Strasbourg, 7 July 2010
FOR THE ATTENTION OF MEMBERS OF THE STANDING COMMITTEE
The Standing Committee of the Conference of INGOs, meeting in Strasbourg on 24 June 2010 (from 2.30 to 5.30 pm), with Jean-Marie Heydt in the chair:
· Adopted the agenda [CONF/SC(2010)OJ4] but decided to discuss items 7, 9 and 10 at a future meeting;
· Adopted the synopsis of the meeting held on 28 April 2010 [CONF/SC(2010)SYN3].
1. Meeting of the Bureau of the Conference of INGOs (Strasbourg, 21 June 2010) –report
· Took note of the report by Maritchu Rall, Bureau rapporteur, concerning the following in particular: the reform of the Council of Europe and its impact on the Conference of INGOs, evaluation of the Conference of INGOs, Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1908 (2010) on lobbying in a democratic society, the three-year framework programme in the Russian Federation and the forthcoming Turkish chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers.
2. The reform of the Council of Europe and its impact on the Conference of INGOs
· Took note of the statement by the Vice-President, Alain Mouchoux, who gave a brief summary of the many comments, proposals and assessments made at that morning’s plenary session. All of these had revealed the INGOs’ great loyalty to the Conference as well as the need to preserve its identity and its activities on behalf of European citizens, and also their commitment to the Council of Europe as a whole, through field work and co-ordination. The INGOs which were members of the Conference brought benefits to the Organisation which could not be found in any other international institution. Several people had of course talked about the need to make operations more efficient and to raise the profile of the Conference’s activities and follow-up work by enhancing and updating its communication systems. The INGOs had also called for stable and adequate funding for the Conference’s work;
· Discussed a draft declaration by the Conference of INGOs on the subject, with members highlighting the following in particular:
o The Conference of INGOs needed to retain institutional recognition within the Council of Europe, even if the arrangements were altered, as the absence of organised civil society undermined democracy itself; however, it was also important for the Conference of INGOs to strengthen its collective identity and raise its profile;
o The draft declaration, which the Vice-President, Alain Mouchoux, would be responsible for finalising, would have to refer to the above-mentioned link between organised civil society and democracy; include more political elements in addition to budgetary considerations; stress the voluntary commitment of the INGOs within the Council of Europe; and not just be defensive but formulate constructive proposals for reforging the relations between the Council of Europe and civil society;
· Took note of the President’s proposal that he could be accompanied (he suggested by two members depending on the topics) on the civil society task force convened by the Secretary General with a view to establishing the Council of Europe’s engagement with civil society on a new basis;
· Took note of the statement by the Director General of Democracy and Political Affairs, who stressed, in particular, that the Council of Europe as a whole was currently in a difficult budgetary situation, which meant that most activities were undergoing critical reviews.
3. Functioning of the Conference of INGOs
· Took note, with regard to co-operation by the Conference of INGOs with other Council of Europe bodies, of the information provided by the Vice-President, Alain Mouchoux, concerning relations with the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, following his meeting with the Secretary General of the Congress: it was necessary to review the implementation of the Memorandum on partnership between local and regional authorities and NGOs in Council of Europe member states concluded with the Congress in 2008 [link to memorandum] and consider how the Conference should co-operate with the Congress on issues of common interest such as human rights and migration, intercultural dialogue, and social democracy. To this end, it was necessary to consult the calendar of the Congress’ activities, which was available on its website (http://www.coe.int/t/congress/default_EN.asp?).
4. Draft order of business for the autumn session (4-6 October 2010) [link to draft order of business]
· Adopted the draft order of business for the autumn session of the Conference of INGOs with two amendments:
o the Sustainable Territorial Development Committee would meet from 2.30 to 6 pm on Tuesday 5 October and the Culture, Science and Education Committee would meet from 2.30 to 6 pm on Monday 4 October;
o INGO-Service would hold its Ordinary and Extraordinary General Assemblies from 12 noon to 1 pm on Wednesday 6 October, at the close of the meeting of the Conference of INGOs.
