Non-Governmental Organisations

    CONF/2008/RAPACT

    2008 ACTIVITY REPORT

    OF THE CONFERENCE

    OF INGOs

    http://www.coe.int/NGO

    TABLE OF CONTENTS

8. The Conference of INGOs

        1. Radically reforming the Conference of INGOs
        2. Making human rights an absolute priority
        3. Providing practical support for civil society
        4. Developing monitoring and standard-setting activities
        5. Strengthening intercultural and interreligious dialogue
        6. Co-operating more closely with other Council of Europe bodies

    II. The thematic groupings

        1. Human Rights Grouping
        2. European Social Charter and Human Policies Grouping
        3. Education and Culture Grouping
        4. Gender Equality Grouping
        5. Extreme Poverty and Social Cohesion Grouping
        6. Countryside and Environment Grouping
        7. Health Grouping
        8. Civil Society and Democracy Grouping
        9. NGO-Towns Grouping
        10. North-South Dialogue and Solidarity Grouping

    III. Adopted texts

      I. Conference of INGOs

    In 2008, the Conference of INGOs developed its work in six main directions:

      - Radically reforming the Conference of INGOs
      - Making human rights an absolute priority
      - Providing practical support for civil society
      - Developing monitoring and standard-setting activities
      - Strengthening intercultural and interreligious dialogue
      - Co-operating more closely with other Council of Europe bodies

    1. Radically reforming the Conference of INGOs

    In 2008 the debate on the structural reorganisation of the Conference of INGOs resulted in the establishment of five new committees (Human Rights; Social Cohesion and Eradication of Poverty; Culture, Science and Education; Sustainable Territorial Development; Civil Society and Democracy) and two transversal groups (Gender Equality; Europe and Global Challenges) and the adoption of new Rules of Procedure (June session). The Chairs and Vice-Chairs of the committees and transversal groups were elected for three years at the autumn session of the Conference of INGOs.

    The purpose of this restructuring is to organise activities and partnerships with the other pillars of the Council of Europe more effectively: 2009 is therefore a key year for the Conference of INGOs, since it will be necessary to reflect this goal as concretely as possible.

    2. Making human rights an absolute priority

      a) NGOs and the European Court of Human Rights
      b) Human rights defenders
      c) Violence against women
      d) Rights of the poor
      e) Human rights education

      a) NGOs and the European Court of Human Rights: Jean-Paul Costa, President of the Court, who was invited to speak at the January session of the Conference of INGOs, emphasised that it was in the human rights field that NGOs had their most important role and that an exchange of views was now planned between the Court and NGOs at two-yearly intervals;

      b) Human rights defenders: At the January 2008 session, the Human Rights Grouping adopted a resolution on LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) human rights defenders and a recommendation on human rights defenders in Serbia;

      c) Violence against women: To support the draft convention on this subject, at its autumn session the Conference of INGOs organised a round table on violence against women, including domestic violence, which was attended by the Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe. The Standing Committee adopted a declaration at the end of the round table;

      d) Rights of the poor: Through a recommendation to Council of Europe member states, the Conference of INGOs (at its June session) supported the adoption of the draft guiding principles on ‘Extreme poverty and human rights: the rights of the poor’ prepared by the United Nations Human Rights Council; to mark the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty (17 October), an INGO delegation met the Deputy Secretary General, who then sent to the European Committee for Social Cohesion (CDCS) and the Steering Committee for Human Rights (CDDH) a message of support for the recommendation of the Conference of INGOs;

      e) Human rights education: Under the auspices of the Education and Culture Grouping and the Human Rights Grouping, the Conference of INGOs organised a symposium on ‘A Child’s View of Human Rights’ (at its spring session) and also took an active part in the forum on ‘Civic Partnerships for Citizenship and Human Rights Education’ (Strasbourg, 9-10 October 2008).

