CIVIL SOCIETY AND DEMOCRACY COMMITTEE
Strasbourg, 11 May 2011
FOR THE ATTENTION OF THE MEMBERS OF THE CIVIL SOCIETY AND DEMOCRACY COMMITTEE
The Civil Society and Democracy Committee, meeting in Strasbourg on 25 January 2011, with the Vice-Chair, Mr Filiz, in the chair in the absence of the Chair of the Committee, Mrs Valmorbida:
1. Adopted the agenda unanimously.
3. Mr Filiz passed on greetings from the Chair of the Committee, who was detained in another very important meeting.
4. Information on the situation in Belarus
The situation was still very difficult for civil society and the government was very inflexible. Reactions to the situation, including those of the Council of Europe, had not been strong enough, and the international community should introduce sanctions.
Co-operation between the Council of Europe and the Belarusian people was very important and the Eastern Partnership had a crucial role to play in this. Belarus’s civil society wished to step up its co-operation with other countries. Its NGOs had launched a process of strengthening civil society in Belarus, setting up a national forum made up of about 80 NGOs, which was part of the Eastern Partnership system. External support was needed for this process. European funding mechanisms could support civil society, which was too vulnerable in Belarus. The Council of Europe and the European Union should also identify other ways of supporting Belarus’s civil society.
5. Yuliya Kochneva: Presentation of the proposal for an International Forum for Democracy in Strasbourg
The 6th Summer University for Democracy, on the theme “Ethics and Politics” was to be held by the Council of Europe for its Network of Schools of Political Studies from 27 to 29 June 2011 and would be followed this year by the International Colloquy. In terms of the subjects they addressed and the target audiences they were aimed at, these two events complemented and prefigured the International Forum for Democracy, whose first session was to be held in Strasbourg in 2012. The Forum was destined to become an annual highlight on the international calendar of events concerning challenges and changes to democracy in Europe, on the same footing as the World Economic Forum in Davos or the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre. A number of the associated activities would involve the Council of Europe network of INGOs along with local associations.
6. The Code of good practice for civil participation in the decision-making process
Jane Crozier gave un update on the promotion and implementation of the Code of Good Practice. She recalled that the Conference of INGOs had adopted a strategy for the promotion and implementation of the Code at its meeting in October 2009 and the timeframe has been extended until end 2011. An expert group had been created to implement the strategy. Several activities had been implemented since the last committee meeting in October:
- a side-event on the Code had been held during the meeting of the Forum for the Future of Democracy in Yerevan for which a CD Rom had been produced with relevant documents including the Code of Good Practice;
- an information stand had been organised during the Session of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities to identify Congress members interested in the Code and in giving follow-up;
- a meeting was held in Brussels at the beginning of December with NGOs and NGO networks who could become strategic partners for the implementation of the Code. Some 12 NGOs participated in the meeting and showed interest in working with the Code. The list of strategic partners would be published on the INGO website;
- the Code had been translated into 16 languages which were available on the INGO website;
- a brochure had been produced in English and French and was also available on the website;
- initial steps had been taken with regard to collating cases of best practice. A template had been drafted and would be sent out to strategic partners and to NGOs who participated in the regional meetings during the drafting of the Code. A compilation of best practices would be published on the website in due course.
Professor Ermanno Bocchini of Lions Club International presented the project entitled the Charter of Humanitarian Citizenship, whose aim was to establish a new forum for active citizenship.
7. Discussion of the future name of the Committee: (Living together)
- Christoph Spreng said that it was a nice title but was it the right one? Should it be modelled on the Council’s three priorities. Perhaps it could be “Living together in a democracy”.
- The Representative of the European Association of Railwaymen said that it did not sound right and was not catchy enough for media purposes. He preferred “Citizenship and Development”, which was more all-embracing.
- Victor Kamyshanov said that we could talk for a long time about the title, as on previous occasions, but why did we not just give numbers to our committees, calling them Committees Nos. 1, 2 and 3 like the UN, and then everyone would know what we were talking about?
- The representative of the International Alliance of Women said that the two documents submitted today said different things. “Living together” was not a proper title.
- Why not “Living together in Dignity”?
- Why not “Citizens in a Democracy” or “Living in a Democracy”?
- We should begin by setting priorities, then choose a title. Perhaps “Democracy and Citizenship”?
- François Becker: “Sustainable development – social cohesion – citizenship”
- Several people said that it was essential to keep the words “civil society” in the title.
- YEN: Social cohesion – migration – youth participation
- “Civil Society Cohesion”
- “Citizen-based society”, as democracy had been appropriated by politicians
- It should not be forgotten that we were in a period of reform and the aim should always be to work more efficiently.
- Veysel Filiz said that the reform, which seemed initially to be a negative thing, was becoming positive because it provided a real opportunity for revitalisation. We did not always adopt the best methods. Our dialogue with other bodies was ineffective and we were not influencing the decision-making process enough. Committees’ titles had to help to improve their image. This reform was an opportunity to question our own approach, which we should grasp and use to consolidate our position.
- We should not bow to the bad faith of those who wished to silence us!
- We should step up our work with parliamentarians.
- Why not speak on behalf of the Conference to the members of the Parliamentary Assembly or meet representatives of the Committee of Ministers once a year?