COUNCIL OF EUROPE
Founded in 1949, its aim is to create a common democratic and legal area throughout the whole continent of Europe. Today it has 47 countries in membership. The Council, based in Strasbourg, seeks to ensure respect for its fundamental values:
Human Rights… Democracy… Rule of Law
The European Committee on Democracy and Governance (CDDG) in cooperation with the Conference of International Non-Governmental Organisations is preparing new guidelines to ensure meaningful civil participation in political decision-making. The guidelines will be addressed to the authorities in Council of Europe member states and will seek to promote sustainable mechanisms for dialogue, consultation and co-operation between them and civil society.
In accordance with the CDDG’s decision, a wide public consultation on the draft guidelines is being organised during the summer period before finalising the guidelines. Civil society and public authorities at all levels are kindly invited to send their comments (in English or in French) on the draft to the CDDG Secretariat (CDDG@coe.int) by 4 September 2016. The input received will be carefully considered by the working group which will meet later in September.
“Only a matter for politicians? Civil Society, money and political activities”
Debate organised by the Conference of INGOs on 6-7 June 2016 at the Council of Europe
Summary of some of the main issues raised and proposals made; the list is not exhaustive. - A shrinking space for civil society goes hand in hand with a lack of independence of NGOs, media, the judiciary and problems with free and fair elections. Sometimes, anti-terrorism, anti-money laundering, anti-tax evasion laws are used to restrict NGO action. - In some countries, human rights defenders are stigmatised and criminalised, in particular when working for vulnerable groups or in (post-)conflict zones. - Human rights defenders and more generally civil society leaders and their organisations need support and protection, including international pressure for the liberation of imprisoned activists and the creation of a Council of Europe platform for the protection of human rights defenders. - Some countries reduce the civil society space through restrictive legislation, in particular with regard to access to foreign funding, what leads to a decrease in the number of NGOs, a transfer of offices of NGOs to other countries, self-censorship and a less active civil society. - A culture of participation is needed, recognising that participation is not a privilege but a right which is not limited to expressing views but also including authorities’ obligation to listen to NGOs in the political decision-making process. - Open government initiatives led in some countries to an increase in participation of citizens, individually or through NGOs, and to more transparency and accountability. - To enhance participation, it was necessary that NGOs established networks and that capacity building was provided to both, civil servants and NGO representatives. - Because the role of NGOs as drivers for change was seen positively, not all participants saw the need to distinguish between political activities and public policy activities. - Providing funding to NGOs was not about donors paying someone to do something for them but about enabling NGOs to do their jobs in monitoring, advocacy or service provision. - To increase NGOs scope of action, donors should be more flexible, take long term commitments, also for small grassroots NGOs and not limit support to project funding. - More opportunities for domestic funding by public authorities, companies and philanthropists were necessary. Recommendations for action proposed by the participants in the debate were directed to governments, international organisations, donors and NGOs themselves. For the Council of Europe, a number of recommendations made at the debate require follow-up action: - Participants discussed the creation of a Council of Europe platform for the protection of human rights defenders. A majority supported the idea and underlined that such a platform should focus on reprisals against human rights defenders related to their interaction with the Council of Europe and such a platform needed to be supplemented by other protection measures in order to be effective, particularly NGOs protective mechanisms. - Participants welcomed the preparation of new guidelines for meaningful civil participation in the political decision-making process and expressed the wish to be consulted by the European Committee on democracy and governance which oversees the preparation of these guidelines. - Participants called for Council of Europe support for improving the environment for NGOs in its member States by providing assistance in aligning legislation, regulations and practice with European standards and by involving representatives of NGOs and public administration in capacitybuilding activities. - It was suggested that the Conference of INGOs looks into possibilities for creating a Council of Europe fund to pool donors’ financial support for NGOs. All participants agreed that diplomatic and financial measures (programs that include human rights dialogues, country-visits and meetings with local NGOs, common statements) that give importance to “NGOs under threat” should be strengthened. Debates about new and innovative support for freedom of association and good practices should be organized on a more regular basis. Respect of human rights should be part of the international security agenda. Collaboration with NGOs should be included as part of the training programmes followed by public authorities, at local and national levels in order to be able to interact in a constructive way. Investment in Human rights is for tomorrow and for the day after tomorrow. NGOs always represent causes turned towards the future!
4 February 2016 - Trafficking
The report notes with concern that unaccompanied children frequently disappear from reception centres for asylum seekers.
With recent reports of high numbers of unaccompanied child refugees gone missing, the identification of child victims has become a priority across Europe, said Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland.