Non-Governmental Organisations

Conference of INGOs of the Council of Europe

Speech by the President of the Conference of INGOs of the Council of Europe, Jean-Marie Heydt, Opening session, Forum for the Future of Democracy, Kyiv, 21 October 2009

Secretary General,
Your Excellencies,
Ladies and gentlemen,

You have just watched the video clip giving an idea of how NGOs see civil participation. This is particularly important at a time when constant reference is being made to people’s desire to become genuinely involved in the democratic process.
The Code of Good Practice for Civil Participation in the Decision-Making Process, which I should like briefly to present, should not be confused:

    either with a legislative text that would be binding on the stakeholders;
    or with a list of good intentions stemming from a hastily convened NGO meeting.

The origins of the Code of Good Practice for Civil Participation lie in a previous Forum for the Future of Democracy – held in Sigtuna (Sweden) in 2007 – at which the participants in the quadrilogue asked us to draw up a text in this area. I would take this opportunity to extend the warmest thanks to the NGO team which put so much effort into the task.

As you are aware, the Conference of INGOs’ constant aim is to pass on the know-how and skills of our pan-European network of NGOs to decision-makers. In return, we seek to help promote understanding at grassroots level for the decisions and action taken by the authorities.

The Code of Good Practice for Civil Participation was drawn up in line with this approach, which we respect in all our activities.

The outcome of our work was presented to the Ministers’ Deputies, the Parliamentary Assembly and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities. We then incorporated your remarks and suggestions in the final text, which was approved by the Conference of INGOs of the Council of Europe at our plenary session on 1 October this year.

The Code of Good Practice for Civil Participation is based on practical experiences from various countries in Europe concerning relations between NGOs and the authorities, which are based on a principle of independence, transparency and trust.

Examples of the pooling of good practices and tried-and-tested methods for facilitating these relations have therefore been analysed and set out in an operational document.

The Code of Good Practice for Civil Participation is a tool for the relations that can be achieved between civil society and national, regional or local authorities.

In the workshops here at the forum over the next few days, we will see how to give life to the code, especially when we discuss the desire to build high-quality democracy and strengthen the transparency and consistency of the authorities’ action.
Our desire and objective is to engage with elected representatives without the risk of confusion of roles or responsibilities and while showing an ongoing commitment to co-operation and complementary action.

This role as a link between the authorities and the public is all the more justified since a growing number of NGOs are committing themselves to co-operation with the authorities.

I now therefore submit the code – which the forum called for two years ago – to you and urge you to draw on it as a resource for this increased co-operation between the authorities and civil society.

I thank you for your attention and wish you successful discussions.