Non-Governmental Organisations

STANDING COMMITTEE of 7 APRIL 2014

“LIVING TOGETHER” (Item 7)
BACKGROUND “Living together” is an area of discussion and action which is becoming increasingly prominent in and crucial to every aspect of the day-to-day lives of all our fellow citizens at both European and world level.
The Conference of INGOs has been involved for years in tasks of analysis, planning and preparation of practical proposals and activities in the field.
As a result the Conference has contributed to the acknowledgment of this social phenomenon and enhanced our knowledge about it, in partnership with the institutions of the Council of Europe and other international bodies; this unfinished work has led to the preparation of official documents, reference documents, Charters and practical proposals for implementation.
For example, from the outset, the Conference was involved in devising and implementing the Intercultural Dialogue programme, which is a key aspect of the “living together” project, and it has also played a permanent role in the Council’s activities in this area, sometimes even instigating them. Recent examples of this are:
*The White Paper on “Living together as equals in dignity”;
*Reactions, comments and proposals in response to the publication of the Group of Eminent Persons’ report “Living together – Combining diversity and freedom in 21st-century Europe”, and at the Civil Society Forum of November 2011 on the same theme;
*Its contribution at the Istanbul Forum of March 2011 on “multicultural challenges”;
*Its contribution in October 2012 to the Round Table on “Civil society: a key player for living together”;
*The participation of Conference representatives in many working group meetings, which resulted, for example, in the European Manifesto for Multiple Cultural Affiliation or the Charter on Education for Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights Education.
At the same time, the Conference and its groupings, committees and working groups were drawing up their own reference, training and activity documents, focusing in particular on the finalisation, distribution and use in the field of the Dialogue Toolkit.
THE STATE OF PROGRESS. There is a clear need to refer to the work currently being carried out by K. Donert’s working group and the recent meeting on this theme at our session of January 2014.
It is also essential to take full account of all the work of the working groups and the documents and declarations adopted, which have related, for example – to cite only the more recent projects – to religion and human rights, the religious dimension of intercultural dialogue, education for citizenship and the fight against poverty, discrimination and social exclusion, not forgetting the activities to combat violence against women, gender-based violence and violence against children and the campaign against hate speech.
All these components reflect the Conference’s achievements over the years and derive from and are related to all the aspects of living together in every possible context. They are not just the subject of a conceptual or intellectual debate but an ongoing challenge, which must be taken up by all the constituent parts of the democratic system. At the same time, this is a constant and constantly changing requirement which is increasingly affecting daily lives throughout Europe, deriving from a feeling of solidarity with anyone living anywhere who falls victim to exclusion and discrimination.
It goes without saying that we must continue to work on all fronts and never neglect one or other aspect of this vast issue and, above all, continue to try to convince all politicians and all social partners that this is a key factor in our common future if we do not want to be faced with the dramas of the past.
PROPOSALS
The Conference has accumulated considerable knowledge and expertise in this sensitive area.
The time has now come for us to gather our theories, proposals and working methods into a coherent and dynamic operational whole to provide further evidence that organised civil society occupies a prominent place in this domain and has a leading role to play.
The goal for the Conference and its subordinate bodies is to bring about tangible positive changes in the policies devoted to “living together” and to show what a decisive function is performed by the civil society organisations we represent.
The initial aim therefore is to compile, co-ordinate and harmonise everything we have said, written or carried out in this field in recent years and show the need for joined-up thinking and proposals on “living together”, omitting none of the related questions.
In practice, this would mean for example, that each committee would produce a recapitulation of what it has done in this area, focusing on human rights, democracy, education and culture, and would suggest priorities and send them to the Bureau and the Standing Committee.
Currently, we have 24 working groups, one of which in particular deals specifically with the theme of “living together”. Would it not be appropriate to propose that, given the importance and endurance of this theme and its multi-faceted nature, it should be a made into a cross-cutting theme of the entire Conference?
Together, we have the capability of conducting investigations, drawing conclusions and committing ourselves to courses of action. On this issue, as on others, it is now essential for us to establish a clear picture of what we have achieved, pool all our proposals, declarations and actions, and present a comprehensive body of doctrine so as to make it clear to our institutional partners what we want. We must also discuss what still needs to be discussed and, above all, raise our profile and demonstrate the quality of what we are doing and what we stand for, along with our determination to succeed.
This makes it essential for us to adopt a timetable for the preparation of an initial joint overview for the June 2014 session and to set goals for January 2015 and thereafter.

THE DEBATE IS OPEN! Alain Mouchoux, 29 March 2014