Non-Governmental Organisations


Draft Charter of Good Governance
of the INGOs holding participatory status with the Council of Europe


This charter shall apply to INGOs recognised by and maintaining relations with the Council of Europe, and may also be taken up by any other NGOs wishing to demonstrate and express their commitment to good governance. As a “code of good conduct” for the members of the Council of Europe’s Conference of INGOs, this charter is fully in line with the Council of Europe’s Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. This charter seeks both to clarify the approach which properly accountable NGOs should take and to indicate the type of relations which can develop between NGOs and third parties, as well as the relevant accountability factors.

I. Considerations

The INGOs holding participatory status with the Council of Europe wish to demonstrate their adherence to the following ideas:

1 INGOs have a social role and a duty to act as watchdogs
It is in the interest of States to see strong and independent NGOs develop, “watchdogs of civil society”, not only so that the public can participate in and make constructive contributions to the life of society, but also so that society can benefit from services and know-how which can optimise the quality and effectiveness of public services and parliamentary work.

2 The Conference of INGOs has a duty as the fourth pillar of the Council of Europe
Because of its position and official status as the fourth pillar of the Council of Europe, the Conference of INGOs, which currently brings together around 400 INGOs at the Council of Europe has a duty to propose and clarify the tasks and responsibilities of these INGOs.

II. Principles

The INGOs holding participatory status with the Council of Europe affirm their commitment to act in accordance with the following principles:

3 Independent functioning
NGOs have a vital role to play but they can only do so properly if their independence from international organisations, political authorities and administrations and private groups is recognised and upheld. There can be no genuine democracy without recognition and acceptance of the specific role which organised civil society can and must play.

4 Duty to set an example
The status of INGOs obliges them to act in an exemplary manner in their managing of volunteers and paid staff and with regard to the nature of their relations with outside service providers, and also to ensure a more balanced ratio of men to women particularly within governing bodies. In this respect, it is essential that NGOs choose their partners on the basis of strict criteria involving integrity and responsibility.

5 Professionalism and clarity
The fact that an NGO is not a profit-making body does not mean that the way it operates should lack rigour, efficiency or transparency. The governance structure of each INGO should be clear and should be based on statutes which stipulate precisely the methods of appointment, levels of responsibility and the nature and length of the terms of office of its directors.

6 Transparency
Both the nature of the tasks and also the support provided by donors demand genuine transparency, in terms of demonstrating that the resources provided contribute to sound and strict management of the organisation and also, and above all, that they are used for projects related to the declared objectives – especially when the funding sources are public bodies.

7 Supervision / Evaluation
While supervision and practical evaluation of the projects undertaken are desirable, they must be carried out without creating a subordinate relationship, which, ultimately, could only make the action of the NGOs less flexible and indeed deprive them of their capacity for innovation.

8 Humility / Realism
In order to deal responsibly with the real problems, NGOs need to see the world as it is and not as they would like it to be. Just because they think they are acting correctly does not mean that they are doing things well. Even in a humanitarian sector, they can be incapable of understanding the particular nature of a context and end up offering unsuitable assistance and also, and above all, making assessments and value judgements based solely on their “charitable certainties”.

III. Commitments

Each INGO holding participatory status with the Council of Europe undertakes the following:

9 Activity report
Each INGO holding participatory status with the Council of Europe undertakes to publish their commitments and to make available to the Conference an annual activity report.

10 Participation
Each INGO holding participatory status with the Council of Europe undertakes to participate in the activities of the Conference and to place all their expertise and know-how at the disposal of the Council of Europe.

IV. Sanctions

Whereby the Standing Committee becomes aware of a flagrant and repeated disregard for the rules and the principles of engagement as stated in the charter by an INGO, it can recommend to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe to withdraw the participatory status of the concerned INGO.