Non-Governmental Organisations

WINTER SESSION
CIVIL SOCIETY AND DEMOCRACY COMMITTEE
CONF/CIV(2010)SYN1 

Strasbourg, 5 March 2010

SYNOPSIS OF THE MEETING
HELD ON 26 JANUARY 2010

FOR THE ATTENTION OF THE MEMBERS OF THE CIVIL SOCIETY AND DEMOCRACY COMMITTEE

The Civil Society and Democracy Committee, meeting on 26 January 2010 in Strasbourg:

1. Adopted the agenda and synopsis of the meeting held on 30 September 2009 in Strasbourg (CONF/CIV (2009) SYN4).

2. Introduction and report on activities:

      2.1. Conference on Civil Participation in Europe (Ljubljana, 25-27 November 2009): a regional meeting on the implementation of the Code of Good Practice for Civil Participation in the Decision-making Process, which was attended by numerous NGOs from the Balkans.

    2.2 Council of Europe Forum for the Future of Democracy (Kiev, 21-23 October 2009): an ambitious forum on electoral processes:

      - Evaluation of the Forum’s progress: the Conference of INGOs was now participating in its own right and at the same level as the other Council of Europe bodies;
      - Thanks to the participation of the Quadrilogue, the Forum was having a significant impact;
      - The Civil Society Committee had been very well-prepared and its contribution had been appreciated;
      - The next Forum would take place in Armenia (Yerevan, 19-20 October 2010) and the adopted methodology was currently being revised.

    2.3. Regional NGO Congress in 2010 (Vilnius, Lithuania): a preparatory meeting had taken place. There was a commitment to continuing what had already been achieved in previous Regional Congress meetings.

    2.4 Proposed recommendation on the need to co-ordinate Council of Europe and European Union activities of relevance to civil society:

    The Chair invited Committee members to send her their contributions so that she could prepare a draft for their next meeting.

      (Reminder: Article 50 of the memorandum of understanding between the Council of Europe and the European Union reads: “The contribution of civil society to achieving the objectives shared by the Council of Europe and the European Union will also be encouraged”: take a look at how this article could come in useful).

3. 2011 : European Year of Volunteering Action

Voluntary work necessitated a democratic context. It also had a political dimension. For a number of years now, there had been a crisis in the voluntary sector. The current economic crisis had aggravated this state of affairs, particularly in Eastern and South-East Europe. Voluntary work necessitates training: address by Olivier Fleury (Volonteurope) and Suzanna Szabo (The European Volunteer Centre).

There should be a review of the ‘International Year of Volunteers’, in which the Conference of INGOs should be involved.
4. The European Blind Union: the Albanian situation

Tommaso Daniele (European Blind Union) presented a report on the violation of the rights of people with a visual impairment in Albania. The President of the Albanian National Association for the Blind, Sinan Tafaj, was also present.
The Chair was asked to put a request to the Commissioner for Human Rights to organise a visit to Albania in order to assess the situation.
5. The implementation phase for the Code of Good Practice on Civil Participation in the Decision-making Process 

      The promotion of this Code, which was an official Conference of INGOs document, would place an additional responsibility on the committee. It would have to develop a strategy for the implementation of the Code and could give regular updates on NGO activities regarding the Code’s promotion. A system for collecting data on the implementation of the Code could be set up. Initial feedback on the Code should also be collected, such as how it was perceived and any difficulties encountered. The meeting was addressed by Tina Michieli (Slovenian NGO Development Information Centre (CNVOS)), who presented the November 2009 Ljubljana conference, and by Cyril Ritchie.

      It was decided to draw up a strategy for implementing the Code and to appoint a group of experts for that purpose. There could also be a part-time member of staff. There should also be seminars to publicise the Code and it should be translated into languages other than the two official languages of the Council of Europe.

6. 4th Regional NGO Congress in Vilnius (Lithuania) 

Address by Stasys Kausinus (Civil Defence Fund; local partner of the NGO Conference for the organisation of the congress). The following topics would be discussed in Vilnius: the role of civil society in a pluralist society, NGOs as militants for human rights, legislation regarding NGOs, the situation of civil society in Belarus, the promotion of the Code of Good Practice on Civil Participation in the Decision-Making Process, and the situation in the Caucasus: the role of NGOs in conflict prevention and post-conflict situations, in which NGOs could play a key role. All information would be available on the Regional NGO Congress website.

7. Civil Society Forum of the Eastern Partnership of the European Union

Siarhiej Mackievic, spokesperson for the Civil Society Forum for Eastern Partnership, described the Forum’s activities. The Forum hoped to become a permanent body.

Mrs Claudia Luciani, Director of Political Advice and Co-operation (Directorate General of Democracy and Political Affairs of the Council of Europe) described the activities of the Council of Europe that were relevant to the Eastern Partnership.