basis in their respective fields of responsibility and who denounce all pretexts for violating human rights.

3. Notes that civil society participates in the smooth functioning of democracy, and stresses that the Council of Europe is a pioneer in recognising and implementing this participation.

II. Consequently, the Conference of INGOs calls on the Heads of State and Government, in the declaration and the action plan which will be adopted, to take account of the following requests:

1. To reaffirm the Council of Europe’s irreplaceable role in securing a Europe without dividing lines and to provide the means to fulfil its mission; since the reinforcement of the Council of Europe constitutes an emergency.
A 3rd Summit has the power to give the necessary impetus in order for the Organisation to pursue and develop its actions

In particular:

• Endeavouring to achieve improved co-operation between all European institutions,
• Ensuring that the application of all existing conventions of the Council of Europe is respected in all member states;
• Inviting the European Union to adhere to Council of Europe conventions, notably the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the revised European Social Charter and the European Cultural Convention;
• Intensifying North-South dialogue.

2. To reinforce the Council of Europe’s action on the basis of its fundamental values:

• Confirming the determination expressed at the Second Summit to secure a social cohesion strategy by implementing a policy of protecting minorities, integrating vulnerable groups, ensuring non-discrimination among all human beings and guaranteeing access by all to services of general interest. (cf reference document 1 - “Social Policies and the Elimination of Poverty”)

• Including environmental protection and sustainable spatial development as vital aspects of social cohesion, democracy and human rights. (cf reference document 2 - “Towards a pan-European vision of sustainable development, democracy and social and territorial cohesion”)

• Continuing the fight against all forms of violence, including the trafficking in human beings

• Helping to combat terrorism, with respect for the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms

o by working to establish a common legal area;
o by emphasising the value of diversity through dialogue between cultures and beliefs

• Continuing its overall reflection and incentive approach in the field of education and culture as an absolute precondition for achieving these objectives, taking account of the proposals set out in the Declaration on the Right to Education and Culture (cf reference document 3), particularly in the following fields

o education for citizenship
o education in history, collective memory and heritage
o development of plurilingualism.

3. To reinforce the role of civil society by:

• Reaffirming civil society’s participatory role in forward thinking and in drawing up the projects and texts developed and produced by the Council of Europe, and providing it with the opportunities and necessary resources for performing this task;

• Encouraging states to intensify their efforts to define the legal, fiscal, social and economic conditions under which NGOs should be able to operate, the crucial objective here being to increase the effectiveness of the voluntary sector, which is essential in countering social isolation and its negative effects on social cohesion.

The Council of Europe is the only international institution worldwide that formally recognises INGOs as one of its pillars and one of the principal organs of the Council, alongside the Committee of Ministers, the Parliamentary Assembly and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities (cf Committee of Ministers Resolution (2003) 8); this makes it “an ideal testing ground for new ways of implementing democracy” (Robert Schuman, 1949).

A clear signal from the Summit would boost INGOs’ ability to raise the Council of Europe’s profile, to foster its values and the application of its legal instruments, and to generate renewed enthusiasm for its blueprint for a European society.

Ref document 1

January 2005

“Social Policies and the Elimination of Poverty” by the European Social Charter and Social Policies
and the Extreme Poverty and Social Cohesion INGO Groupings

The groupings reiterate:

- Their strong support for the Council of Europe’s values and objectives and legal instruments including the European Convention on Human Rights and the revised European Social Charter.

- The need for the social dimension to be given priority so that Europe’s policies are genuinely sustainable. A proper balance must be struck in economic, social and environmental terms so as to meet the needs of the present generation while preserving the interests of future generations.

- The importance of the revised Strategy for Social Cohesion (approved by the Committee of Ministers in March 2004), in particular the approach to social cohesion based on human rights, the importance of universal access to rights, including by the most vulnerable groups, and the shared responsibility of governments, business, civil society and families for maintaining and strengthening social cohesion.

The groupings call on the Heads of State and Government to:

- Reassert that social cohesion, eradication of poverty and overcoming social exclusion are part of the Council of Europe’s main priorities for action.

- Urge all states to improve access to social rights and accede to the revised European Social Charter and its supervisory machinery.

- Support the Council of Europe’s approach to human rights by underlining the indivisibility and interdependence of human rights, as reasserted by the European Committee for Social Cohesion’s Malta Forum (November 2002), while taking care not to establish an order of priority of human rights for example between social rights and other rights.

- Offer their support to the recommendation made by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities and adopted by the Committee of Ministers (15 September 2004) that governments recognise the pressing need for “the right to protection against poverty and social exclusion by incorporating Article 30 of the revised European Social Charter into Part III, Article A 1(b) of the said Charter,” thereby including it among the core provisions binding on all states.

- Publicise the Council of Europe’s revised Strategy for Social Cohesion more widely at national level, undertake to ensure that human rights are a reality for particularly vulnerable groups, including children, young people and families in hardship, take account of the most disadvantaged groups and include the most vulnerable when developing and implementing social policies.

- Step up efforts in Europe and elsewhere so that the Millennium Goals concerning social policy and poverty reduction in particular are achieved in accordance with the commitments made by Heads of State and Government at the United Nations in December 2000.

Ref document 2

June 2004

Towards a pan-European vision of sustainable development,
democracy and social and territorial cohesion by the INGO Countryside and Environment Grouping

At a time when it may be asking itself exactly what its role should be in view of the enlargement of the European Union and the challenges of globalisation, the Council of Europe must take the opportunity of the 3rd Summit to clarify its specific role.