5. Activities in 2010-2011
· Took note of the information concerning the following activities:
o Three-Year Framework Programme “Strengthening Civil Society and Civil Participation in the Russian Federation” [link to document on implementation of the programme]: Annelise Oeschger, Honorary President of the Conference of INGOs and co-ordinator for the activity, presented activity proposals for the period up to June 2011 in the areas of human rights, democracy and civil society and social cohesion; for his part, Jean-Louis Laurens said that, in recent talks he had had in Moscow, the Russian authorities had indicated a desire for the three-year framework programme to continue beyond its scheduled completion date of mid-2011;
o Regional Congress of NGOs (Vilnius, 10-12 June 2010) on “The Role of NGOs in a Pluralist Democracy” [link to programme]: Veysel Filiz, Vice-Chair of the Civil Society and Democracy Committee, gave details of the Congress, which had seen the relaunch of the Strasbourg Dialogue (initiative by the Conference of INGOs involving NGOs from the Caucasus and INGO representatives with a view to restoring confidence and improving the situation of the population in the areas affected by the conflict in August 2008); Jean-Louis Laurens said that the Council of Europe set considerable store by the Strasbourg Dialogue and that it should be carried forward;
o 2010 Exchange on the religious dimension of intercultural dialogue (Ohrid, 13-14 September 2010): Gabriel Nissim, Chair of the Human Rights Committee, went over the background to the activity and said that the theme of the forthcoming third exchange would be “freedom of expression of the media and respect towards cultural and religious diversity”; the arrangements for the Conference of INGOs’ involvement in the exchange still needed to be clarified and a member of the Bureau should be asked to deal with the matter;
o Forum for the Future of Democracy (Yerevan, 19-20 October 2010): the President gave details of the new structure of the sessions of the Forum for the Future of Democracy, which was less institutional and allowed more time for discussions. The three key themes of the forum would be law and democracy, institutions and democratic governance and “live democracy”. A democracy fair would also be held during the forum, enabling all participants who so desired to present their democracy projects and programmes. Jean-Louis Laurens explained that one of the aims of the forthcoming session of the forum was to make the event less formal and allow much more open debate; the democracy fair would help to raise awareness of the Conference of INGOs;
o Forum on the Universality of Human Rights (Oslo, 21-22 October 2010): Edouard Jagodnik, Chair of the Culture, Science and Education Committee, reported on the state of preparations for the meeting, which would place greater emphasis on communication aspects, given the reforms under way at the Council of Europe. The European Union had agreed to support the publication of the forum proceedings. The relevant information and the registration forms would be sent out within two weeks;
o Activity of the Conference of INGOs during the Turkish Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (November 2010 – May 2011): the Chair reported on the latest developments in this connection: the activity could be held in March 2011 and focus both on the role of civil society in promoting intercultural dialogue and on the development of citizen participation.
· Took note of the information provided by Gabriel Nissim concerning a planned conference on mediation and building international civil society (role of mediation in conflict prevention and resolution and in the application of civic rights and social justice), which the University of Paris-Sud 11 was proposing to hold in May 2011 on the basis of work it had been doing for around 10 years, and agreed in principle to discussions being held with officials from the university regarding arrangements for possible co-operation.
6. Ministerial Conferences of the Council of Europe in 2010
· Took note of the information provided by Karin Nordmeyer, Edouard Jagodnik and Anne-Marie Chavanon about the ministerial conferences which had already taken place (7th Council of Europe Ministerial Conference on Equality between Women and Men, Baku, 24-25 May 2010; 23rd Session of the Council of Europe Standing Conference of Ministers of Education, Brdo, Slovenia, 4-5 June 2010) or were still to be held (15th Session of the Council of Europe Conference of Ministers responsible for Spatial/Regional Planning (CEMAT), Moscow, 8-9 July 2010).
7. Date of the next meeting: Wednesday 6 October 2010 (2.30-5.30 pm)