    3. Providing practical support for civil society

      a) Belarus
      b) Russian Federation
      c) European Union/Council of Europe joint programmes
      d) Third Regional Congress of NGOs (Penza, 5-7 December 2008)

      a) Belarus: Further visits by civil society representatives from Belarus for the plenary sessions of the Conference of INGOs, and assistance to NGOs, human rights defenders and independent media in Belarus;

      b) Russian Federation: Implementation of the three-year (2008-2011) framework programme ‘Strengthening Civil Society and Civic Participation in the Russian Federation’, to improve cooperation between NGOs and public authorities and thus strengthen the role of civil society in public life and policy-making. This programme focuses on the following issues: human rights, democracy, culture and education, social cohesion and gender equality. Special attention is also being paid to Russian legislation on NGOs and its compliance with Council of Europe standards and values;

      c) European Union/Council of Europe joint programmes: Launch of a joint two-year programme called ‘Setting Up and Developing a Civil Society Leadership Network in Ukraine, Moldova and the Southern Caucasus’. The programme’s purpose is to strengthen civil society, especially its leadership, and involve it more closely in seeking democratic solutions to political, social and cultural problems in the region. Meetings were held in Kyiv, Chisinau and Tbilisi, attended by some 90 civil society activists and representatives;

      d) Regional Congress of NGOs: The Third Regional Congress of NGOs was held in Penza (Russian Federation, 5-7 December 2008) on the following topics: civil participation, NGO legislation, intercultural dialogue and relations between the media and civil society. The congress offered participants from Belarus, Georgia, Poland, Russia, Ukraine, other CIS countries and the Baltic countries a discussion platform for strengthening mutual cooperation and making recommendations for civil society activities in their region.

    4. Developing monitoring and standard-setting activities

      a) Establishment of the Expert Council on NGO Law
      b) Launch of the Code of Good Practice for Civil Participation

      a) Establishment of the Expert Council on NGO Law: This Council was set up by the Conference of INGOs in January 2008 for an initial term of three years in response to demands voiced at the Regional Congresses of NGOs in Warsaw (2006) and Kyiv (2007). The Expert Council – which is responsible, among other things, for monitoring Committee of Ministers’ Recommendation 2007(14) on the legal status of non-governmental organisations in Europe – is intended to help create an enabling environment for NGOs throughout Europe by examining national NGO law and its implementation and promoting Council of Europe standards and European good practice in this field. At the autumn session of the Conference of INGOs, the Expert Council submitted its first report on conditions of establishment of NGOs, and it has already started preparing a new report on the internal governance of NGOs;

      b) Launch of the Code of Good Practice for Civil Participation: on the basis of a recommendation from the Council of Europe Forum for the Future of Democracy (Stockholm/Sigtuna, June 2007), the Conference of INGOs set in motion the drafting of this Code, whose main purpose is to lay down a set of principles and guidelines for NGO participation in decision-making processes, to be implemented at local and national levels in Council of Europe member states. Regional consultations were organised (in Stockholm in October 2008, for example) and will continue in the coming months with a view to adopting the Code in the course of 2009.

    5. Strengthening intercultural and interreligious dialogue

      a) First Council of Europe exchange on the religious dimension of intercultural dialogue (8 April 2008)
      b) Round table on the rule of law and intercultural dialogue (26 June 2008)

      a) First Council of Europe exchange on the religious dimension of intercultural dialogue: The Conference of INGOs played an important part in the preparation and actual holding of this meeting on teaching about religions and beliefs, which was attended by representatives of religious communities, media experts and professionals, and a delegation of INGOs particularly active in this field;

      b) Round table on the rule of law and intercultural dialogue: Organised on the initiative of the Chair of the Conference of INGOs, this round table allowed closer study of the White Paper on Intercultural Dialogue (especially its implications for education and law) and the work of the European Court of Human Rights (particularly regarding the balance between freedom of expression and conscience and the proper functioning of democracy).

    6. Cooperating more closely with other Council of Europe bodies

    The Conference of INGOs has continued to develop its partnership with the Committee of Ministers: on 12 March 2008 the annual exchange of views with the Chair of the Conference of INGOs took place, after which the Ministers’ Deputies adopted a decision welcoming the institutional role played by the Conference of INGOs. At its 118th session (7 May 2008) the Committee of Ministers, meeting at the level of Ministers for Foreign Affairs, also welcomed the work of the Conference of INGOs in the Organisation’s priority fields of action. Furthermore, the Conference of INGOs, together with the Slovak Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers, organised a seminar in Bratislava (25-26 April 2008) with the main players of Slovak civil society.

