The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities is an institution of the Council of Europe, responsible for strengthening local and regional democracy in its 47 member states and assessing the application of the European Charter of Local Self-Government. As the voice of Europe’s municipalities and regions, it works to foster consultation and political dialogue between national governments and local and regional authorities, through cooperation with the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers.
The Congress is made up of two chambers: the Chamber of Local Authorities and the Chamber of Regions. It has 324 representatives and 324 substitutes, all appointed for four years, representing over 200,000 local and regional authorities in the Council of Europe’s 47 member states. The Congress’s work is organised with three committees: a Monitoring Committee, a Governance Committee and a Current Affairs Committee.
The Congress is responsible for assessing the application of the European Charter of Local Self-Government in the 47 member States of the Council of Europe. This monitoring enables a constructive political dialogue to be engaged with authorities in member states about local and regional democracy issues. The reports, recommendations and resolutions that it adopts provide information to governments, parliaments, associations, elected representatives and the media about the situation of local and regional democracy in specific countries and the application, in particular, of the Charter. Numerous legislative reforms have been set in motion by member states on the basis of the findings of these monitoring activities.
The Congress periodically observes local and regional elections, especially in Council of Europe member states. Observation activities, which cover both polling and election campaigns, allow cooperation to be established at the highest level with representatives of political parties and groups, electoral commissions, the media and NGOs. Congress election observation exercises are con- ducted in co-operation with the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the Venice Commission, in particular through the Council for Democratic Elections, but also with other international organisations such as the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. The Committee of the Regions of the European Union is also invited to participate in observation missions carried out by the Congress.
The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe provides a political platform to reflect on the role of local and regional authorities and to take action with regard to the major challenges of modern society, through the work of its members and its committees. Over the past two decades, the Congress developed and refined its approach and activities in the fields of human rights promotion, gender equality, the strengthening of local and regional democracy, the prevention of corruption and the promotion of public ethics. Recently, new challenges have surfaced to which the Congress reacted swiftly, elaborating coherent and credible policies for preventing radicalisation, for the management of migration and the improvement of integration policies.
The Congress has reinforced co-operation and partnerships with member states and other institutions and European associations in order to consolidate territorial democracy. Activities in the field are proposed to further ensure the implementation of the European Charter of Local Self-Government and of the Congress’ recommendations. Projects designed by the Congress are part of the democratic component of Council of Europe Action Plans for its member States. Moreover, the Congress is active in the neighbourhood policy of the Council of Europe, aimed at supporting territorial and legislative reforms in neighbouring countries, such as Morocco and Tunisia.