Reform of the Conference of INGOs
The Conference of INGOs, a force of proposals from the civil society.
(As discussed at the standing Committee of 17/01/2011)
A strong political and social demand all over the European continent.
Europe is today a continent living in a series of crises :
- an economic and financial crisis with disastrous social consequences especially for children and a long lasting impact on public funding ;
- a crisis of adaptation to the cultural and religious plurality leading to growing populism and xenophobia ;
- a crisis in democratic citizenship : political recognition for those bearing public responsibilities is questioned ; the civil society’s sense of democratic and social responsibility is lowering whereas public authorities are more and more asking organisations to share the burden of their population’s demand.
These are the facts and the organised civil society is very much in demand; this brought the European Union and the Council of Europe to declare that 2011 would be the year « of volunteering »
Now, in the same period of time, the NGOs observe how their financial resources are diminishing and the States are reluctant to contribute to the budget of non redistributive intergovernmental organisations, as the Council of Europe.
All these data have led the Secretary General to propose a political and budgetary reform as wished by the Committee of Ministers, and supported by the Parliamentary Assembly and the Congress of local and regional authorities.
The Conference of INGOs has also to make proposals as to its new positioning within this reform of the Council of Europe, a work that the Congress has already done and that the Parliamentary Assembly is engaged in.
I – Which change for the Conference of INGOs?
A working group was given the task to propose adaptations of the Conference to the ongoing reform , on the basis of past experience and within the framework of the new allocated budget.
It aims at providing the Conference with
- more flexibility
- rapid reactions
- best participation with all the actors of the civil society contributing to the actions of the Council of Europe.
- efficiency in spreading out the influence of the Council of Europe through the members of the Conference.
The first analyses have shown seven priorities:
1. reduction of running costs
As the NGOs are all participating on a voluntary basis the main costs of the Conference are interpretation costs and secretariat costs. The working group is proposing to reduce the number of sessions and of commissions so as to remain within the limits of the budget allocated for 2011.
2. A more efficient inner organisation
We have to wait for the decisions made by the Committee of Ministers as to the future of intergovernmental structures as well as to the activities of the Council of Europe in general. In the meantime the working group proposes that the present number of commissions and transversal groups be limited and centred on the fundamental principles of the Council of Europe ( Human Rights, Rule of law, Democracy) and on its main missions.
3. A close link with the programme 2011 of the Council of Europe
We observe and underline converging points between the programme of the Organisation for 2011 and several actions undertaken by the Conference :
- Promoting a cohesive and sustainable society
- Promoting security of the internet : education to democratic citizenship and human rights in the domain of digital media ;
- Promoting intercultural dialog: Education to intercultural dialog ;
- Promoting good management through the Code of good practice for civil participation ;
- Strengthening the impact of monitoring mechanisms, like GRETA and the Social Charter monitoring process so as to promote equal treatment between men and women, equal rights for vulnerable people.
4. A follow up of current affairs
The Conference will emphasize its role of vigilance, initiative and intervention as to problems arising in the society and observed in Member States or associated States ; this could be dome by means of a digital platform, as mentioned in the meetings of the Task Force.
5. A wish for a better working connection with the General Secretariat
Ongoing contacts should absolutely be established between the General Secretariat and the Bureau or the President of the Conference of INGOs for a more efficient coordination. This would also allow for possible rapid reactions to events as expressed in the above paragraph.
6. Restructuring the role of the commissions.
The Conference proposes to enrich its discussions and broaden the thematic work of the commissions by opening it to the experts of the civil society. Thematic groups may also be created within the commissions or in transversal groups. The groups will welcome members of other NGOs, especially those having observatory status at the Council of Europe.
7. Ensuring a better visibility of the actions of the Council of Europe among the civil society and public actors.
The INGOs working within the Conference should emphasize their role as a transmitting force for the positions, texts, policies and actions of the Conference as well as those of the Council of Europe and to promote their best monitoring.
II – What kinds of synergies with the other components of the Council of Europe?
The citizens’ participation to public policies is at the core of any public action at international, national or local level. The framework that the civil society is offered by the Council of Europe for achieving its tasks is considered as an example, especially at territorial level, by researchers, European and international universities because of the synergies that it promotes with the other components.
These synergies have to be strengthened :
a. Synergy in a co-production within the quadrilog
It is resulting from a participative dialog established by the Committee of Ministers and the other bodies as to be seen in declarations, memoranda and resolutions.
It consists in:
- Participating in the work of directorates, committees, Conventions and Partial Agreements
- Proposing individual expertise of different proactive and specialised associations,
- Monitoring of conventions
- Working with the commissions of the Parliamentary Assembly and the Congress and with the Bureau of the Commissioner of Human Rights and the ECRI
- Fulfilling precise missions given to the Conference: geographical missions as Russia or Belarus and thematic missions as the Council of experts or the Code of, Good practice.
In all these task there should be a better collaboration.
b. Synergy in a common mobilisation in all States
The Council of Europe is the only international body able to mobilise simultaneously public decision makers and the civil society all over the continent.
The possibility of joint interventions, of the representatives of the ministers and diplomats of the 47 Member States, of the 636 members of the Parliamentary Assembly, of the representatives of 200 000 local authorities within the Congress et the representatives of the INGOs with their local members grouped in the Conference is a means of communication reaching millions of citizens.
c. Synergy of a strengthened contribution to the European civil debate.
It is the task of the INGO Conference to be still more a European forum at the disposal of all local, national and international NGOs of whatever status or size. This is why our aim is
- To develop the already ongoing actions for supporting and helping local and national NGOs in the Member States of the Council of Europe.
- To give a better echo to the importance of this unique civil European debate and to organise a yearly thematic meeting, a big Forum of the organised civil society. It will gather all the proactive forces of the civil society.
Once the reform achieved, the Conference should be able to
- To implement a working method that will be effiient and adapted as well to the needs of the European societies as to the policy and priorities of the Council of Europe.
- To meet fully the requirements of its participative status
It should reinforce a close cooperation with all the bodies of the Council of Europe by bringing its expertise, its awareness of « hot » issues and by its observation of how Human rights, Rule of Law and Democracy are respected.
With these proposals, the INGO conference will be a real force for the Council of Europe.
Paper made on 17 january2011