In April 2014, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe presented the Immediate Measures Package for Ukraine in order to offer the best possible support to overcome the current crisis in Ukraine and to carry out the necessary reforms in line with the Council of Europe standards. The Civil Society component of this package aims to institutionalise the effective participation of civil society in decision-making processes and make it sustainable. It is comprised of a wide range of activities that intend to assess and reinforce the environment for civil participation at the national, regional and local levels. Ultimately, a multi-stakeholder group will draft a strategy to establish a sustainable platform for consultation and dialogue between civil society and authorities. The Council of Europe co-operates closely with leading Ukrainian civil society representatives who also serve as a sounding board for assessing the efficiency of the Council of Europe’s action and planning for future measures.
We strive to multiply the impact of our civil society assistance work by making our success stories (and the yet unresolved challenges) known in a maximum number of Council of Europe member states. In June 2014 in Chisinau, for example, we brought together NGO representatives from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine to identify concrete modalities for ensuring the participation of civil society in democratic decision-making in the region and specific ways in which the Council of Europe could provide assistance to civil society. Such regional or Europe-wide gatherings not only allow for exchange of experience; they are also instrumental in creating valuable civil society networks. Cooperation with other existing networks such as the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum is also high on our agenda.
Support to civil society in Russia
The Council of Europe started to implement a three-year Framework Co-operation Programme on “Strengthening Civil Society and Civic Participation in the Russian Federation” in mid-2008. In partnership with civil society actors in Russia, the Conference of INGOs works towards improving interaction and co-operation between NGOs and public authorities in order to strengthen the role of civil society in public life and policy-making. The programme is designed to create and maintain favourable conditions for NGO initiatives in fields such as human rights, democracy, civil society, culture and education, social cohesion and gender equality, in order to better respond to the needs of Russian society and increase the impact of citizens’ action. Special attention is paid to the improvement of Russian NGO legislation and its implementation.
Outline of the 3 year Framework Co-operation Programme
Support to civil society in Belarus
The Council of Europe also provides assistance to human rights defenders and independent media in Belarus. Civil society representatives from Belarus participate on a regular basis in the sessions of the Conference of INGOs, attend meetings of committees of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and contribute to events devoted to Belarus in Strasbourg. The Civil Society Communication Platform on Belarus has hosted, since 2006, regular conferences on citizen activism, support to human rights defenders, independent media and elections.