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The Council of Europe’s work benefits extensively from contacts and co-operation with the dynamic elements of society, as represented by NGOs. One of the main challenges currently facing the Organisation is to strengthen NGOs and civil society in the new member states and to develop participatory democracy on a pan-European basis. The Council of Europe’s co-operation programmes rely on partner NGOs and focus on democratic reform.

The Council of Europe’s Conference of International Non-governmental Organisations (Conference INGOs) is made up of INGOs with participatory status at the Council of Europe. Through this status, the Council of Europe includes INGOs in intergovernmental activities and encourages dialogue of members of parliament and local and regional authorities with associations on major social issues. To date, approximately 410 INGOs hold participatory status. They form the Conference of INGOs of the Council of Europe, which meets once a year to decide on general lines of action.


  1. The Conference of INGOs
  2. The Bureau
  3. The Standing Committee
  4. The Committees and Transversal Groups


The Bureau implements the decisions of the Conference of INGOs and its Standing Committee. It is responsible for the internal and external communication of the Conference. It ensures that all INGOs enjoying participatory status and interested in the work of the Conference of INGOS are involved in it. These members of the Bureau sit on the Bureau in a personal capacity. They are:

  1. The President of the Conference,
  2. Three Vice-Presidents,
  3. Four Rapporteurs,
  4. The President of “INGO-Service”.


A Standing Committee elected by the Conference, meets regularly, promoting permanent dialogue and co-operation between the Council’s Secretariat and the INGOs. It maintains close contact with the Council’s political bodies – the Committee of Ministers, the Parliamentary Assembly, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities and the Commissioner for Human Rights.

Members of the standing Committee are:

  1. The members of the Bureau of the Conference,
  2. The Chairs and Vice-Chairs of the Committees and the Transversal Groups, the Chairs of Expert Councils, and
  3. In a consultative capacity, the outgoing President of the INGO Conference for three years and the Honorary Presidents of the INGO Conference.


INGOs with participatory status have set up five thematic Committees and two Transversal Groups which meet four times a year during the sessions of the Parliamentary Assembly.

  1. Human Rights Committee,
  2. Social Cohesion and Eradication of Poverty Committee,
  3. Culture, Science and Education Committee,
  4. Civil Society and Democracy Committee,
  5. Sustainable Territorial Development committee.

Two Transversal Groups:

  1. Gender Equality Transversal Group
  2. Europe and Global Challenges Transversal Group

The Groupings and Committees maintain a regular dialogue with Council of Europe representatives, receiving first hand information on the Council’s activities and contributing their collective know-how to their implementation.


Co-operation with INGOs takes many forms, from simple consultation to full-scale co-operation on specific projects. INGO experts may participate in various projects as consultants; they may contribute to the work of intergovernmental committees on an institutionalized or ad-hoc basis, prepare memoranda for the Secretary General, make oral or written statements to the committees of the Parliamentary Assembly and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities and address seminars and other meetings organised by the Council of Europe. INGOs enjoying participatory status also disseminate information about the Council of Europe’s aims and activities among their constituencies.

In November 2003, the participatory status for international NGOs was supplemented by a partnership between the Council of Europe and national NGOs (Resolution (2003)9) reflecting their vital role in strengthening a democratic and open society in all member states, and their active and constructive contribution to the Council of Europe’s work programme.

For more information on terms of reference of the Conference of INGOs bodies, functioning and procedures, please consult the Rules of procedures.


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