OING Conf/Exp (2008) 1
Terms of reference
EXPERT COUNCIL ON NGO LAW
Adopted at the meeting of the Conference of INGOs on 22 January 2008
The initiative for the creation of the Expert Council on NGO Law goes back to the first Regional NGO Congress organised by the Conference of INGOs on 24-26 March 2006 in Warsaw which proposed “the creation of an expert council to evaluate the conformity of national NGO and other relevant legislation and its application with Council of Europe standards and European practice. NGOs could pool their resources and co-operate with the Conference of INGOs and the Council of Europe to this effect.”
The Expert Council is an initiative by NGOs for NGOs in all Council of Europe member States and Belarus.
The Conference of INGOs decided on 6 October 2006 to take the lead in the creation of the Expert Council.
The Expert Council operates under the authority of the Conference of INGOs of the Council of Europe.
The creation of the Expert Council on NGO Law gives follow-up to both the Warsaw Declaration, adopted at the Third Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe member States on 16-17 May 2005, which stated that “democracy and good governance can only be achieved through the active involvement of citizens and civil society”, and Recommendation CM/rec(2007)14 on the legal status of NGOs.
The Expert Council on NGO Law relates to the implementation of project 2006/DGAP/943 “Relations with INGOs” of the Programme of Activities of the Council of Europe.
The Expert Council aims to contribute to the creation of an enabling environment for NGOs throughout Europe by examining national NGO law and its implementation and promoting its compatibility with Council of Europe standards and European good practice.
To achieve its aim, the Expert Council:
- Monitors the legal and regulatory framework in European countries, as well as the administrative and judicial practices in them, which affect the status and operation of NGOs,
- Identifies both matters of concern and examples of good practice,
- Provides advice on how to bring national law and practice into line with Council of Europe standards and European good practice,
- Proposes ways in which Council of Europe standards could be developed,
- Encourages and supports NGOs to work together on issues concerning the NGO legislation and its implementation and
- Reports on its activities, its findings and its proposals with regard to Council of Europe standards and European good practice.
The Expert Council pursues a thematic approach with regard to all European countries. It deals in particular with issues addressed in Recommendation CM/rec(2007)14 on the legal status of NGOs. When considered appropriate, the Expert Council may prepare reports on problems occurring in a particular country for the attention of the Conference of INGOs.
The Conference of INGOs or groups of NGOs can refer issues to the Expert Council, which can also take up issues on its own initiative. It receives information from NGOs, States, the Council of Europe and other intergovernmental institutions. It can carry out its own research.
The Expert Council complements the Council of Europe’s assistance to governments on matters pertaining to NGO legislation such as the provision of legislative expertise and assistance activities on drafting or reforming NGO legislation. It therefore works in liaison with relevant Council of Europe bodies and services.
The Expert Council holds annual meetings and its members co-operate throughout the year by electronic means of communication.
The Expert Council presents an annual report to the Conference of INGOs on its work. If need be, it may submit ad hoc reports on matters of particular urgency to the Conference of INGOs. The reports will contain recommendations for action by the Conference of INGOs.
The Conference of INGOs decides on the follow-up to be given to the reports of the Expert Council. It publishes the reports, ensures their dissemination to NGOs and relevant Council of Europe, national and intergovernmental bodies. It monitors the implementation of the Expert Council's recommendations.
The Expert Council is composed as follows:
- Three members
- Ad hoc members
All members act in their personal capacity.
A representative of the Secretariat General of the Council of Europe attends the meetings of the Expert Council.
Members of the Expert Council have all or most of the following qualifications:
- Legal expertise in NGO law (including the regulatory framework), other relevant laws (such as tax legislation), administrative and judicial practices affecting the status and operation of NGOs and human rights,
- NGO experience at national and international level, including experience in managing a NGO and NGO networks,
- Knowledge of European standards and good practice,
- Experience with the issues at stake in more than one European country,
- Availability and
- Proficiency in English.
The Conference of INGOs appoints the President of the Expert Council for a three-year term. The co-ordinator and the other members are appointed by the Bureau of the Conference of INGOs for a three-year term. The Expert Council appoints ad hoc members who are specialised on issues under examination for a one-year term, renewable.
The budget of the Conference of INGOs (which is essentially funded by the Council of Europe) bears the travel and subsistence expenses for all members attending the meetings of the Expert Council and the cost of small expert fees for the written contributions of the members.
The co-ordinator has a consultant contract.
The Expert Council’s operation will be reviewed by the Conference of INGOs in its third year of functioning with a view to determining whether the creation of a permanent structure is necessary.