Projects in Countries and Regions
in Council of Europe Member States
Freedom of association is a fundamental human right
It is protected as an individual’s fundamental human right by the European Convention on Human Rights and may only be subjected to restrictions “necessary in a democratic society. Freedom of association is also an important enabling factor to the enjoyment of other fundamental rights, notably freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.
A vibrant civic space is the bedrock of a genuine democracy
A trend toward restricting civic space, is increasingly impacting on the freedom of association and on civil society’s ability to fulfil its mission and fully participate in public life. This happens through national legislation reducing or complicating access to information, to resources, to public media or to decision-making processes by civil society and NGOs. It is a major concern for European democracies currently striving to increase connectivity and mutual trust between citizens and their democratic institutions.
- The Council of Europe is uniquely placed to address this pan-European issue affecting human rights, democracy and the rule of law
- The Council of Europe is uniquely placed to partner with governmental and non-governmental stakeholders
- The Council of Europe is uniquely placed to bring the full scope of European norms, standards, best practices and expertise to bear on this issue
Ukraine, December 2018 – August 2020
Following a pilot project implemented in Kyiv, which successfully tested joint trainings of public authorities’ and civil society’s representatives in the framework of an Academy of civil participation, and created a NGOs Platform, a new project started and aims to further strengthen already established dialogue and cooperation. The new project is being implemented in Kyiv and in some other municipalities. It supports the objectives reflected in the Council of Europe Action Plan for Ukraine for 2018 – 2021.
In order to achieve the desired impact, the project will enhance the national institutional and policy frameworks for civil society development in Ukraine, as well as the local capacity and practice of public officials and NGOs on civil participation. The project will work in close cooperation with the Cabinet of Ministers, the specialized Verhovna Rada Committee, the Kyiv City Council and districts, pilot municipalities in Ukraine, Kyiv Center of Public Communications and NGOs.
The Council of Europe’s standards and tools on civil participation will be explained and promoted, and best European practices will be collected and disseminated.
Strengthening civil society and independent media
Belarus, October 2017 - November 2018
The project aims at providing Belarus civil society and public authorities with information regarding the Council of Europe standards and their implementation in member states, strengthening the capacity of NGOs and independent media to participate in decision-making processes and advancing human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
The project activities will help Belarus NGOs and public authorities to better understand the role of NGOs in the Council of Europe functioning and will facilitate professional contacts for future work. The project will aim at strengthening the culture of dialogue and cooperation between civil society and relevant public institutions, including as regards the discussion of draft regulatory acts. As a result, the project is expected contribute to the clarity, effectiveness, and inclusiveness of the policy-drafting process in Belarus.
Promoting civil participation in democratic decision-making
Ukraine, August 2017 – February 2018
This project is part of the overall Council of Europe work aimed at empowering civil society and reinforcing its participation in decision-making at national and local levels. Two important concrete results were achieved:
- a pilot public participation academy to train representatives of NGOs and of the Kyiv authorities for ensuring effective participation in decision-making;
- a pilot version of a platform, including an electronic hub, for facilitating consultations and input by civil society to decision-making by the Kyiv public authorities.
The participation of both international and local experts ensured a good balance between best international practices and the specificity of the local context, notably the relevant policy priorities and challenges.
Beneficiaries and stakeholders took ownership of the project results, thus ensuring their sustainability. The Kyiv authorities and the NGO platform members signed a memorandum of co-operation aimed at building an inclusive policy-making process, developing e-democracy and enhancing public participation mechanisms. Importantly, these commitments were endorsed and included in the Kyiv Action Plan for 2018 on the implementation of the National Strategy for Civil Society Development in Ukraine.
The highly positive feedback regarding the Academy and the Platform is a strong indication that the model can be applied to other municipalities in Ukraine, at the national level and, with some adaptation, in other Council of Europe member states.
Civil society dialogue
Azerbaijan, March 2016 to February 2018 (extended to August 2018)
This European Union and Council of Europe joint project’s main objective is to gradually move NGO-related legislation and practice in Azerbaijan closer to Council of Europe standards. It also aims to strengthen the capacity of NGOs and of the public authorities for consultation, dialogue and co-operation.
With the help of local experts and of the Expert Council on NGO Law of the Council of Europe Conference of International Non-governmental Organisations, the legislative framework for NGOs is analysed in detail and improvements are proposed. Training is provided to the public authorities in charge of registering NGOs and implementing the NGO-related legislation. Finally, a handbook on civil participation and good governance was prepared to use for training representatives of NGOs and of the authorities, with the long-term objective of creating a culture of participation.
Civil participation in decision-making in the Eastern Partnership countries
Regional project*, December 2015 - June 2017
The project reinforced regional co-operation between civil society and the authorities in the six countries to improve the environment for the functioning of NGOs, create mechanisms for their active participation in democratic decision-making and promote a culture of civil participation. Extensive research and analysis of existing laws and policies were conducted and generated important practical knowledge highlighting the most effective mechanisms for interaction and consultation between the authorities and civil society. An informal multi-stakeholder network was established at regional level aimed at seeking solutions for shared or similar problems, with the input and combined leverage of both public authorities and NGOs.
Two reports and a strategic document were produced:
- Civil Participation in Decision Making in the Eastern Partnership Countries Part I: Laws and Policies
- Civil Participation in Decision Making in the Eastern Partnership Countries Part II: Practice and Implementation
- Measures for Strategic Development of Civil Participation in Decision Making in the Eastern Partnership Countries
*Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Republic of Moldova and Ukraine
Immediate Measures Package - Civil Society Component
Ukraine, April – December 2014
The project is part of a long-term Council of Europe effort to institutionalise the effective participation of civil society in decision-making processes and make it sustainable. An analytical study titled “Forms of Public Participation in the Process of Development and Approval of Political Decisions in Ukraine” was conducted to serve as a basis for further work on promoting an enabling environment for NGOs.
Assistance, including study visits to Latvia and the Netherlands, was provided to the State Registration Service (SRS) of Ukraine in its efforts to streamline and simplify the registration procedures for civil society organisations. The knowledge gained by the SRS was then used in drafting amendments to the relevant Ukrainian legislation.
A comprehensive evaluation of the co-operation in the second half of 2014 between the authorities and civil society was conducted with all stakeholders - civil society activists from Kyiv and the regions of Ukraine, representatives of the authorities (Secretariat of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, Administration of the President of Ukraine, Secretariat of the Parliament of Ukraine) and the international community. On the basis of subsequent public consultations and discussions, a comprehensive document “Strategic Priorities for Promoting Civil Participation in Decision-Making in Ukraine” was adopted as a basis for further work.