CIVIL SOCIETY AND DEMOCRACY COMMITTEE
Strasbourg, 16 February 2009
1. Adoption of the agenda
2. Adoption synopsis of the meeting held on 3 October 2008 [CONF/CIV(2008)SYN1]
3. Introduction : The Chair confirmed that the first objective was to involve the participants of the Committee and to measure the impact of our work in the Council of Europe institutions and in other international fora. It was necessary to identify in which platforms we needed to be present. Another objective was to make the Conference of INGOs known by more people. The work of the Committee would also be strongly influenced by the new Presidency of the INGO Conference that would be elected the next day. The Vice-Chair informed the participants that the Chair had used these first months to get familiar with the INGO documents. The idea was to focus on the consultation of citizens and to work with a democratic method.
4. Visits of the Chair and Vice-Chair of the Committee to different countries to meet INGOs, which are members of the Civil Society and Democracy Committee
The Committee approved the proposal of the Chair to organise regional meetings in 2008 in order to meet and hear suggestions from the INGOs, since some of them were unable to attend the regular meetings in Strasbourg. The travel costs might be at the cost of the Committee and the hosting INGO could co-fund the activity, for example by providing a meeting room. The meetings could identify topics like methodology of consultation, presentation of INGO Conference documents and visibility of the Conference.
-> The proposal would be circulated among the Committee members and a decision would be taken in the next few weeks.
5. Report on the regional consultation meetings on the draft Code of good practice on civil participation (Stockholm, Penza, Istanbul)
The Chair reported on her participation in the meetings in Stockholm and Istanbul, while the Vice-Chair reported on his participation in Penza.
The events in Sweden and Turkey put in evidence the important role that would be played by the Code in the future for NGOs. It was a real challenge since it was proposing a common basis of participation for NGOs in Europe. The document was missing a political introductory part that should be completed in the next phase of the consultation of the Code.
The Vice-Chair attended the meeting in Penza. It had been a great opportunity to meet a lot of people and exchange information. Dialogue with civil society was something which was becoming more and more concrete. The Conference of INGOs had more influence.
-> The Chair said she would send Committee members information about the events attended and a further reminder about a possible consultation and suggestions regarding the Code.
6. Possibilities for participation in the European Local Democracy Week (ELDW)
The Chair presented briefly the ELDW and the possibilities to be involved.
Mr Jos Lemmers, Head of the Department for Democratic Participation, explained the objectives of the ELDW. It was launched by the Congress and every year would involve more and more cities and regions. It always took place in October to celebrate the date of the opening for signatures of the Charter on Local Self Government. The objectives were to raise awareness of local councillors on local democracy and to remind citizens of the European context in which they lived. The Secretariat was working to improve the visibility of the week, especially through nominating several pilot cities. The Secretariat hoped that next year there would be active involvement of NGOs at local level in participating towns.
- > The Committee agreed to be included in the drafting process of the European Week of Local Democracy for 2009, to disseminate the information among the members of the Committee and the Conference itself and to be mentioned as such in all the documents referring to the ELDW.
7. Support to civil society in Belarus: possibilities for action
The Chair invited proposals from the floor for possible action in Belarus.
Cyril Ritchie informed the Committee that the Council of Europe gave its support to a “civil society communication platform for Belarus” which was intended to support civil society in Belarus since Belarus was still not member of the Council of Europe. There were regular meetings of Belarusian civil society which usually took place in Lithuania. Several members of the Committee reported on their activities in Belarus. The Conference of INGOs regularly invited Belarusian civil society representatives to its sessions in Strasbourg.
-> The Committee agreed to present a statement supporting NGOs in Belarus for their efforts in supporting democracy and to propose a possible study day organised by the Conference of INGOs, if possible in Belarus.
8. Contribution to the implementation of the 3-year framework co-operation programme on “Strengthening Civil Society and Civic Participation in the Russian Federation”
Cyril Ritchie presented the three-year programme “Strengthening Civil Society and Civic Participation in the Russian Federation” which the Conference of INGOs prepared with Russian partners. Ms Gützkow added that the framework programme addressed the following issues:
- Strengthening civil society
- Improving dialogue and co-operation between civil society and public authorities
- NGO legislation and its implementation, application of Recommendation (2007)14 on the legal status of NGOs
- Partnerships between NGOs and business
- NGO action in selected policy fields
o human rights
o democracy and civil society
o culture and education
o social cohesion
o equality between women and men
A list of concrete activities was drawn up each year in co-operation with Russan NGOs.
- > The Committee confirmed its interest in being involved in the activities of the above mentioned framework programme.
9. Identification of resource persons among the Committee members with a view to attending and contributing to events
- > The Committee approved the idea of creating a database of its members divided into competences and skills with a view to members becoming involved and engaged in activities and platforms of cooperation. A request would be sent out in the next weeks. It would be supplemented by the database containing information on the fields of activity of the 400 INGOs enjoying participatory status (link to the database)
10. Coordination and communication
- > The Chair and Vice-Chair would regularly inform Committee members on their participation in events and on the activities of the Civil Society and Democracy Committee in the framework of the activities of the Council of Europe.
11. Strategy and action plan for the next three years
The action plan for the next three years would be drafted after hearing the suggestions of the new Presidency of the Conference of INGOs and would be presented to the Committee at the April meeting.
12. Any other business
Anje Wiersinga, International Alliance of Women, referred to the Recommendation to UNMIK and other international actors concerning the involvement of women in shaping the future of Kosovo which was adopted by the former Liaison Committee of the Conference of INGOs on 23 June 2008, and requested that the Committee promote its implementation.
- > The Chair supported this request and proposed to invite women’s NGOs from Kosovo to attend one of the next meetings of the Committee and to issue a statement of support to them.
Cc: President of the Conference of INGOs
Members of the Standing Committee
Secretary General of the Parliamentary Assembly
Secretary General of the Congress
Secretary to the Committee of Ministers
Director of the Private Office of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe
Director of External Relations
Director of Strategic planning
Director of Communication
Director of the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights