Note: CoE is the official abbreviation in English & French for Council of Europe/Conseil de l'Europe
Opening by the Vice Rector of Warsaw University, who placed Poland at the heart of Europe.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland put into perspective the situation of today with the recent history of his country, on a
background of associative life of which Solidarnosc was an emblematic form. He recalled his country's accession to the CoE and then to the EU stressing its collaboration with the INGOs and the ECHR
(European Court of Human Rights). The choice of the theme of this Conference was specific: The Place and Role of INGOs in the CoE; it follows the 2005 Conference
which led to the adoption of the participatory status granted to INGOs, thus allowing the development of unity, a humanistic vision
of life in Europe, inviting effective collaboration. It is a question of taking stock and looking ahead like other international institutions (the UN, for example). He noted the good conduct of the Conference of INGOs of the CoE, which he supported, with its 300 INGOs and its current
President, Mrs Rurka.
How to improve relations with INGOs?
Since the Committee of Ministers and the INGOs pursue similar objectives, have the same interests, why not a presence of the INGO President at meetings of the Committee of Ministers?
Work more together with the Commissioner for Human Rights;
Strengthen collaboration between the CoE and the INGOs, a major challenge! There is a need to advance around common values respected by all stakeholders. These values that everyone has committed to are not acquired once and for all! They must be maintained by the efforts of all parties.
Looking ahead to the meeting of the Committee of Ministers in Helsinki, it is important that the reflections of this Warsaw Conference are taken into account.
The Secretary General of the CoE
He shares his emotion every time he comes to Warsaw, the place where liberation, according to christian ethics, was implemented in jurisprudence.
The existence of INGOs is not a separate issue from that of the Rule of Law. The institutions are vigilant in upholding the principles of democracy and the Rule of Law.
INGOs are very important, like the independence of the media. Relationships with them are informal and institutional. The INGO Conference and the pronouncements of the courts share the same values (see convention). We can note :
- The contribution of experts for the revision of standards, the question of immigrants,
- The contribution of NGOs in prevention. Civil society intervenes in legal proceedings
- The watchdog function as "guardian" of the application of the decisions of the court.
- The CoE is grateful to them (see Venice report).
We protect NGOs as defenders of human rights, we are proud of cooperating with them.
Let us never forget that the majority is responsible for everything, including the minorities! The INGOs assist in this task!
The Ambassadress of Finland (Presidency of the CoE for 6 months)
After thanking the organizers and all those present, she insisted on the freedom of assembly, which was directly linked to the participation of civil society at the various levels of governance, particularly the CoE (cf. decisional process).
She highlighted the CoE’s promotion of equality and women's rights (Istanbul Convention) and the vital support for human rights defenders.
Panel 1: Existing Mechanisms for NGO Participation in the Work of International Organizations. Update on the current situation.
The President of the INGO Conference - Anna Rurka (cf. appendix on the voice of civil society at the CoE,) referred to the history of the Conference (see document "Statement of 11 INGOs") and to the survey sent to the INGOs which was returned with about 100 replies and this shows the interest of having open, inclusive and transparent debates.
(You can read the complete speech of Anna Rurka by clicking on “Full speech of Anna Rurka” on the above link.)
She also presented some of the success stories of the Conference, namely:
- The Expert Council
- The Exchange of opinions between the President of the INGO Conference and the Committee of Ministers
- The decision-making process across all CoE bodies
- The ever increasing presence and work of the Conference in the different departments.
Civil society is independent, but reciprocates its trustworthiness with the other pillars.
It is essential necessary that the Civil Society can participate in all stages without being limited by budget constraints. The Rights and values of the CoE go hand in hand.
She thanked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Poland for organizing this meeting.
The UN NGO Unit at Geneva: Lidiya Grigoreva
She noted the importance of the United Nations for peace in the world and presented:
- ECOSOC with its statute and the various rules in particular to obtain the statute
-The Human Rights Council In 1946: 80 INGOs, 700 in 1992 and 5.153 today!
OSCE (The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) Katarzina Gardapkhadze
There is currently less and less space for INGOs ... a lot of questioning and even problematic situations (physical attacks)!
There are many INGOs defending Human Rights, Migrants and Refugees, Minorities.
There is a growing number of INGOs that depend on governments but also a birth of new movements such as: Refugees - Welcome, Me Too.
There are new commitments, but we do not always find the partners!
There is a general openness of the OSCE with respect to INGOs and new INGOs.
This institution also has a political mission in relation to Human Rights by:
- Observing and monitoring of elections in Europe
- Defending democratic institutions
- Supporting Human Rights
In these missions, there is room for civil society engagement, with possible training, especially for election observation. But we must always do more and better by including Civil Society!
80 INGOs engage on a platform to propose recommendations. There is a representative of Civil Society in every OSCE decision-making venue.
These are interactions between civil society and NGOs
We would like to go from an architecture of speeches (information coming from the "top") to an architecture of listening (centered on the information collected from the "grassroots").
European Agency for Fundamental Rights (U.E) Andréas Accardo*
It is a young organization! A platform for the 28 countries of the U.E, an agency of Fundamental Rights within Human Rights. It is a work experience between the U.E. and the CoE
It can be considered as a pooling, a cooperation with key NGOs for the protection of human rights. Rather a body of experts who seeks to "recover" the experiences of Civil Society, a participative and non-decisional body. 800 NGOs are registered without being "verified". It provides information, consultation of Human Rights, consultation on the challenges posed to NGOs.
There is cooperation with the CoE.
There are different registrations of NGOs, some of which are confessional and others belonging to trades unions. At the international level, there is a virtual system of cooperation. It is a question of actually respecting the specificity of each country of the Union.
During the discussion that took place after this first panel, note that the Ambassador of Spain spoke of the existence of the four pillars! (Committee of Ministers, Parliamentary Assembly, Congress of Regional and Municipal Authorities and the INGO Conference)(and this was the only time in the proceedings.
Panel 2: Possible Scenarios for the Future of NGOs in the CoE.
Directorate of Democratic Governance and Anti-Discrimination - Claudia Luciani
Cooperation INGO / CoE
The Secretary General has a central role, he receives delegations and interest groups.
The Committee of Ministers and the Commission on Human Rights, for example, for the implementation of the Istanbul Convention.
It is good to interact between the Committee of Ministers and Civil Society. To strengthen Civil Society in all member countries, to defend and promote freedom of assembly.
The "Forum of Democracy" is of great importance.
The Ambassador of Poland - Mr Janusz Stanczyk stresses
- Need for a better visibility of the presence of INGOs at the CoE
- Interaction of the Council of Ministers and the INGO Conference: urgency to strengthen the dialogue since 2015. It is insufficient at present, it must become more frequent.
- Return to the principle of transparency, put more things online.
- Strengthen the Committee of Ministers / INGO Conference relationship and for that:
- strengthen support for budgets and funding
- Engage INGOs in recruitment, the selection of the delegate for Human Rights -Strengthen links with the ECHR - Multiply the commitments of the Council and the INGO Conference
Member of Parliament for Poland / CoE- Hanna Machinska The Commissioner of Human Rights is committed to 220 conventions! There is a lot to do because we are at the heart of a crisis of values, in a world of mistrust with an exponential increase in hate speech. A very difficult moment. We are facing a massive erosion of standards. NGOs are victims of a harsh campaign against leaders. It is necessary to strengthen the links between the INGOs and the CoE at the level of its structures. Yes for thematic debates. Why not a common platform for alerts? Especially in relation to INGOs who are in difficulties.
Lawyer - Alexandru Postica Stresses the importance of INGOs and NGOs defending human rights. It is about promoting Democracy (in the Republic of Moldova, for example) It is also important to have links with the ECHR, which in particular defended INGOs
The Ambassador of the Netherlands: It is possible to go even further with NGOs, with thematic debates for example. The Ambassador of Spain: the intermediary role of NGOs is very important. We must take into account all the stakeholders and together refocus on the general interest.The Representative of the Holy See: Put the person at the center, allow the INGOs to play their role of spokesperson for the voiceless. MIAMSI: Fundamental role of the Conference of INGOs which brings together INGOs of "small" size. It allows all contributions to be taken into account, regardless of the size of the INGOs. The Ambassador of Norway: the link with NGOs is a priority. So we should: Encourage the Chair of the Committee of Ministers to communicate more with INGOs Review privacy issues In funding and resources, have a separate account to regularize repayments Put online the calendar of all upcoming meetings. Conclusion: November 28, 2018: The decision to present a recommendation for a more pro-active Committee of Ministers! Including greater
transparency and openness. The CoE can do better! We must always take each other more seriously. All INGOs, even the smallest and the CoE: everyone needs the other.
End of Daniel GUERY of MIAMSI ‘s Notes (based on the simultaneous translation of the proceedings from English into French)
*NOTE BY Hugo Castelli Eyre, EN-RE, I asked Claudio ACCARDI about the EU bulletin « My business and human rights, a guide to human rights for small and medium-sized enterprises » which was available on the EU internet in 28 European languages but at present only English remains. Claudio passed on this information to his colleague Jonas GRIMHEDEN who promised to upload them again so we can use them to promote the recommendation of our former Working Group Human Rights, Codevelopment & Migrations. Jonas also suggested reading : https://fra.europa.eu/en/opinion/2017/business-human-rights