    Cooperation with the Parliamentary Assembly continued throughout 2008, particularly between the Equality Grouping and the Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men, as part of the parliamentary dimension of the campaign to combat violence against women.

    Links with the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, moreover, were firmly established with the adoption of a memorandum on partnership between local and regional authorities
    and NGOs in Council of Europe member states, drawn up jointly by the Conference of INGOs and the Congress and welcomed by the Chair of the Conference of INGOs in a speech to the plenary session of the Congress.

    There is no doubt that the new institutional structure of the Conference of INGOs will provide added impetus for cooperation between the Conference of INGOs and the other pillars of the Organisation.

    II. Thematic groupings

    1. Human Rights Grouping

    Presentation of the new EU Fundamental Rights Agency and possible relations with this body
    Within the framework of relations between the Council of Europe and the Agency, the grouping was informed of the Agency’s missions and considered the possibility of the Conference of INGOs being represented on the Agency’s Fundamental Rights Platform. A delegation of the Conference of INGOs, headed by its President Annelise Oeschger, was invited to take part in the first meeting of the Platform in Vienna (7-8 October 2008). Other types of cooperation should also be possible, depending on the issues on the Agency’s agenda over the coming years. A working group will be set up within the grouping to look into possibilities of collaboration.

    Human rights defenders
    Two resolutions were adopted by the grouping and sent to the proper authorities, concerning:

        § Human rights defenders working for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons;
        § Three human rights defenders in Serbia.

    The grouping was represented at the hearing on the situation of human rights defenders in Council of Europe member states organised by the Parliamentary Assembly’s Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, and it jointly organised, with Amnesty International and many other INGOs, a side event on human rights defenders.

    Information society, media and human rights
    Information was provided, and two preparatory meetings were held, with a view to organising civil society participation in the Ministerial Conference on the Media and New Communications Services that will take place in Reykjavik in May 2009. The results of these meetings were brought to the attention of the Steering Committee on the Media and New Communication Services (CDMC).

    Position and role of Council of Europe INGOs in the Steering Committee for Human Rights (CDDH) and its subordinate groups of specialists
    A report was submitted on the work of the CDDH, and detailed information was provided on how the CDDH operated and the opportunities for participation in its activities by INGOs.

    The Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings
    This Convention entered into force on 1 February 2008. It is the first European treaty in this field and provides for the establishment of an independent monitoring body able to monitor compliance with the obligations that it contains. INGOs are invited to find out who the members of the monitoring committee will be and to bring pressure to bear to increase the number of ratifications.

    ‘A Child’s View of Human Rights’: symposium and seminar
    A symposium on ‘a child’s view of human rights’ was held in Strasbourg from 8 to 10 March 2008 under the auspices of the grouping and was attended by 170 children from a number of European countries. A seminar was organised jointly by the Human Rights Grouping and the Education and Culture Grouping to assess this symposium and consider its lessons for human rights education in future.

    2. European Social Charter and Social Policies Grouping
    The work planned for 2008 had two main thrusts:

      - Stepping up our efforts to ensure better monitoring of the Social Charter and motivating our members to that end;
      - Promoting synergies with the Extreme Poverty Grouping and the Human Rights Grouping in order to undertake joint projects.

    We were thus able to continue the work begun on the draft guiding principles of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights with the Extreme Poverty and Social Cohesion Grouping.

    Of course, the monitoring of Social Charter developments throughout the year in order to make comments on national reports and in relation to the collective complaints procedure, took up a large part of our meetings.

    In this context, we concentrated on checking that countries signatory to the European Social Charter were properly implementing their obligations, since it is essential for the grouping to be able to submit its comments to the European Committee of Social Rights on a sound basis, as we have always believed that INGOs have an important role in monitoring application of the Charter. They are on the spot and can thus offer a critical interpretation of States’ replies to questions from the European Committee of Social Rights. They can measure the gap that sometimes exists between intentions announced, or even set down in national legislation, and their actual implementation in various areas of citizens’ lives in the State concerned. Many INGOs have mobilised their national branches for this purpose and have been able to provide valuable evidence on the actual situation.

