FOR THE ATTENTION OF MEMBERS OF THE CONFERENCE OF INGOs
The Conference of INGOs, meeting in plenary session on 25 January 2011 in Strasbourg, with Jean-Marie Heydt in the chair:
1. Adopted the draft agenda
2. Heard the President explain the reform process, the result of intensive work by the Bureau and the Standing Committee, which had met many times since the October 2010 session to prepare the two documents which were proposed. The present session was a decisive one and 2011 would be a year of transition.
The President strongly emphasised the fact that refusing to change and to adapt their working methods would mean the end of the Conference of INGOs. He pointed out that the process had begun long before the Secretary General had embarked on the reform of the Council of Europe.
The President read out the first document ”Reform of the Conference of INGOs: The Conference of INGOs, the voice of civil society” [ link to document] approved by the majority of the members present at the meeting of the Standing Committee on 24 January 2011.
He explained that the second document “texts providing the basis for discussions at the meetings of the standing Committee + the committees and transversal groups + a the plenary session” [ Link to document], supplemented the document on the reform but had not yet been approved. This text would provide the basis for discussions to be held at the meeting of the Standing Committee after the plenary meeting of the Conference on 27 January with a view to finalising the reform project.
The President drew attention to the voluntary aspect of this work as many representatives were using some of their holidays to carry out this work and the NGOs were investing time and money by covering the costs of transport and accommodation.
The President announced the total budget granted by the Council of Europe to civil society activities, including the political schools and the Forum on the Future of Democracy: 1,060,000 Euros (excluding staff salaries) and the amount remaining for the Conference of INGOs, ie. 220, 000 Euros for sessions, the translation and production of documents, and activities such as the implementation of the Code of good practice for civil participation in the decision-making process, work with the Expert Council on NGO Law, regional congresses of NGOs and seminars in Russia.
This budget meant that the Conference of INGOs would have to make choices. The most important decisions made by the Standing Committee were briefly presented:
- reduction in the number of sessions to 2 per year, one in January and one in June;
- the organisation of one major event in the year in the form of an agora or a debate, which would take place during the session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe;
- the setting up of an operational unit so as to be able to respond rapidly to current events;
- a numerical platform – a forum for discussion and the exchange of views (financial and human resources would have to be found asit could not be funded by the Conference’s budget);
- publication of a Newsletter - to ensure the visibility of the Conference of INGOs (both within and outside the Council of Europe);
- establishment of three thematic committees to replace the existing committees and transversal groups. The method of functioning of these committees would have to be reconsidered: there should be a genuine forum for discussion. The President of the Conference asked the Chairs of the existing committees and transversal groups to propose themes and new names for the future committees.
The President pointed out that, immediately in the week following the session, a working group would prepare the June session so that the new committees could begin to operate in June 2011. It was important to make it clear that they were capable of working with the resources made available to them.
In mid April, the Committee of Ministers would finalise the 2012 / 2013 budget. During this time, discussions would take place between the Secretary General’s representative and the President of the Conference so as to draft a text on which they could all agree.
3. Other business
Was informed that Cyril Ritchie had been elected Chair of the CoNGO, the Conference of NGOs at the UN.