Ten years ago today, on 10 October 2007, the 1006th meeting of the Committee of Ministers adopted the visionary Recommendation CM/Rec(2007)14 on the legal status of non-governmental organisations in Europe. On this tenth anniversary, the Conference of INGOs wishes to renew its appreciation to the Committee of Ministers for this ground-breaking initiative, and to pledge a renewed commitment to its implementation.
NGOs throughout Europe continue to be inspired by the recognition in the Recommendation's preamble of:
"the essential contributions made by NGOs to the development and realisation of democracy and human rights, in particular through....securing the transparency and accountability of public authorities"
"the contributions of NGOs made through.....the monitoring of compliance with existing obligations under national and international law"
"the existence of many NGOs is a manifestation of.....their host country's adherence to principles of democratic pluralism"
The Conference of INGOs further underlines the importance of the Committee of Ministers’ request that governments "ensure that this Recommendation and the accompanying Explanatory Memorandum are translated and disseminated as widely as possible to NGOs and the public in general, relevant public authorities and educational institutions, and used for the training of officials." The Conference of INGOs and its Expert Council on NGO Law have actively disseminated, promoted and monitored the Recommendation over the past ten years. The Expert Council on NGO Law remains available to Member States and to all Council of Europe bodies to further assist in anchoring the intrinsic values of the Recommendation CM/Rec(2007)14 in daily legislative, judicial and administrative practice.
The Conference of INGOs notes that there is still much to be done to implement the exemplary principles recalled above. It is indeed distressing that several member governments of the Council of Europe - despite their formal commitment to the rule of law - have in recent years shown non-compliance, not only regarding this Recommendation, but also the fundamental freedom of association embodied in the European Convention on Human Rights. Section VIII of the Recommendation, in particular, encourages the “effective participation of NGOs without discrimination in dialogue and consultation on public policy objectives and decisions”.
On the 10th anniversary of its adoption, it would be a significant reminder of the important role of civil society for our democracies for the Committee of Ministers to once more urge member governments to actively apply CM/Rec(2007)14.