Finding a bigger voice for NGOs at the Council of Europe


By Jessica Chamba, Rapporteur, Conference of INGOs, Council of Europe.

The INGO Conference of the Council of Europe held its Winter Session during the last week of January. The 3 thematic Commissions (on Education and Culture, Human Rights and Democracy, Social Cohesion and Global Challenges) were given the chance to meet at the beginning of the week – for mainly informal moments that enable the NGOs to exchange information on various projects – as well as on the Friday. The Session ended with a very interesting plenary session, during which the INGO Conference had the opportunity to exchange with many Permanent Representatives of Member States about how to strengthen the role of NGOs at the Council of Europe.

It was clear that the Member States expect more regular inputs from NGOs and regular alerts on specific situations in Member states of the CoE calling into question democratic or human rights principles. Furthermore, the States need to better understand the working programme of the Conference. Top preoccupations at the moment are, for example, how to deal with the refugee crisis in many CoE countries and how to prevent the spreading of terrorist activists.

The meeting also continued with an exchange of views with the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland. He also insisted on the watchdog role of the Conference, in particular regarding the Human Rights’ situation in some Member States: many decisions from the European Court of Justice are called into question in some Member States and this should be strongly denounced by NGOs. Thorbjørn Jagland also invited the Conference to work together on the preparation of the next World Forum for Democracy, in Autumn 2016, which will be on Education. The Education and Culture Committee is already preparing for this important event.

Aleksandra Kluczka, AEGEE representative at the NGO Conference of the Council of Europe and European Movement Board Member challenged the Secretary General on the working conditions of interns in the CoE who don’t get paid for their internships. The SG regretted this situation but acknowledged that the institution doesn’t have the means to finance these internships. He hopes that the Young people who come to the CoE do benefit from their period there.

The Conference will continue playing this watchdog role in defence of all individuals, promoting fundamental rights and the respect for democratic principles in all CoE Member States. The meeting continued with the presentation of the main conclusions of the Conference’s Study visits to Moldova and Bulgaria as well as other internal updates.

The next meeting will be the June Session, in the week from the 21st to the 24th of June 2016. Until then, the Commissions will continue working and the NGOs can follow these activities through the Conference’s website, Facebook page or Twitter account. (@Coe_NGO)!

The European Movement International is a member organisation of the Council of Europe’s Conference of INGOs where it is represented by Ms Jessica Chamba as rapporteur.

You can read the Council of Europe’s report here.