Non-Governmental Organisations

    WINTER SESSION

    EUROPE AND GLOBAL CHALLENGES
    TRANSVERSAL GROUP
    CONF/TG/GLO (2009) SYN1

    Strasbourg, 11 March 2009

SYNOPSIS
OF THE MEETING HELD ON 29 JANUARY 2009

    FOR THE ATTENTION OF THE MEMBERS OF THE EUROPE AND GLOBAL CHALLENGES TRANSVERSAL GROUP

    The Europe and Global Challenges Transversal Group, meeting in Strasbourg on 29 January 2009, with Michel Julien in the Chair:

1. 2. Adopted the agenda.

    3. Approved the minutes of the group meeting held on 1 October 2008 [CONF_SC_2008_SYN1] and noted that access to documents via the website should be made easier.

    4. Appointed Marie-JosÚ Schmitt as rapporteur

    5. Committee progress

    Was informed by Anne Sforza of the current status of “global challenges” (document in French only), which were:

    - The economic consequences of the financial crisis

      Various international authorities such as the OECD and the IMF had shed light on the extent of the crisis. Their analyses all concluded that the worst had yet to come and that we could expect to see rising unemployment, and all that it involved, for at least the next two years. This purely statistical analysis raised questions about people’s ability to unite and fight the crisis together.

    - Energy-related problems and their effects on health, security and the economy

      These problems were serious and could not be ignored. Changing attitudes and encouraging people to use carbon more sparingly were major challenges since they were also related to social cohesion.

    - Defending human rights

      Some of the basic principles of human rights could end up being overlooked in the midst of more immediate issues. There was some concern that fundamental freedoms would be diminished.

    Took note of the following questions:

    - In these times of extreme uncertainty, it was necessary to find new ways to work together, but how?

      The Council of Europe’s European Social Charter was a useful tool in that it provided a means of monitoring and a unique system for collective complaints. But how could progress be made in a body which did not have direct economic authority, and in a Europe which did not seem to have recognised the full scale of globalisation?

    - Could growing insecurity and situations that were increasingly precarious be tolerated? NGOs had to be more and more vigilant.

    - Would NGOs be able to lead the way in a real cultural, and possibly even existential, revolution?

    - In these times of extreme uncertainty, how much consideration was still being given to respecting and defending human rights, which were constantly being violated?
    “Human rights must on no account become a utopian concept,” Ms Sforza stressed in the conclusion of her presentation.

    Identified a further challenge:

    - Applying the universal principles of human rights in different cultures

    Took note of the question:

    - How would globalisation affect human rights? Participants cited various charters and conferences followed by declarations, each one giving a different perspective. These included the African Charter, the Inter-American Charter and the Charter of Human Rights in Islamic Communities.

    Referred to the different ways in which things could be interpreted and applied in Europe.

    Concluded with the general question:
    - How could NGOs contribute to a new vision of society during the current crisis?
    How could NGOs fight against the elitism and individualism which threatened society?

    Decided that other issues under item five would be addressed at a later meeting because of time constraints.

    6. Other business: invaluable work methods

      Took note of concerns about matters not being addressed at length during such short group meetings, and about how sub-groups should be run.

      Experience showed that working by email was not sufficiently productive and that, during sessions, any free time before/after committee meetings, in the mornings, in the evenings, and during meal times must be utilised.

      Decided that:
      - Sub-groups would deal with any matters that concerned them before meetings and bring their findings with them so that they could be discussed with all participants;

    - Meetings of the Europe and Global Challenges Transversal Group should take place right at the beginning of sessions, before committee meetings;
    - The email addresses of all participants should be made available to the group.

    Cc: President of the INGO Conference
    Members of the Standing Committee
    Secretary General of the Parliamentary Assembly
    Secretary General of the Congress
    Secretary of 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