At the end of June, the Conference of INGOs convened for its summer session, which focused on facilitating cooperation between civil society and the Council of Europe and increasing the impact of its work.

Facilitating cooperation between civil society and the Council of Europe

The Conference sees civil society as playing an important role in supporting the application of Council of Europe legislation, both through the work that it does and by assuming a watchdog role. Participants focused the European Social Charter, which guarantees social and economic rights, and the Istanbul Convention, which is aimed at combatting violence against women and domestic violence.

Participants also stressed the need to coordinate the Conference’s activities with those of other Council of Europe bodies. To this end, the Conference met with the Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Gabriella Battaini-Dragoni, to discuss strengthening the role of NGOs at the Council of Europe. Battaini-Dragoni filled participants in on her plans to develop new guidelines that would give civil society a stronger voice in decision making processes. The Conference will support this process by carrying out fact-finding visits, beginning with Bulgaria, Moldova and Romania, and raising awareness within their respective countries.

The Conference had also the opportunity to exchange on this subject with the member states’ Permanent Representatives to the Council of Europe.

Increasing the impact of the Conference of INGOs’ work

The Expert Council on NGO Law, which investigates NGO legislation that is conflict with international stands, was renewed.

Participants also discussed how to increase the involvement of young people in the Conference’s activities, with input from Youssef Himmat, a representative from the Advisory Council of Youth. As part of its efforts in this vein, the Conference established an ad hoc Youth Committee earlier this year. If you are interested in this topic, please email me and like the Committee’s Facebook page.

The Council also discussed ways of increasing coordination amongst its working groups and strengthening the visibility of their work.

Finally, participants discussed ways of engaging citizens in reacting to policies that threaten human rights, democracy and the rule of law. The Conference considered two areas of concern: disability and austerity. It made recommendations for a new disability strategy and warned against the threat austerity poses for to democracy, and economic, social and cultural rights.

For more information on the Conference of INGOs, visit their website, like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.