Since its creation, the Council of Europe has striven to give civil society and citizen participation prominence in the functioning of democratic societies. Its activities are founded on the conviction that there can be no truly democratic society without the citizens' active, responsible participation, without strong, effective, accountable local authorities, and without high-quality local governance.

These principles inform not only the member states' co-operation – within the European Committee on Local and Regional Democracy – but also the action which the Council of Europe carries out in support of territorial reforms in the member states and capacity-building for local authorities and their associations.

The Council of Europe was behind the European Charter of Local Self-Government (1985) which sets forth the principles of local self-government and specifies the guarantees enjoyed by local authorities in Europe. This treaty is supplemented by an additional protocol (2009) on access to information and participation in the affairs of a local authority. To back up these legal obligations, the Council of Europe adopted (2008) the Strategy for Innovation and Good Governance at Local Level setting out 12 principles intended to guide the functioning of local authorities and their relations with the citizens.

The current work of the European Committee on Local and Regional Democracy (CDLR) concerns citizens' participation and ways to enhance it, relations between the tiers of government, the ability of local authorities to deliver the public services for which they are responsible, and transfrontier co-operation between local authorities.

At the 17th session of their conference, the Ministers responsible for Local and Regional Government of the Council of Europe member states (Kyiv, 3-4 November 2011) adopted guidelines for their policy action in the current crisis, in compliance with the provisions of the Charter of Local Self-Government, and made a number of recommendations to the Committee of Ministers for the furtherance of intergovernmental co-operation within the Council of Europe.


Good governance at local level

The Strategy for Innovation and Good Governance at Local Level is a practical instrument for improving governance at local level and the quality of local life as a result.

"The Strategy's" 12 principles encapsulate the fundamental values of European democracy and form the complete spectrum of requirements for good democratic governance. By reference to them, local authorities from all 47 Council of Europe member States can improve their governance on a continual
basis. Working in parallel, their central government creates and maintains the institutional conditions for improving local authority governance, building on existing commitments under the European Charter of Local Self-Government and other Council of Europe standards.

The new European Label for Innovation and Good Governance is awarded to local authorities having achieved a high overall level of governance under "The Strategy's" 12 principles.

A quality label

The European Label of Governance Excellence (ELoGE) is a part of the Strategy for Innovation and Good Governance at Local Level. The Label has been conceived as a learning tool and should help local authorities to:

- understand their strengths and weaknesses in the way they provide public services to the local community and in the way they exercise public authority;

- improve the quality of local governance with the help of the various tools developed specifically for ELoGE;

- take inspiration from their colleagues' best practice identified during the EloGE award process.


Citizens at the heart of democracy

This video gives a brief overview of the Council of Europe activities in local and regional democracy for Europe, such as capacity-building, local government reform and its important role in networking governments and local authorities with a view to delivering good governance at local and regional levels.

A response to recession across Europe

This video is a brief look at the Council of Europe work on the Local Government responses to recession. The work was carried out in co-operation with the LGI of the Open Society Institute and is the only project worldwide to date to go into such detail at the micro-level.