Our delegates from the European Network Church on the Move EN-RE, Henk Baars (Marienburg), Fernand Jehl (Jonas-Réseaux du Parvis) and Hugo Castelli (Redes Cristianas) participated in the online debates and votes at the Spring 2023 session of the Conference of INGOs.

The official reports are only available in French and English but we would like to make translations into Spanish and German.

Please click on Outcome of the Spring Session 2023 of the Conference of INGOs (24 to 26 April) to read the official report of the session and the work to be done accordingly and I take the opportunity to invite all members of our network and readers, who do not belong, to participate in this work, not necessarily with EN-RE but with other INGOs, for example those representing professions in Education, Health, etc which you will find in the Link to the Database of 301 INGOs , because

the opportunities to find fascinating work of benefit to the Conference of INGOs are enormous.

I have not counted the number of INGOs that have member groups in the UK, Ireland or the USA, which has observer status. The last time I counted there were 190 INGOs with member groups in Spain although I only know one other Spanish delegate in the Conference

I ask you to look at the preamble to the recommendation for the Reykjavik summit on 16-17 May, Resolution CM/Res(2016)3) in English which explains the conditions for obtaining the participatory status of a Council of Europe INGO. Our EN-RE network obtained the accreditation in 2008 but now we have to present our four-yearly report to keep the status and we could easily lose it due to insufficient work and that is why we are looking for younger women and men delegates with lots of energy to replace us older men.

I found especially interesting the speeches on the Wednesday afternoon on:

- The Davos Declaration 2018 for the culture of quality buildings in Europe (a Swiss text published in English, French, German and Italian), and

The Observatory on History teaching in Europe

This is an initiative of a former French minister during France's recent presidency of the Committee of Ministers, on the method of teaching a common history between neighbouring countries that have suffered war or conflict with each other, and eventually let us pray that this initiative takes place between Russia and Ukraine and between Christianity and Islam, etc.

Gerhard Ermischer, our President of the Conference of INGOs, encouraged us to ask our own countries to increase their financial contribution to the Council of Europe because the annual budget, in relation to the population, has almost halved due to the expulsion of Russia. Gerhard commented that Andorra pays the minimum, which in Andorra corresponds to one euro per inhabitant, and he suggested that we ask our governments for the same proportional contribution.

Another issue, discussed on Tuesday, was the intervention by my friend Ms Anne Nègre on the contradiction of the Conference writing the Rights of Man in the recommendation for Reykjavik instead of the non masculine universal term (except in France) Human Rights, the term approved for all internal documents at the INGO Conference. I think I read somewhere that when during the French Revolution the members of the Third Estate proclaimed the Rights of Man it was because they wanted to be sure that their wives would cook their dinner when they came home from the Assembly in the evening, but maybe I dreamed that.

I hope to edit this text with the contributions of Fernand and Henk.

Fernand Jehl adds "the interest of the reports by the Presidents of the activity of the COMMITTEE: Ten or so reports testifying to the commitment of several dozen members of our INGOs on central Council of Europe issues. The most active committees have made proposals that the Conference chairpersons will forward to the Committee of Ministers. The major themes: the European Social Charter, inter-religious and inter-faith dialogue, migrants' rights, artificial intelligence... ETC ("Children's rights", "Environmental crisis: governance and solidarity issues", "Environment, climate change, heritage and health",

"Education for democracy", "NGOs defending gender equality and women's rights") The Council of Europe and Conference of INGOs websites provide a lot of information on these topics. Our participation introduces the necessary diversity of views on some of these issues, as a testimony of our values. The recommendation produced by the Committee on the Rights of Migrants contains elements that often express our convictions.

Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)

 Henk Baars has added his comments:

Dear Hugo,
I looked in my notes from the last INGO session we participated in and made the following observations in addition to yours:
- report on Finland with Finnish ambassador: all in all a good story about an almost perfect society it seems. I noticed that not a word was spent on the threat of Russia at the borders and almost no NGOs from Finland were represented. The only critical note was that one does not know how to proceed with NGOs if the lottery fund were to disappear.
- We are waiting for text that can be used towards our own national parliamentarians to persuade them to make more money available for the Council of Europe. Is that text there yet? They did promise that.
- the Secretary General of the Council is very worried about the 'democratic backsliding' in many countries of Europe. Pressure on minorities is increasing. But I don't see any proposals from her to improve that either. It is not clear to me what they are doing about it then. The pleas for more democratic principles are nice, but I think The Council of Europe has bitterly little influence on the political process.
It is very difficult to fathom the political process, even for me after all these years, let alone people in the rest of Europe. We should certainly not give up this seat, even if we rate ourselves weaker. This is the case with many NGOs and we are no exception. The focus on undocumented people should be worked out even better and become known in the INGO with this.
Kind regards and see you on Saturday.
Henk Baars