SPRING SESSION
CIVIL SOCIETY AND DEMOCRACY COMMITTEE
CONF/CIV(2009)SYN2

Strasbourg, 30 April 2009

SYNOPSIS OF THE MEETING HELD ON 27 APRIL 2009

1. Adoption of the agenda and of the synopsis of the meeting held on 27 January 2009 [CONF/CIV(2009)SYN1]

2. Introduction by the Chair and the Vice-Chair
The chair presented the report of activities (document I). She made particular reference to the regional meetings on the Code of Good Practice, which were a success and she expressed her hope that the Code would be get widespread distribution and be put into practice.

3. Proposal for an action Plan
The Chair proposed the Action Plan as it appeared in document III. Firstly, she supported the Expert Council on NGO Law and invited the Committee members to share their experience with the Expert Council. They also discussed how the Code of Good Practice could be implemented and which strategies could be used to work with this code . Secondly, the Chair proposed to continue to be active in the Forum for the Future of Democracy. Thirdly, the Chair expressed her wish that members of the Committee become more involved in its work and to mobilise their know-how and experience so as to transform the role of the Conference of INGOs as the fourth pillar of the Council of Europe into a reality. Fourthly, the Chair proposed to find new methodologies for consultation and participation of citizens.
Lastly, the focus on Eastern Europe and the Belarusian society should be strengthened. Concern was expressed about the lack of visibility of the Conference and a process of evaluation of the INGO Conference and the Committee’s work was proposed.

The proposal of the Action Plan was opened for discussion. The Action Plan was approved.

4. Proposed activities linked to the European Local Democracy Week
Veysel Filiz, Vice-Chair reported on the preparatory meeting held on 15 April 2009 and document IV, which underlined the Committee’s commitment to the ELDW and urged its member to disseminate the information about the event and to participate in it with their own activities.
The next ELDW will take place from 12 to 18 October 2009 and Mr Filiz expressed the need to make thematic priorities.

Mr Chuck Hirt (Central and Eastern European Citizens Network, CEE-CN) presented his experience from Slovakia, where the Citizen Participation Week which took place three weeks before the ELDW, was successfully celebrating its fifth year .
He stated that the Committee should be involved in order to ensure the quality of the ELDW events and to lower the risk of manipulation.
The Chair emphasised two ways in which the members of the Committee could get involved in the ELDW. Firstly, via the steering committee.in charge. Secondly, information about the ELDW could be circulated and promoted within their networks.

5. Regional meetings of the Committee
The Chair presented document V which detailed what had been agreed upon during the last meeting. The proposal was to organise regional meetings of the Committee with NGOs in addition to the Committee meetings in Strasbourg, with the aim to get closer to NGOs in the field, which could not afford to come to Strasbourg.

6. Participation of the members of the Committee in Intergovernmental Steering Committees and Sub-Committees of the Council of Europe
The Chair stressed the importance of taking the opportunity to take part and be present in different topic related committees of the Council of Europe such as the Committee on Local and Regional Democracy or the Expert Committee on Good Governance.

Agenda points 7-10 were postponed.

11. Forum for the Future of Democracy, Follow-up
Mr Michael Remmert (Project Manager of the Forum) gave a progress report on the next events of the Forum for the Future of Democracy. The theme of this year’s Forum which was being hosted by Ukraine was “electoral systems” . It would take place in Kiev from 21 to 23 October 2009.
Mr Remmert informed the Committee that the 2010 Forum would take place in Armenia. The working title was “the Council of Europe consensus on the principles of democracy”. It would take stock of the results of the first 5 years of the Forum process, the acquis of the Council of Europe in democracy and would explore whether different stakeholders can agree on the major issues of democracy.

12. Action of the Committee in Belarus
The Chair presented Document VIII which confirmed the wish to support further civil society in Belarus as part of the on-going support for the general process of democratic participation of Belarusian citizens.

Comments about the document:

The participants considered the proposal interesting, but thought it would be better to know first of all the official policy of the Council of Europe towards Belarus.

Cyril Ritchie (Interphil) : presented the background. He stressed the involvement of the Conference of INGOs in supporting civil society in Belarus and its role as a platform. Mr. Ritchie reminded the Committee that the overall aim of co-operating with Belarus was the hope that it would one day become a member of the Council of Europe and complete its standards, even if this objective still seemed out of sight.

Andrej Woldomocki, representative of Belarussian civil society thanked the Committee for its interest in their country and stressed that it was of utmost importance to be aware of the situation in Belarus.

7. Update on the Code of Good Practice
Firstly, good practices on civil participation in Europe had been collected from various European regions to lay the foundations for the Code and to define the parameters of civil society and principals of civil participation. Secondly, the Code which had been approved by the Conference of INGOs needed to be adopted by the Forum for the Future on Democracy in order to have more impact.

8. Expert Council on NGO Law
Veysel Filiz, Vice-Chair stressed that the dialogue with Ossetian Georgian NGOs had to continue and thanks to the Penza Regional Congress, this was possible.

Cyril Ritchie said that the role of the Expert Council was to elaborate recommendations to make legislation match European standards. Recommendation (2007)14 on the legal status of non-governmental organisations in Europe adopted by the Committee of Ministers (10 October 2007) was of great importance as it gave the INGO a wonderful roadmap on what should be done to give NGOs the space to operate.

9. Proposed debate on how to measure the impact of the Committee on the local democracy activities of the Council of Europe
The Chair presented the bullet points of document VI. She questioned the impact of these official documents and stressed the importance of communicating the impact of the work of the Conference of INGOs to others.

10. Identification of potential co-operation platforms for the Committee
The Chair presented the Strategy on Innovation and Good Governance Reform, which aimed to be a practical instrument which could be used 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.

13. Any other business

The representative of the international Alliance of Women recalled her proposal made at the meeting in January, to invite women from Kosovo to the Committee, to give them a platform to report on problems in the decision-making process in Kosovo, especially within the UN system with regard to the involvement of women. She regretted that they could not participate and hoped that they would be able to invite them another time.

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
Directors General
Registrar of the European Court of Human Rights
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