The Expert Council on NGO Law of the Conference of INGOs has just published a Compendium of Council of Europe practice relating to the right to freedom of association and the position of non-governmental organisations.
This compendium examines the practice of Council of Europe bodies whose activities deal in some way with the enjoyment of the right to the freedom of association and/or the position of NGOs. It first reviews the general standard-setting undertaken by these bodies and then deals with the various issues concerning associations and NGOs that have been addressed in the work of these bodies.
Thus, it considers the way in which the activities and role of associations and NGOs has been underlined as important and needing encouragement; the requirements for their formation and the problems faced in achieving this; the extent to which their activities and objectives may be limited and the situations in which this has unjustifiably occurred; the problems affecting their membership and internal management; the rights and enabling environment required for them to operate and the challenges faced in ensuring that both exist; the duty to protect them and the situations in which this has not occurred; the appropriate degree of supervision over their activities and operation and the way in which supervision can become an excessive burden; the requirements regarding penalties (including dissolution) that should be, but are not always, observed; and the particular problems faced in ensuring the right to freedom of association in the context of trade union activity.
The compendium concludes by emphasising the importance of coordination between the different bodies and the value in them drawing lessons from each other’s experience but also by underlining the continued need for the work being undertaken by all the bodies concerned.