Summary of the panel discussion
“NGO participation in political decision making processes:
a reality or still a challenge to be met?”

Thursday 27 June 2013
Strasbourg, Council of Europe
Agora – Room G.03
9h30 – 13h

The panel discussion was opened by Anne-Marie Chavanon, Chair of the Democracy, Social Cohesion and Global Challenges Committee of the Conference of INGOs, International Federation for Housing and Planning.

Mrs Chavanon invited the guest speakers, practitioners from civil society and local and national authorities from different countries to share their experience on the practice of NGO participation in democratic decision-making and on efforts made to introduce rules and mechanisms for such participation:

Boris Tonhauser, presented the work of the Council of European Municipalities and Regions, the largest organisation of local and regional government in Europe, its members coming from over 50 national associations of towns, municipalities and regions from 41 countries. The CEMR worked to promote a united Europe based on local and regional self- government and democracy covering fields of activity such as governance, equal opportunities, the environment, regional policy, economic, social and territorial cohesion.
(link to presentation)

Marc Sant, Local Councils’ Association of Malta and spokesperson for the participants in the activity on youth participation in public life organised by ALDA in Strasbourg from 25 to 27 June, presented the recommendations to improve youth participation which had been drawn up by the group.

The Conference of INGOs welcomed the recommendations and agreed to continue to work with young people.

Ludvig Sandberg, Social Forum, Sweden, talked about NGO participation at the local level in Sweden and his use of the Code of Good Practice for Civil Participation in the Decision-making Process. Sweden had developed compacts at local and regional level which showed a positive trend towards creating a culture of co-operation. However, using the matrix of the Code of Good Practice he gave examples of the different levels of NGO participation in projects in different municipalities. Whilst there was a tradition of good NGO participation at the levels of information and consultation there was still progress to be made to reach the levels of dialogue and partnership.
(link to presentation)

Tom Elkins, Compact Voice Manager, National Council for Voluntary Organisations, UK, explained the use and the impact of the Compact which was the agreement between the UK government and the voluntary and community sector. The Compact set out key principles and established a way of working that improved their relationship for mutual advantage. It covered areas such as involvement in policy design and consultation, funding, promoting equality, ensuring better involvement in service design and delivery and strengthening independence. It was made in November 1998, and renewed in 2010.
(link to presentation)

Ihor Kohut, Director of the Ukrainian School of Political Studies and Chairman of the Board of the Agency for Legislative Initiatives, Ukraine, outlined the situation and challenges faced by civil society in a post-soviet country. Civil society was a new actor, the first civic movements emerged in the late 80s and progress has been slow for various reasons. There was a lack of will to engage, no civic culture of participation, a lack of financial support to NGOs, no practice of public debates. The process was slow but was evolving.
(link to presentation)

Danka Latkovic, Governmental Office for co-operation with NGOs, Montenegro, explained the work of the governmental office which facilitated the involvement of NGOs in democratic decision-making processes through the implementation of the decree on terms and procedures for co-operation between state administration and NGOs, and the elaboration of a new strategy of development of the non-governmental sector. It provided training for civil servants on how to improve co-operation with NGOs and acted as coordinator with the contact persons in government ministries responsible for relations with NGOs.
(link to presentation)