    Extension of the collective complaints system as a tool of cooperation and a means of revealing shortcomings was raised at each of our meetings. INGOs often deal with applications whose merits seem obvious but which concern States that have not signed the Protocol establishing the system of collective complaints. We regret this situation, which we feel hinders democratic debate, and we urge the Council of Europe to continue its efforts to ensure that all member states enter into this form of dialogue with civil society in order to achieve better application of the Charter’s various provisions.

    The whole range of provisions contained in the Revised Social Charter (1996) was drawn upon for the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. Our grouping has therefore been following the establishment of the EU Fundamental Rights Agency very closely. This naturally led to a meeting and, more particularly, a study of possible ways forward for cooperation between this Agency and our grouping or the Conference of INGOs.

    Of course, the grouping’s future in the new Committee structure was discussed during our exchanges and debates in order to make sure that work in progress could be continued and developed.

    To sum up, this was a year in which our grouping’s work required a special effort to be involved in the many projects in progress.

    3. Education and Culture Grouping

    The Education and Culture Grouping met three times and held an informal meeting in January.

    This year the focus was on intercultural dialogue, with the preparation and publishing of the White Paper. The grouping, which has done much work on this subject over a number of years, welcomed its publication and called for it to be widely distributed. In this connection, we strongly supported the holding on 8 April 2008 of the first Council of Europe exchange on the religious dimension of intercultural dialogue.

    Education for citizenship and human rights also required a lot of work in terms of participation in developing teaching aids, contributions concerning the drafting of a binding policy framework paper for EDC/HRE (education for democratic citizenship and human rights) and preparation and organisation of the second NGO forum in October on the topic of ‘Civic Partnerships for Citizenship and Human Rights Education’.

    The project on ‘The Image of the Other in History Teaching’ is due to finish in 2009; it forms part of the strengthening of intercultural dialogue, and the subjects that it covers include the place of civil society in the globalisation process.

    The fourth seminar on teaching remembrance for a Europe of freedom and rule of law, held at Nuremberg-Dachau, represented a high point in the grouping’s work on passing on knowledge of the tragic periods of our history.

    The grouping supported two human rights education initiatives: one by the Regards d’Enfant association and another attesting to the work done by schools.

    The fifth Prague Forum in November, to which we contributed our thoughts, this year focused on ‘the right to quality education’.

    The grouping also finalised its thinking on media education, presenting a study and a draft declaration on this subject.

    In the course of the year we also called for the Council of Europe’s cultural routes to be promoted, contributed to the debate on global education and adopted a declaration on voluntary work.

    Overall, relations with the various Council of Europe bodies continued to develop and take shape with, in particular, our participation in the steering committees for education, higher education and culture, numerous consultation and preparatory meetings, and closer cooperation with the Directorate General of Education, Culture and Heritage, Youth and Sport.

    4. Gender Equality Grouping

    The Grouping attended the meetings of the Steering Committee for Equality between Women and Men (CDEG) and the Parliamentary Assembly’s Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men.

    The Grouping met on three occasions in 2008: the April meeting was chaired by Anje Wiersinga and the June and October meetings were chaired by Karin Nordmeyer.

    The October meeting of the new “Gender Equality Transversal Group” was dedicated to discussion on the new structure of the Conference of INGOs and to setting up a new working structure.

    In 2008 the Grouping’s work focussed mainly on the “Council of Europe Campaign to Combat Violence against Women, including Domestic Violence”. Input was given to the campaign’s closing conferences in May and June 2008 and to the Seminar in Bratislava (organised by the INGO Liaison Committee). The Grouping lobbied for the ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings and participated in the UN Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking meeting in Vienna.

    Two other subjects with serious gender aspects have been under discussion: the feminisation of poverty and the demographic challenge in Europe.

    At the initiative of the Grouping a letter was sent to UNMIK and other International Organisations including the Special Envoy of the European Union to Kosovo requesting to include women in the negotiations on the future of Kosovo in accordance with the UN Security Resolution 1325.