As the only pan-European institution with both a political and a social mission, the Council of Europe can draw on recognised expertise and shared values to establish principles and standards that help it achieve its objectives of peace, democracy, the rule of law, social cohesion, ethics and human rights.

As a pioneer in environmental matters and the leading proponent of human and social rights, the Council of Europe has all the assets needed to become the driving force for sustainable development in Greater Europe, in accordance with the principles of the Rio and Johannesburg conferences.

For the past 50 years the Council of Europe has been building the “common home” and establishing the principles which serve as the ethical basis for the fundamental right of all human beings to live in a healthy environment guaranteeing sustainable development and solidarity for all, in particular the principles of joint management, precaution, responsibility and participatory democracy, as set out in the Draft European Charter on general principles for protection of the environment and sustainable development.

There must be pan-European strategic dialogue on issues concerning the environment and sustainable development as well as overall co-ordination of all the parties involved, in order to achieve the good governance that is essential in a context of globalisation and economic vulnerability. Interaction between all Council of Europe bodies and other European institutions will help to highlight that which sets the Council of Europe apart and in particular its role as the active conscience of Europe. Within the framework of the recent participatory status, with which the full exercise calls with more reciprocal recognition and of co-operation, the international NGOs reaffirm their engagement to support the Council of Europe while bringing all their expertise in these fields to him.

One major challenge is to establish consistency between the different tiers of government and between the different dimensions of sustainable development. This entails not only co-ordinating activities and undertakings at European and local and regional level but also fostering a European culture of sustainable development, common to all European peoples and their representatives. This is the challenge which the Council of Europe is in a position to meet.

Consequently, bearing in mind Resolution (2003)8 of the Committee of Ministers establishing participatory status, the INGO members of the European Centre for Rural and Environmental Interests

1. recall the decision of the Committee of Ministers on 10 December 2003 (1) to take sustainable spatial development into consideration at the Third Council of Europe Summit;

2. recommend that the Heads of State and Government adopt the following decisions concerning the environment and sustainable development:

i. to consider the environment and sustainable spatial development as inherent to social cohesion, democracy and human rights; to emphasise the Council’s role in Greater Europe “as the guardian and watchdog of basic European values of human rights, pluralist democracy and the rule of law, without which the implementation of sustainable development objectives would be unthinkable”. [1]

ii. to organise the intergovernmental sector of the Council of Europe and provide it with the resources needed to enable the Organisation to play its full role as a driving force for the sustainable spatial development of the continent, in particular in implementing the Pan-European Biological and Landscape Diversity Strategy, the Bern Convention, the Landscape Convention and other relevant policies and strategies [3]

and in particular:

iii. to adopt an additional protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights guaranteeing European citizens a healthy, viable and decent environment;

iv. take resolute steps to involve the Council of Europe in an ongoing high-level strategic dialogue on issues concerning the environment and sustainable development at pan-European level, by giving it a key role in the overall co-ordination of all parties to the pan-European process, in particular the “Environment for Europe” initiative;

v. to implement Recommendation Rec(2002) 1 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on “Guiding Principles for Sustainable Spatial Development of the European Continent”

vi. to invite the governments of member states to implement the decisions taken at the Johannesburg Summit and at the 5th pan-European Ministerial Conference on the “Environment for Europe” initiative in Kiev and to ratify the relevant legal instruments, such as the Landscape Convention;

vii. to adopt the “General principles for protection of the environment and sustainable development”, reflecting member states’ commitment to the protection of the environment and sustainable development.

Ref document 3

January 2005

Declaration on the Right to Education and Culture by the INGO Education and Culture Grouping

The Non-Governmental Organisations holding participatory status with the Council of Europe:

Given that Europe is now not only an economic and political reality but also forms a new framework of rights and values for all European citizens, as a special area of human rights and the rule of law;

Given that all human rights, whether political, economic, social, environmental, educational or cultural, are indivisible;

Given that it is through education, which is central to the European project, that a European consciousness based on the Council of Europe’s values of human rights, democracy, the rule of law and solidarity is formed;

Given the importance of the activities and research conducted by the Council of Europe over the last fifty years in the field of education and culture, especially in the areas of human rights education, education for democratic citizenship, intercultural education, language teaching, including minority languages, and history teaching freed of all nationalist rhetoric;

Believing that these activities and research help foster equal access to education and culture by all Europeans from all social and cultural backgrounds, on a lifelong basis and regardless of where they live;

Also believing that the example of reconciliation and the process of European construction can offer hope for all peoples worldwide seeking the universal application of human rights;

Regret the fact that the Council of Europe’s activities here have been published less widely and received less attention than they deserve;

Call for the production of an inventory and a consolidated version of all of the Council of Europe’s activities and publications concerning culture and education;

Call for them to be taken into account by all pan-European international organisations (European Union, OSCE, etc);

Urge the Council of Europe to continue and expand its efforts in the field of culture and education;

To this end, call on the Council of Europe to define a clear policy and implement an ongoing programme spanning several years, with specific objectives in terms of recommendations to member states in the medium and long term;

Assure the Council of their full co-operation in defining the policy and helping with its implementation.


1 Decision of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (CEMAT-CHF 82 (2004) 3) on 10 December 2003 about the 13th Conference of European Ministers responsible for regional planning (CEMAT)
2Cf. Parliamentary Assembly proposal - doc. 9985, 21.10.2003, paragraph 52 – which we fully endorse
3Cf. Parliamentary Assembly proposal - doc. 9985, 21.10.2003 : “This means including biological and landscape diversity issues in sectoral policies, developing ecological networks, supporting environment protection initiatives in the CEE countries and improving access to information and communication at every level”