CONF/2012/RAPACT

2012 Activity Report

of the Conference of INGOs

http://www.coe.int/ONG

CONTENTS

The Conference of INGOs

1. Introduction 3
2. Priorities of the Conference of INGOS and relations with the
quadrilogue 3
3. Activities and structures of the Conference 4
4. Plans for 2013 6
5. Conclusion 7

II. INGO-Service 8

III. The theme-based committees and the Gender Equality Expert

1. The Human Rights Committee 9
2. The Education and Culture Committee 10
3. The Democracy, Social Cohesion and Global Challenges Committee 12
4. The Gender Equality Expert 15

IV. Adopted texts 18

1. Introduction
The capacity of the Conference of INGOs to mobilise Europe’s key players and react to diverse situations depends primarily on the willingness and commitment of the member NGOs and has an impact on the ground as soon as the management team – the Bureau and the Standing Committee – translates it into action.

In this context, one of the major developments of 2012 on the statutory front was the renewal of the President and the members of the Bureau as well as the Gender Equality Expert. The January session saw the election of:

· the President, Jean-Marie Heydt;
· the three Vice-Presidents, Antonina Dashkina, Sophie Dimitroulias and Alain Mouchoux;
· the four Rapporteurs, Veysel Filiz, Alain Koskas, Taras Poljanec and Maritchu Rall;
· the Gender Equality Expert: Betty Doornenbal

After his re-election, the President reiterated his desire to enhance the credibility of the Conference and its place within the quadrilogue as the spearhead of civil society. In this context, it should be emphasised that he took part in a very large number of ministerial conferences during the year as well as contributing to meetings with the other pillars of the Council of Europe, namely the Committee of Ministers, the Parliamentary Assembly and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities. This presence in the highest decision-making bodies reflects the recognition that is granted to organised civil society and demonstrates that the issues it raises make it a major asset where it comes to enhancing the role of the Council of Europe and securing its place on the European and world stage.

Added to this was the election of the President of the Conference of INGOs as the Vice-President of the North-South Centre, which is also a mark of the trust and credibility afforded to organised civil society.

Furthermore, in order to improve exchanges between INGOs, an experiment was carried out with “open” questions for the first time at the January 2012 Conference and specific persons were appointed to take charge of priority work areas.

2. Priorities of the Conference of INGOS and relations with the quadrilogue

A. Setting up instruments

The President has regularly underlined his commitment to full dialogue pursuing two aims:
· a culture of participation to counter intolerance, xenophobia and extremism;
· the assertion of the values that form the cornerstone of democracy, namely human rights and the rule of law.

The Conference’s priorities related to the means of setting up easily accessible instruments to foster intercultural dialogue in order to improve the practice of “better living together”. The aim is to think about original blueprints for societies that would accommodate each person's specific characteristics while being built on absolute respect for fundamental rights and the rule of law, as advocated by the Group of Eminent Persons of the Council of Europe. As a result the following instruments have been or are being set up:

a. the Code of Good Practice for Civil Participation in the Decision-Making Process

b. The Dialogue Toolkit

B. Participation in intergovernmental committees

As a result of the reform of the Council of Europe, the number of committees has been reduced and their terms of reference have been revised. Moreover, only one representative of the Conference per meeting may now claim reimbursement for travel and subsistence expenses. Participation by INGOs in Steering Committees is essential and is a reflection of the role of organised civil society.

C. Future of the European Court of Human Rights

Since 2009, the NGOs have been asked to discuss and compare their ideas and make a contribution to the essential debate on the reform of the European Court of Human Rights and hence of democracy in Europe. The Conference of INGOs calls on the states to ensure that the Court can retain a human and social dimension so that it remains accessible to all individuals (see the President’s speech in Brighton, 18-20 April 2012).

3. Activities and structures of the Conference

The activities of the Conference of INGOs, its Bureau and its Standing Committee focused on themes linked to the work of the Quadrilogue.

A. The Expert Council on NGO Law

The Expert Council was set up in 2008 and its terms of reference were renewed by the Conference in 2012. The plenary Conference also confirmed Cyril Ritchie as the President of the Expert Council and reaffirmed its role as a major body of the Conference, which contributes to the promotion of the full range of the Council of Europe’s fundamental values. The “new” Expert Council has up to fifteen members and the first nine appointments were approved by the Standing Committee (see list and personal notices on the website). The first meeting of the new Council was held in December 2012, when it prepared its work programme for 2013 and 2014. The Expert Council will extend and flesh out its network of contacts and consultations with other Council of Europe bodies and with outside institutions involved in consolidating NGO law. In particular, the Expert Council had its first experience of organising a joint seminar, which it held in co-operation with the Venice Commission on the subject of freedom of association in Azerbaijan.