    The Grouping initiated a Round table meeting on 1 October 2008 to exchange views with the Ambassador of Latvia to the Council of Europe, Committee of Ministers’ Thematic Co-ordinator on Equality between Women and Men, on the monitoring mechanism of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) and with the Deputy Secretary General on the proposal for a convention to combat violence against women, including domestic violence.

    A Declaration to support the proposal for a Convention to combat violence against women can be seen as a first outcome of the newly established Gender Equality Transversal Group. The Declaration was adopted on 3 October 2008 by the Standing Committee and was sent to the Committee of Ministers. This Declaration will have an impact on the terms of reference in the elaboration process of the proposed Convention.

    5. Extreme Poverty and Social Cohesion Grouping

    The matters examined by the grouping in 2008 included the following items in particular:

    Relations with the European Union

    The grouping set out to follow the suggestions made by Jérôme Vignon, Director of Social Protection and Integration at the European Commission, at the January 2008 session of the Conference of INGOs concerning greater recognition by the European Union of the work of Council of Europe INGOs in the field of social cohesion.

    In her statement at the same session, Luisella Pavan-Woolfe, the European Commission’s Permanent Representative to the Council of Europe, raised two priority areas of work for INGOs:

        § Strengthening relations between the two institutions in the field of social cohesion whilst ensuring that such relations are consistent and complementary;

        § Participating in the work of the European Union’s NGO social platform, which is open to all NGOs.

    NGO action on and contributions to the guiding principles on ‘Extreme poverty and human rights: the rights of the poor’ prepared by the United Nations Human Rights Council: as part of the grouping’s action on the Recommendation of the Conference of INGOs (June 2008) to Council of Europe member states on the adoption of the guiding principles on ‘Extreme poverty and human rights: the rights of the poor’ by the United Nations Human Rights Council, a meeting was held with the Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe on 17 October 2008. Maud de Boer-Buquicchio proposed to endorse the Recommendation of the Conference of INGOs by sending a message in support of it to the European Committee for Social Cohesion (CDCS) and the Steering Committee for Human Rights (CDDH).

    Participation in the programme ‘Building a Europe for and with children: towards a strategy for 2009-2011’: participation by Gérard Greneron, Vice-Chair of the Conference of INGOs, who presented the second round table planned by the Conference, which aims to continue the following two projects:

        § Promotion of children’s rights;
        § Children and violence.

    Lioubov Samokhina, Programme Advisor at the Directorate General of Social Cohesion, presented the three-year programme and invited the INGOs to take part in the Stockholm Conference. The programme’s aim is to incorporate children’s issues in Council of Europe activities through a three-year action plan. Plans for two websites are being considered: one for children, introducing the Council of Europe, and the other to collect case-law involving children. In this connection, the International Association of Charities (AIC) presented an example of good practice regarding social integration of young people between the ages of eight and nineteen by the IRDA Centre in Milan.

    6. Countryside and Environment Grouping

    The Countryside and Environment Grouping met in January and June 2008. The session of the Sustainable Territorial Development Committee in October 2008 organised the transition of its work within this new structure.

    The grouping’s policy approach

    The grouping reiterates that sustainable development of rural areas is essential for the social, economic and territorial cohesion of the European continent. It encourages implementation of rural development policies based on local strategies, which are best able to foster citizen participation.

    The grouping calls on the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to maintain its commitment to the environmental and cultural aspects of sustainable development on a pan-European scale and to provide the human and financial resources needed to explore these questions.

    Taking up the words of the President of the Parliamentary Assembly Lluís Maria de Puig (in June 2008), the grouping reiterates that ‘the right to live in a healthy environment is also a human right’ and should be reflected in a new additional protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights.

    Interests in 2008

    Regional planning

      The grouping is involved in the preparatory stage of the fifteenth session of the European Conference of Ministers responsible for Regional Planning (CEMAT) planned for 2010 on the subject ‘Challenges of the Future: Sustainable Spatial Development of the European Continent in a Changing World’. The grouping has contributed in particular to the draft European charters on access to essential goods and services and on the countryside.

    Landscape
    The grouping has supported the European Landscape Convention from its inception, as landscape issues are an effective way of increasing the involvement of civil society in participation processes relating to territorial development.

