The Conference of INGOs of the Council of Europe

Statement by the President of the Conference of INGOs of the Council of Europe, Jean-Marie Heydt, at the closing session of the International Conference of Civil Participation in Europe, Ljubljana, 13 November 2009

Ladies and gentlemen,
Dear friends,

To conclude this seminar, I would like to make a few remarks over and above praising participants on the high quality of their work in the workshops.

But first of all I would like to extend my warmest thanks to the Slovenian Government, in particular the Ministry of Public Administration, as well as the Centre for Information Service, Co-operation and Development of NGOs (CNVOS) for having organised this Conference and for making it possible to present the Code of Good Practice on Civil Participation in the Decision-Making Process. It marks the beginning of the appropriation of this Code by the public authorities.

The Code of Good Practice for Civil Participation in the Decision-Making Process was drawn up at the request of the 2007 Forum for the Future of the Democracy held in Sweden. It was adopted by the Conference of INGOs in September this year and presented for the first time at the 2009 meeting of the Forum in Kyiv three weeks ago.

This initiative by civil society was welcomed by the Committee of Ministers, the Parliamentary Assembly and the Congress of the Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe.

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.

The discussions here in Ljubljana have confirmed that this approach ensures the relevance of the Code and can facilitate progress in the interaction between NGOs and authorities at national and governmental level or in policy fields where such interaction has not yet been put into practice or is fully efficient.

The Code represents an essential tool for the Conference of INGOs. It shows our commitment and our capacity to act in the public sphere.

I would like to briefly remind you of the idea central to the Code: to broaden the perspectives for civil participation in the decision-making process through the exchange of good practices and experiences both at national and at local level.

There should be no confusion about each party’s respective roles and responsibilities. By this I mean that NGOs are not a conduit for politicians. They cannot replace governments. Our commitment is free of all profit-making and this means that all our actions and all that motivates them should have no other goal than human well-being, founded on human rights. It is only in this context that we can be recognised by the national, regional and local authorities.

Naturally, there are different cultures, different degrees of development of relations and therefore different levels of participation, as described in the Code of Good Practice. However, we need to be aware of the role of each of the partners involved, namely that of the authorities, civil society – including NGOs – and the media.

What sort of follow up should be given to this work ?

The Conference of the International NGOs for its part, will be working actively with NGOs and public authorities in Council of Europe member States in order to raise awareness to the Code and to facilitate its implementation. We will continue our regional meetings which provide us with the framework to present and discuss the Code of Good Practice. The Code can be adapted to suit the needs of different users and in various contexts. We are committed to developing a database with examples of good practice as soon as possible and also envisage creating technical training courses for the implementation of the Code.

But you too, are responsible for the future of this Code.

The Code of Good Practice is the fruit of concerted efforts and through the examples it provides, it is a source for any partner who wishes to make use of it.

The Code was our work. It is now for you to take up this Code, turning it into a new tree of democracy and ensuring that it bears fruit. It is only then that it will come alive for our future democracies.

Thank you for your attention.