B. The first World Forum for Democracy on the theme “Bridging the gap - Democracy: between old models and new realities”

The first World Forum for Democracy was a major event, which involved all the Council of Europe’s bodies and was attended by nearly 1 500 officials from 120 countries spread over five continents and a large media contingent.

The INGO Conference’s participation in the Forum took two forms:

C. The Conference on “Building Europe through Human Rights: Acting Together against Extreme Poverty”

The conference held on the occasion of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, on 17 October was marked by a joint declaration on “Acting together to eradicate extreme poverty in Europe”, signed by the four pillars of the Council of Europe. The adoption of this declaration should result in an action plan for 2014-2023. A large Russian delegation representing several regions took part in the work, along with people living in poverty. Three panel discussions were held on the following themes:

D. Strategy of the Conference of INGOs in the countries of the southern and eastern shores of the Mediterranean

Many INGOs are engaged in activities in several countries in the Mediterranean basin and the two main focuses of this work are young people and the place of women in society, and the two main goals are organisation and co-ordination so as to raise the profile of the action through appropriate responses. The President appealed to the NGOs already present in any of these countries to make their work known to Alain Koskas or Sophie Dimitroulias. In 2013, it is planned to give the Conference’s work in the civil societies of these countries a more practical dimension and this can also be facilitated through efficient co-operation with the North-South Centre in Lisbon.

E. Adjustment of the Rules of Procedure of the Conference of INGOs to the new context

At the end of the transition period following the reform, the Conference’s Rules of Procedure were adjusted in line with the new context. The text was reworked by the Verification and Dispute Committee, working with the Standing Committee. The proposed amendments were sent by the Standing Committee to all the INGOs. The new Rules of Procedure will be submitted to the Conference for adoption at its meeting in January 2013.

F. Creation of a working group on the revision of participatory status

The Conference of INGOs wishes to be involved in the revision of Resolution (2003)8 on the participatory status for INGOs with the Council of Europe and has set up a working group chaired by Daniel Zielinski, which has been charged with making practical proposals on granting and withdrawing participatory status, as stipulated in the resolution.

G. Communication

A communication tool presenting the Conference’s structures and activities was drawn up and distributed on the occasion of the World Forum for Democracy. This brochure is a means of promoting and providing information about NGOs, designed both for internal use and external partners. This document is available on the INGO website.

There were also many exchanges of views with the Presidents, Chairs and committees of the Council of Europe’s other pillars, the Parliamentary Assembly, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, the Secretariat and the heads of the operational directorates, at the INGO Conferences in January and June 2012. The statements by the various personalities who attended aroused considerable interest and were universally appreciated.

H. UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in New York in March

Renée Gérard and Anje Wiersinga represented the interest of the Conference of INGOs and promoted the Council of Europe values during the 56th Session of the Unted Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW 56th) as decided by the Conference of INGOs in January 2012.

4. Plans for 2013

Certain projects are already being discussed or prepared:

5. Conclusion

The Conference of INGOs is concerned about the economic and social crisis and aware that an effort has to be made to address the crisis of confidence this has prompted in society. Its determined response to this is shaped by a desire not only to act as a social shock absorber and the spokesperson for a diverse range of opinions but also to contribute to a wide-ranging constructive dialogue, particularly in the two key areas of human rights and the rule of law on the one hand and democracy and governance on the other. It hopes that this will lead to the emergence of a favourable environment for participation resulting in turn in greater social cohesion in the context of the new synergies developed with the quadrilogue.

The activities of the Conference of INGOs and its subordinate bodies have been made possible thanks to the steadfast and efficient support of the Civil Society Division team.

Rapporteur: Maritchu Rall, Bureau member

II. INGO-SERVICE

To date 120 INGOs have paid their subscriptions to INGO-Service. INGO-Service’s aim is to promote the functioning of the Conference of INGOs holding participatory status with the Council of Europe and its structures. The Chair of the association has appealed to all the INGOs to pay subscriptions, thus increasing the membership and reflecting the vitality of the Conference and the solidarity between INGOs.

The Chair drew attention to the following points:

It should be pointed out that the Council of Europe reimburses the expenses of representatives of the Conference of INGOs attending intergovernmental committee meetings, ministerial conferences and other specific events in accordance with a budget established at the beginning of the year.

