AT THE CROSSROAD...
In 2010, the North-South Centre successfully celebrated its 20th anniversary by:
• Receiving messages of support at the highest level and from different backgrounds, in particular from Pope Benedict XVI, the President of the European Commission, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, the High Representative of the United Nations for the Alliance of Civilizations and the highest authorities of the host country (President of the Republic, President of the Asse mbly of the Republic);
• Bringing together people who have marked its history – including a dozen former winnersof the North-South Prize – at a Roundtable on “Interdependence and Solidarity in the 21st Century” (Lisbon, 18 May 2010);
• Launching a series of publications on the achievements of the Centre since its creation and the challenges
of its work in a very different world from the years 1989-1993;
• Organising the exhibition “20 bridge builders in the History of Humanity”, which opened in Lisbon in May,
before moving to Strasbourg in June and Mollina (Spain) in September;
• Obtaining the support of all its stakeholders, not only within the Council of Europe (Committee of Ministers, Parliamentary Assembly, Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, Conference of INGOs) but also the European Union (European Commission, European Parliament) to the process that should lead to the adoption by the Committee of Ministers of a new Statutory Resolution in 2011, on the basis of Recommendation 1893, adopted by the PACE (in November 2009).
The permanent processes implemented by the Centre during its history (the Lisbon Forum since 1994, the North-South Prize since 1995, the University on Youth and Development since 2000) have been strengthened and now constitute the backbone of its programme of activities. The relationship with the EU is stronger than ever, as shown by the implementation, since 2009 – to the satisfaction of both parties – of joint programmes concluded in late 2008. With regard to the United Nations (since 2008), the Centre has developed privileged co-operation links with the Alliance of Civilizations and actively contributes to regional strategies implemented in the Balkans and the Mediterranean.
All this gives the North-South Centre solid assets to project itself into the future in a radically changing international environ-ment, which makes its role as an interface between Europe and the South – especially the neighbouring regions of our continent – more relevant than ever. The changes that have occurred over the past three years bear witness to this: five new countries – including two non-Europeans countries – have joined the Centre, two countries which had withdrawn have returned and the European Union is providing its full political and financial support to the Centre’s work. This has enabled the Centre, not only to significantly strengthen its means of action, but also to greatly reduce its dependence regarding the obligatory contributions of member States.
The internal positive dynamics experienced by the North-South Centre over the past three years contrasts dramatically with the broader European context, marked by both a very serious financial crisis and a disturbing political radicalisation. These elements, beyond the specific circumstances of each case, have been factors in the recent decisions of two of the oldest member States of the Centre, the Netherlands and Switzerland to end their commitment. The overall picture of early 2011 is clouded and the North-South Centre is now at a crossroads.
The key to the future is in the discussions which will be held over the coming weeks on the revised proposal for a statutory resolution that the Secretary General of the Council of Europe has prepared on the basis of discussions held during the autumn. The adoption of this resolution by the Committee of Ministers (as soon as possible), followed by the preparation – by the summer – of a new strategy destined to provide the Centre with a “roadmap” for 2011-2013, will give the North-South Centre both political momentum and the administrative and financial stability it needs to carry out its mission. This is what we can wish for it and wish to everyone in this New Year.
Chair of the Executif Council of the North South Centre