    The grouping participated in the Seventh Convention Workshops on the ‘landscape in planning policies and governance’, held in April 2008 in Piešťany (Slovakia), where it spoke in favour of incorporating landscape concerns more effectively in future territorial development by drawing up strategic development plans. The grouping has also begun a dialogue with the Civilscape association network to strengthen grassroots action in implementing the European Landscape Convention.

    Environment and biodiversity
    In a sector marked by budget constraints inconsistent with the commitments entered into at the Warsaw Summit, the grouping has monitored the work undertaken in connection with the ‘Environment for Europe’ ministerial conferences, the Pan-European Ecological Network, the European Diploma of Protected Areas, and the Bern Convention, today recognised as the European forum for managing invasive alien species.

    Regular dialogue within the Council of Europe
    To give practical shape to the Organisation’s fourth pillar, the grouping continued its dialogue with other Council of Europe policy bodies in 2008, and in particular with:
    - the Parliamentary Assembly’s Committee on the Environment, Agriculture and Local and Regional Affairs;
    - the Committee on Sustainable Development of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities.
    This cooperation took the form mainly of contributions on ‘services of general interest in rural areas’ and the question of water.

    7. Health Grouping

    An important achievement of the Health Grouping has been the strengthening of relations and co-operation with the Health Division in the Directorate General of Social Cohesion, European Health Committee (CDSP). A regular exchange of views has taken place and the Head of the Health Division, Piotr Mierzewski, and members of his staff have regularly attended the meetings of the Grouping. The constructive and friendly co-operation has continued also on the fringes of many high profile WHO regional meetings.

    A big success of the Grouping has also been the adoption of the Recommendations of the sub-group on prevention in matters of health in April 2008, which has led to a parliamentary initiative for a report on this topic at the Parliamentary Assembly. The Health Grouping is grateful to the work and devotion of the 16 members of the sub-group that led to this excellent result. In particular the contribution of Guy Schlaeder and Christiaan Colpaert in coordinating the work has been crucial.

    The Grouping especially stressed that, in the field of health, the benefits and advantages of this co-operation are particularly evident in primary prevention and health education. Awareness of healthy behaviour should be fostered from the beginning of, and throughout, citizens’ lives, in a non-directive way which takes into account the liberty of the individual (in accordance with the principles of “doing it with” rather than “doing it for” people). It is in this spirit, and in the context of social justice, equity and progress, that the Recommendation, and the relevant programme for prevention, have been drawn up.

    This Recommendation is an essential tool for implementing and developing a modern world health programme, in which responsible citizens are authors of, and stakeholders in, social progress and welfare. Many European institutions are actively involved in prevention : the Council of Europe, the European Commission and WHO-Europe. The Recommendation has been used as an advocacy tool and will be submitted to the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly members as well as the Committee of Ministers, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities and to the Health Division.

    The Grouping has also engaged in a debate on the future of the health work within the Conference of INGOs. Members have been consulted on their views about the strategic directions that the new Committee on Social Cohesion and Eradication of Poverty should follow in relation to health.

    8. Civil Society and Democracy Grouping

    In 2008 the Grouping continued to be the focal point within the Conference of INGOs for preparations and input to the Council of Europe Forum for the Future of Democracy. The Fourth Forum took place in Madrid in October 2008.

    At the Third Forum (Sigtuna, 2007), the Conference was specifically requested to prepare a Code of Good Practice on Civil Participation. The President of the Grouping was charged by the Conference President to be the Conference Rapporteur for this project, and the Grouping provided guidance and suggestions as the drafting process got under way right throughout 2008. After regional consultations initiated in 2008, and ultimate adoption by the Conference, the Code will be submitted to the Fifth Forum in Kyiv in 2009.

    Under mandate from the Conference, the Grouping continued to provide a platform for Belarusian civil society organisations and other democracy-change-promoters from Belarus, to gain experience of Council of Europe standards and mechanisms, and to mobilise support and awareness in view of the continuing denial of democracy in that country. The overall goals is to assist those who are working in the country to bring about conditions of democracy, human rights and the rule of law such that Belarus can in due course take its place within the Council of Europe.

    9. NGO-Towns Grouping

    The NGO-Towns Grouping met twice, on 24 January 2008 and 24 June 2008.