Rapporteur: Maritchu Rall, Vice-Chair of INGO-Service

III. THE THEME-BASED COMMITTEES AND THE GENDER EQUALITY EXPERT

1. The Human Rights Committee
(Chair: Annelise Oeschger, Vice-Chairs: Gérard Greneron and Marie-José Schmitt, Rapporteur: Maritchu Rall)

A. Reform of the European Court of Human Rights

In preparation for the Brighton Conference, the Committee prepared a recommendation and a position paper of the Conference of INGOs, in which it opposed any measures restricting the right of individual application or limiting the Court’s independence, and it is now closely monitoring the application of the Brighton Declaration.

B. The Conference on “Building Europe through Human Rights: Acting Together against Extreme Poverty”

On 17 October, on the occasion of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, this Conference, held at the Council of Europe and conducted in English, French and Russian, was attended by about 200 people. The working group on “Extreme Poverty and Human Rights” did most of the preparation work. Contributions from people who have experienced poverty first hand helped the participants to gain a better understanding and identify possible courses of action, particularly in the areas of community-based and political participation, the right to health for all and violence to poor people, which called for peaceful solutions to be sought. The Chair of the Committee of Ministers and the Presidents of the Parliamentary Assembly, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities and the Conference of INGOs signed a joint declaration entitled “Acting together to eradicate extreme poverty in Europe”, reiterating states’ obligations and commitments in this area.

C. Work on themes forming the basis of recommendations adopted by the Conference of INGOs at its January and June sessions

D. Hearing by the Governmental Committee of the European Social Charter

Plea for the ratification of the Additional Protocol providing for a system of collective complaints and questions concerning the practice of placing of children in often brutal conditions because of the consequences of poverty and a lack of support for parents (Article 7, 16 and 17). The hearing was prepared by the “European Social Charter” working group.

E. Follow-up to work with the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities for the implementation of human rights at local level

The working group on “Human rights and religion” completed its work with a report and a draft recommendation, which will be dealt with by the Committee in 2013.

Rapporteur: Annelise Oeschger, Chair

2. The Education and Culture Committee

Chair: Sabine Rohmann, Vice-Chairs: Harry Rogge and Yosanne Vella, Rapporteur: Roseline Moreau.

A. The working groups

The working groups made progress in line with their objectives:

a. History teaching

The themes will continue to be centred on both formal education (for young people in school and older students) and non-formal education (adult education, tourism, the media, etc.).

b. Access to the digital media

This group makes an inventory of the work already carried out at the Council of Europe and in other international institutions (such as the EU and the United Nations). Its adopted themes are:

c. The teaching profession in the 21st century

This group is currently drawing up a questionnaire on teaching practices. The questionnaire is intended to provide the framework for an interview with teachers in all the Council of Europe member states.

The results of these interviews should reveal what teachers’ new in-service training needs are, as paradigms shift in the education world.

The work will lead to the production of a tool designed to assist teachers in their efforts to acquire training in line with a new culture of education and learning.

The group has been working in close co-operation with the Pestalozzi Programme and this work will lead to a joint production of some kind.

d. Education 21

The group launched a process of reflection entitled “How to educate learners, whether adults or young people, and prepare them to cope with the challenges they face?” These challenges relate both to their access to the European labour market and to their active involvement in the community and civic life in a European context.

The current focus is the issue of how to pinpoint modern forms of governance in the education field. The question is whether it is possible to implement systems of shared responsibility between learners, their families, education establishments, local, regional and national elected representatives, business people and civil society representatives.

e. Living together

With the support of the speakers, the group discussed the impact of intercultural dialogue, living together and the toolkit on dialogue. This was preparatory work for the close co-operation with the CDCPP on the theme “Living together in multicultural societies – access to participation and culture”, which will begin in January 2013.

B. Other activities

Preparation of the working group’s report on the religious dimension of intercultural dialogue is in its final phase.

On 26 June 2012, the Committee heard the Vice-President of the European Federation of Centres of Research and Information on Sectarianism, who presented her work on the problem of infiltration by sects into the education system, which is a topical issue considered by the Council of Europe and the United Nations to be extremely important.

C. The Steering Committee for Education Policy and Practice (CDPPE)

The Conference of INGOS is represented on the Steering Committee for Education Policy and Practice (CDPPE) and its Bureau by the Chair of the Education and Culture Committee.

