Since the founding of the Council of Europe in 1949, its member States have been devoted “to the spiritual and moral values which are the common heritage of their peoples and the true source of individual freedom, political liberty and the rule of law, principles which form the basis of all genuine democracy” (Statute of the Council of Europe). All entities of the Council of Europe are working on the basis of these principles.

Vision of the Directorate General of Democracy and Human Dignity


“Safeguarding and realizing genuine democracy” – is the long-term strategic goal of Directorate General of Democracy and Human Dignity.


Its mission


In order to achieve progress towards this long term goal, the Directorate General of Democracy and Human Dignity invests in democratic security for Europe by working with member States in three main areas:

  • reinforcing democratic institutions and citizens' trust in them;
  • building inclusive societies free from discrimination, hate and violence;
  • helping young people to be confident in a common European future.


This is done by multilateral work, notably in intergovernmental committees, developing policy and legal standards, monitoring and supporting their implementation.

For that purpose, DG Democracy and Human Dignity also cooperate with local and regional authorities, civil society, the private sector and other international organisations.


Main objectives


  • To assist and advise the Secretary General on policy issues related to reinforcement of democratic institutions and processes, to the building of European societies free from discrimination and violence and based on common European shared values of Human rights;
  • to provide support and advice to the Committee of Ministers, the Parliamentary Assembly and the Congress in its fields of competence;
  • to plan and implement relevant programmes to serve intergovernmental and other bodies of the Council of Europe, as well as the Conferences of specialised Ministers;
  • to design and implement targeted programmes to assist the member States (as well as the States Parties to the European Cultural Convention (ECC) to develop their relevant structures and policies and fulfil their commitments under the relevant treaties of the Organisation;
  • to assist in their work the governing bodies of the partial agreements set up in its fields of competence, in accordance with their respective terms of reference, and to provide management and other services for the implementation of their programmes (the European Centre for Modern Languages, the European Support Fund for the Co-production and Distribution of Creative Cinematographic and Audiovisual Works “Eurimages”, the EUR-OPA Major Hazards Agreement, the Enlarged Partial Agreement on Sport EPAS, the Partial Agreement on Youth Mobility through the Youth Card and the Partial Agreement on Cultural Routes, the Enlarged Partial Agreement the "Observatory on History Teaching in Europe" and the Development bank).


To meet these objectives, the DG Democracy and Human Dignity:


  • provides secretariat services for the planning, implementation and assessment of intergovernmental standard-setting, monitoring and co-operation activities in accordance with the general instructions and guidelines issued by the Secretary General;
  • advises and assists the Committee of Ministers and its relevant rapporteur groups and/or rapporteurs;
  • assists and advises the Secretary General on the implementation and follow-up of existing policies and standards, as well as monitoring the conventions (where applicable) in its area of competence;
  • maintains and develops contacts with national authorities and specialised agencies in member States, with other States Parties to the ECC (where applicable) and, as appropriate, other States;
  • designs and implements assistance activities to facilitate the fulfilment of commitments by member and applicant States, including in the framework of joint programmes with the European Union and other partners;
  • develops interaction and synergies between the Council of Europe and other international institutions, taking into account the specific responsibilities of the Directorate Political Affairs and External Relations;
  • works in partnership with non-governmental organisations and relevant professional groups on issues in its field of competence;
  • works through the permanent co-management structures in the youth field and makes full use of its European Youth Centres in Strasbourg and Budapest, to implement Council of Europe's youth policies;
  • organises, in co-operation with partners, the Strasbourg World Forum for Democracy;
  • follows the decisions of the Committee of Ministers with regard to the Council of Europe's relations with the World Anti-Doping Agency;
  • liaises, within its field of competence, with the field offices of the Council of Europe in close co-ordination with the Directorate of Programme Co-ordination.

Marja Ruotanen

Director General of Democracy and Human Dignity

Following her appointment by the Secretary General, Marja Ruotanen started on 1 September 2022 as the new Director General of Democracy and Human Dignity (DGII).

Ms Ruotanen has a deep understanding of the Council of Europe’s mission and operations, including in the fields of standard setting, monitoring and cooperation. She has notably served as Director of Equality and Human Dignity (DGII), Director of Justice and Human Dignity (DGI), Director of Cooperation (DGI), as well as Director of the Private Office of the Secretary General and the Deputy Secretary General. She has also worked several years in the Parliamentary Assembly, most recently as Director of the Committees. Throughout her career, Marja Ruotanen has strived to establish the necessary connections between the various Council of Europe programmes and actors, fostering transversality and teamwork at the Organisation´s level.

Ms Ruotanen brings with her a strong commitment to the values of the Organisation and the determination to unleash DGII potential to promote democracy by putting human dignity at the heart of the effort. Convinced of the fact that today´s complex challenges need to be addressed by mobilising expertise in many different fields, she will foster reforms and working methods that allow for cooperation across teams within and beyond the DG. Ms Ruotanen is determined to use her influence as Director General to accelerate progress towards gender equality in the Organisation.