    A group blog – http://ongvilles.unblog.fr – was set up at the beginning of the year to provide regular information and permanent contacts between sessions.

    The work programme begun in 2007 on substandard housing was continued in 2008 with the launch of a questionnaire on perception of substandard housing in member states (with some twenty replies by the end of October 2008) and an experimental study on test sites.

    The grouping regularly attended Council of Europe events to present its papers and put the INGOs’ point of view. Events attended include:

        § The Congress’s Committee on Sustainable Development;
        § The European Conference on ‘Improving governance at local level: tools and strategy’ (Piešťany,17-18 April 2008);
        § The European Conference of Ministers responsible for Regional Planning (Saint Petersburg, 26 June 2008) on the future of metropolises, and, on 13 October 2008 in Erevan, the conference on regional development and human values.

    Other subjects discussed during meetings principally concerned:

        § The European Urban Charter
        § The Landscape Charter
        § The participative approach
        § Sustainable urban development and Agenda 21

    It will be up to the new Sustainable Territorial Development Committee of the Conference of INGOs to continue the discussion on these themes.

    10. North-South Dialogue and Solidarity Grouping

    In January 2008, Denis Huber, the Executive Director of the Lisbon North-South Centre, attended the grouping’s meeting in order to consult the INGOs present and to present the work that the Centre was planning for the next three years. The grouping participated in the work of the North-South Centre at the end of March 2008 and in meetings in Tangier (late April) on the subjects of migration and intercultural dialogue.

    Gérard Greneron, Vice-Chair of the Conference of INGOs, described the action taken following the round table organised by the Conference as part of the programme ‘Building a Europe for and with children’.

    Gwendoline Richez reported on the Regional European Meeting on the World Programme for Human Rights Education.

    February saw the presentation of the findings of a survey on parenthood and social exclusion conducted by our grouping among professionals in Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Poland.

    In early May, Gabriel Nissim attended the 65th meeting of the European Committee on Migration (CDMG) in order to prepare for the 8th Conference of Ministers responsible for Migration Affairs (Kyiv, September 2008). He presented this work at the grouping’s meeting in June. The President of the grouping represented the Conference of INGOs at the Ministerial Conference itself and made a statement on nationality issues.

    The same June meeting saw a showing of The different faces of emigration - men, women and children arriving on the shores of Sicily, a film directed by Ilia Mazzone (from COPPEM - the Standing Committee of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership of the Local and Regional Authorities).

    The President described the ten days of hard work with the autonomous government of Andalusia and INGOs: reception of unaccompanied migrant minors; introduction of legislation to protect women who had suffered violence; care and treatment of drug addicts; and care of the physically and mentally handicapped.

    Analia Glogowski, who attended the Citizens’ Agora on Climate Change in Brussels on behalf of the grouping, gave us an excellent report on it, together with a summary of the repercussions of these climate changes for migration.

      II. adopted texts

    The Conference of INGOs and its various structures adopted a number of texts on topical issues:

    Resolution on the deteriorating Human Rights situation in Belarus adopted by the Conference of INGOs on 22 January 2008
    Resolution on Human Rights defenders working for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and Transgender persons adopted by the Human Rights Grouping on 23 January 2008
    Recommendation on the situation of three leaders of Serbia’s Independent Police Trade Union adopted by the Human Rights Grouping on 23 January 2008
    Memorandum on partnership between local and regional authorities and NGOs in Council member States adopted by the Conference of INGOs on 15 April 2008
    Motion on the food crisis and world hunger adopted by the Conference of INGOs on 15 April 2008
    Resolution on Voluntary Action adopted by the Conference of INGOs on 25 June 2008
    Recommendation to Council of Europe member states on the adoption of the Guiding Principles on “Extreme poverty and human rights: the rights of the poor” by the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted by the Conference of INGOs on 25 June 2008
    Recommendation to UNMIK and other international actors adopted by the Liaison Committee on 23 June 2008
    Declaration on the Proposed Convention to combat violence against women adopted by the Standing Committee on 3 October 2008

    The texts adopted by the Conference of INGOs can be consulted on the Internet site : www.coe.int/ngo