D. Participation in meetings:

- CDPPE meeting, March 2012 – at this meeting Gabriel Nissim spoke about digital media and human rights;
- CDPPE meeting, July 2012;
- 6th Prague Forum, organised by the Czech Ministry of Education on the theme “Governance and quality education”. The forum worked in workshops on the following topics:

- the Bureau meeting in November.

World Forum for Democracy
The Committee was represented by its Vice-Chair, Harry Rogge.

High-level Conference in Tirana, November
The closing conference of the Albanian Chairmanship and the handover to the Andorran Chairmanship centred on the theme of diversity in Europe. The Committee was represented by its Chair.

MEET – Launch of a European citizens’ initiative for a quality European education for all
The Committee was represented by means of a written message from its Chair, Sabine Rohmann.

2012 EDC/HRE Conference - Human Rights and Democracy in Action - Looking Ahead
The Committee was represented by Roseline Moreau.

Rapporteur: Sabine Rohmann, Chair

3. The Democracy, Social Cohesion and Global Challenges Committee
Chair: Anne-Marie Chavanon, Vice-Chairs: Vera John-Mikolajewski and Israël Mensah, Rapporteur: Edith Wenger

A. The Committee’s work

In 2012, the Committee focused on four of its founding themes: social cohesion, democracy, sustainable development and global challenges.

a. Social cohesion

In January, the new Committee’s work began with a round table on the theme: "How should we construct social cohesion in Europe? New tools ", attended by representatives of the quadrilogue (Gilda Farrell, Head of the Social Cohesion, Research and Early Warning Division, Bernard Marquet, Vice-Chair of the Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly, Andrée Buchmann, member of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, Marinette Gonon, President of the association “Les 7 pains” and Yawo Abotsi, Secretary General of the association “Co-habiter” (“Living together”) for the NGOs).

The main focus of debate was the Committee’s support for the draft European Charter on Shared Social Responsibilities being prepared by the Council of Europe’s Social Cohesion Division.

b. Democracy

c. Sustainable development and global challenges

d. Activities of the Committee’s other working groups in 2012

e. Other persons participating on behalf of the Committee and/or the Conference of INGOs

Rapporteur: Anne-Marie Chavanon, Chair

4. The Gender Equality Expert
Betty Doornenbal

A. Introduction

January 2012: elected as Gender Equality Expert to the Standing Committee of the INGO Conference of the Council of Europe for a period of 3 years. The position is a voluntary one, which I will fulfil in addition to my other employment. This report summarises my activities in 2012.

B. Activities

February: Took part in a conference held by Gender Concerns International (GCI), the Hague, the Netherlands. Subject: One year on; the Arab Spring, Gender Agenda 2012 (www.genderconcerns.org).

Summary of my statement:

One example of my contribution: our resolution [CONF/PLEN(2012)RES2] and recommendation [CONF/PLEN(2012)REC4] "Gender perspectives in political and democratic processes in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Region" were adopted by the INGO Conference at the Council of Europe, January 2012. Thank you to all the INGOs who supported these texts.

For more information, please read the report prepared by Anje Wiersinga.

March:
Guest speaker at the House of Europe, an event organised by the Dutch Institute of Political Education in the Hague: PowerPoint presentation on the Council of Europe and my work as Gender Equality Expert.

Prepared for the April Standing Committee meetings and drafted the proposal for the establishment of a new working group (see April).

April:
Prepared for and attended the meetings of the Standing Committee of the INGO Conference of the Council of Europe, Strasbourg.

Prepared for and attended the meetings on combating violence against women, domestic violence and trafficking in human beings held by the Human Rights Committee of the INGO Conference.

Member of the Steering Committee of the Euro-Med Network for the empowerment of women of the North-South Centre of the Council of Europe, Strasbourg (first meeting)

Discussed the role and working methods of the Network and decided on the subject for our Conference in Istanbul, Turkey, November 2012 – Subject: "The Political and Socio-economic Empowerment of Women based on Women's Stories" (www.nswomennetwork.org)

May: Meeting of the permanent representatives of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg – Subject: Co-operation between the four pillars of the Council of Europe.

Joined the INGO delegation.
Met the Gender Equality Expert of the 3rd pillar (Congress of Local and Regional Authorities).

June

6-8 June: Participant in the meeting of the Gender Equality Commission (GEC) of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, Strasbourg (first meeting). General goal of the GEC: to advise the Committee of Ministers on a Council of Europe Strategy on Gender Equality (2014-2017).

Stressed the importance of implementing treaties and policies through work with INGOs, establishing sustainable gender equality by focusing on constructing "automatic mechanisms" in treaties and laws etc. and ratifying the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence. The convention has been signed by 21 countries and Turkey is the only country to have ratified it to date – on 13 September 2012.

