Document VII (in English only) prepared by the Chair of the Civil Society and Democracy Committee
Preparatory documents for the Civil Society and Democracy Committee
Spring session, April 2009
Strasbourg, 3rd of April
Proposed platforms for the Civil Society and Democracy Committee
IDENTIFICATION OF POTENTIAL PLATFORMS OF COOPERATION
<COUNCIL of EUROPE:
In the frame of the Council of Europe there is the Strategy on Innovation and Good Governance Reform that is a practical instrument which can be use to generate synergies between all stakeholders ,be they local, regional, national or European, by working together with common instruments for improving the quality of local governance according to a shared vision defined by the twelve Principles of good democratic governance.
This Strategy is steered by the Council of Europe’s Stakeholder’ Platform which comprises representatives of the Committee of Ministers, the Parliamentary Assembly, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, the CDLR1 and the Conference of INGOs.
The Platform’s objective it is to follow and give guidance to the implementation of the Strategy, to develop it in the light of experience and others connected activities.
The “Forum for the Future of Democracy” was established, by decision of the Third Summit of Council of Europe Heads of State and Government (Warsaw, May 2005) to strengthen democracy, political freedoms and citizens’ participation. It is a quadrilogue initiative, where the Conference of the INGOs has a particular decision making role.
The Citizenship Policy Unit at the European Commission’s Education and Culture DG is responsible for the Europe for Citizens programme2 and, in this specific context, take place the so-called “structured dialogue” that represent the possibility of the NGOs interested in active European citizenship of meeting regularly with the European Commission to discuss issues linked with the implementation of the programme or other topical issues.
The dialogue, that focuses on methodological issues regarding citizens’ participation or transversal and political issues of relevance to active European citizenship, it entailes regular meetings between the Commission and approximately 50 key European NGOs actively involved in the programme, which feed into a broader annual event: the Europe for Citizens Forum.
All this process strengthens the efficiency of the programme activities creating appropriate synergies and it also helps the Commission to better adapt the programme to the needs of its civil society partners.
<EUROPEAN SOCIAL PLATFORM:
The Social Platform is the coalition of about 40 representative European NGOs, active in the social sector, established in 1995 and rose to promote social justice and participatory democracy. Its objectives are to strengthen the NGO sector; to reinforce participatory democracy by supporting a process of dialogue between NGOs and a more transparent EU and to shape a “social Europe”. The Platform acts as a vehicle for its member organisations to express their shared values and it moulds these into a single but strong voice. The Social Platform’s policy work is led primarily by its thematic Working Groups that are mainly on Social Policy, on Fundamental Rights and Non-Discrimination and on Social Services of General Interests.
The members, which are divided in “full members” and “associate members”, represent organisations, associations and voluntary groups at local, regional, national and European level representing the interest of a wide range of civil society. They insist that NGOs have a key role to play in promoting an equitable society based on the protection and promotion of human rights and participation of all with the aim to become legitimate partners in the public debate on the orientation of European society.
The Social Platform is open to all networks or federations from the non-profit sector working in the social field at the European level. The application for admission as a member shall be directed to the Membership Accreditation Committee, it shall be in the form and be accompanied by documents and data detailed in the statutes. The Membership Accreditation Committee shall review the application and make a recommendation to the Management Committee but is the General Assembly which shall decide wheter or not to admit the application as a member.
< STRUCTURED CIVIL DIALOGUE:
The European Parliament on 13 January 2009 adopted, by a large majority, a report calling for a “structured civil dialogue” between the EU institutions and civil society. This report by Polish MEP Genowefa Grabowska (PES), is seen as a step forward in eliminating the gap between the EU and the European citizens. The report aims to establish new inter-institutional agreements and improve methods for organising the consultation process and the funding of civil society, provided that the Lisbon Treaty enters into force in 2010.
Among the key points of the report there is the intent to create a common platform for cooperation between the Parliament and the Commission for a closer and better interinstitutional cooperation on consultations with civil society.
< UNITED NATIONS SYSTEM:
The Article 71 of the UN Charter opened the door providing for suitable arrangements for consultation with NGOs. The consultative relationship with ECOSOC today is governed by ECOSOC resolution 1996/313. Consultive status is granted by ECOSOC upon recommendation of the ECOSOC Committee on NGOs, which is comprised of 19 Member States. The Consultive relationship may be established with international, regional, sub-regional and national non-governmental, non-profit public or voluntary organizations that must have been in existence for at least two years, that must have an established headquarters, a democratically adopted constitution, the authority to speak for its members, a representative structure, appropriate mechanisms of accountability, democratic and transparenent decision-making processes. Besides the basic resources of the organization must be derived, in the main part, from contribution of the national affiliates or other components or from individual members since the organizations established by governments or intergovernmental agreements are not considered NGOs. There are three categories of status: general consultive status, Special consultive status, Roster status4.
NGOs that express their wish to attend the relevant international conferences convened by the UN and the meetings of the preparatory bodies shall be accredited for participation, the other NGOs wishing to be accredited may apply to the secretariat of the conference for this purpose.
The integrated Civil Society Organizations (iCSO) System, developed by the DESA5 facilitates interactions between civil society organizations and DESA and the system provides online registration of general profiles for civil society organizations facilitating the application procedure for consultive status with the ECOSOC. Registered NGOs can login and update their contacts and activities.
UN-HABITAT has long campaigned for closer relationships with civil society, parliamentarians, and the private sector around the world and with in the United Nations system.
Accreditation is granted on request to any organization registered with the United Nations Economic and Social Council, which oversees the various UN agencies. Those accredited to the Istanbul conference and the Istanbul + 5 General Assembly conference in New York can also renew their accreditation to attend the sessions held every two years of the UN-HABITAT Governing Council.
UN-HABITAT’s Policy Statement on partnership with NGOs and Civil Society Organizations (March 2003).
1 CDLR, European Committee on Local and Regional Democracy.
2 The Europe for Citizens programme seeks to encourage citizens to become acitvely involved in the process of European integration; to allow citizens to develop a sense of European identity; to enhance mutual understanding between European citizens.
3 ECOSOC resolution 1996/31: outlines the eligibility requirements for consultative status, rights and obbligations in this status, procedures for the withdrawal or suspension of consultive status, the role and the functions of the ECOSOC Committee of NGOs and the responsabilities of the UN Secretariat in supporting the consultive relationship.
4 =General consultative status: reserved for large international NGOs whose area of work covers most of the issues on the agenda of ECOSOC and its subsidiary bodies (tend to be fairly large, established international NGOs with a broad geographical reach).
=Special consultative status: granted to NGOs which have a special competence in, and are concerned specifically with, only a few of the fields of activity covered by the ECOSOC (tend to be smaller and more recently established).
=Roster status: organizations that apply for consultative status but do not fit in any of the other categoriesare (tend to have a rather narrow and/or technical focus). NGOs that have formal status with other UN bodies or specialized agencies (FAO, ILO, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, WHO and others), can be included on the ECOSOC Roster.
5 DESA: Department of Economic and Social Affairs