25-28 June
Attended the meetings of the Standing Committee of the INGO Conference of the Council of Europe, Strasbourg.

The proposal of the Working Group on preventing and combating violence against women, domestic violence and trafficking in human beings was adopted.

Attended the meeting of the Human Rights Committee of the INGO Conference.
The proposal of the Working Group on preventing and combating violence against women, domestic violence and trafficking in human beings was adopted.

Attended the Freely Constituted Equality Group meeting.
Planned and carried out an effective lobbying strategy with group members (see report by Anje Wiersinga).

July:

Attended the meeting of a committee of Amsterdam City Council. Subject: drawing up new national legislation on prostitution. Main themes: Increasing the minimum age of prostitutes from 18 to 21, punishing the clients of prostitutes in illegal situations, registration of prostitutes.

September:

Writing my Midterm report January till September 2012 ‘Overview of activities of the Gender Equality Expert‘
In co-operation with the Council of Europe Secretariat, it is published on the website
Prepartion of the October meetings

October:

Attending the meetings of the Standing Committees of the Conference of INGOs, Strasbourg (6 October)

Attending the meetings of the Civil Society Debate organised by the Conference of INGOs, Strasbourg (7 October)

Link: www.coe.int/ingo/events. The following reports are available on this website:
Report of the session on ‘Inclusive democracy and human rights‘
Report of the session on ‘Building inclusive democracy through media‘
Report of the session on ‘Building inclusive democracy through women‘

Attending the meetings of the World Forum for Democracy 2012, Strasbourg

Link: www.coe.int/en/web/world-forum-democracy

November:

Representation of the Conference of INGOs to the second meeting of the Gender Equality Commission. Goal: Preparation of a strategy on Gender Equality for 2014-2017. Contribution: Stressing the importance of :

Short and excellent first ad hoc meeting with Mendes Bota, General Rapporteur on Violence against women, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Subjects:

December:

Writing this annual report
Preparing the meetings of the Standing Committee and the Conference of INGOs of January 2013.

C. General activities

The work conducted involves various activities including preparing meetings, brainstorming, discussions with colleagues, travel to Strasbourg, organising journeys and related logistical arrangements.

D. Special thanks
I would like to give special thanks to the International Alliance of Women (IAW), my colleagues in the IAW, Anje Wiersinga and Monique Bouchet, and the IAW President, Lyda Verstegen, for their support, along with the members of the Freely Constituted Equality Group, women’s organisations and civil society organisations. I am also grateful to Marion Minis, Saskia Loos, Eileen Focke and Audrey Kühler for their assistance, and to my colleagues in the Standing Committee and the Council of Europe and, lastly, to Melanie Hyde, who translated my Dutch English into proper English.

Rapporteur: Betty Doornenbal, Gender Equality Expert

IV. TEXTS ADOPTED BY THE CONFERENCE IN 2012

In 2012 the Conference of INGOs adopted several recommendations related to its main areas of activity.
· CONF/PLE(2012)REC1
Recommendation adopted on 27 January 2012 on "The Reform of the European Court of Human Rights"
· CONF/PLE(2012)REC2
Recommendation adopted on 27 January 2012 on "The protection of Human Rights Defenders in the Russian Federation"
· CONF/PLE(2012)REC3
Recommendation adopted on 27 January 2012 on "Combating discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity"
· CONF/PLE(2012)REC4
Recommendation adopted on 27 January 2012 on "Gender equality perspectives in political and democratic processes in the MENA Region (Middle East and Northern African)"
· CONF/PLE(2012)REC5
Recommendation adopted on 27 June 2012 on "Gender Equality: a universal value, principle and human right to be respected and promoted in all fields"
· CONF/PLE(2012)REC6
Recommendation adopted on 27 June 2012 on "Attacks on the right to freedom of expression of LGBT people and those who advocate for their rights"
· CONF/PLE(2012)RES1
Resolution adopted on 27 January 2012 concerning Civil Society in Belarus
· CONF/PLE(2012)RES2
Resolution adopted on 27 January 2012 on "Gender perspectives in political and democratic processes in the MENA Region (Middle East and Northern Africa)"
· CONF/PLE(2012)RES3
Resolution adopted on 27 June 2012 concerning Civil Society in Belarus
· CONF/PLE(2012)DECISION1
Decision adopted on 27 January 2012 on the Expert Council on NGO Law