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PARTICIPATORY STATUS OF THE CITIZENS ASSOCIATION CIVIS

Citizens Association CIVIS was given on January 18th 2008 the participatory status with the Council of Europe (Document SG/Inf (2008)1).

HOW DID IT START?

Having in mind, that in the Council of Europe within one of its main pillars - Conference of INGOs there is no a unique organization which would represent interests of South East European civil society, Association CIVIS applied for the participatory status.

In the Secretary General’s monitoring report, submitted in July 2007, related to Serbia’s compliance with obligations and commitments and implementation of the post - accession co-operation programme, in the chapter “Freedom of association” was stated that:

“A recent initiative is striving for a more active role for Serbian and regional NGOs in European issues, possibly through gaining participatory status with the COE Conference of International NGOs. The European Movement in Serbia and the Foundation for Peace and Conflict Resolution founded in early June “CIVIS - Association of NGOs from South East Europe”, in order to become an international NGO enjoying participatory status with the COE” (Document SG/Inf (2007)05).

THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE PARTICIPATORY STATUS

The Council of Europe statutory aim is to achieve a closer unity between its members for the purpose of safeguarding and realising the ideals and principles which are their common heritage, and facilitating their economic and social progress. The achievement of this goal and these missions cannot be realised without constant sensitivity to public opinion and to the driving forces in European society. The existence of an active civil society and its non-governmental organisations (NGOs), which are a vital component of European society, is an important and indispensable element of democracy. The essential role of counterbalance played by NGOs in a pluralist democracy should intensify the active participation of all citizens in conducting public affairs, and promote responsible democratic citizenship based on Human Rights and equality between woman and man. Initiatives, ideas and suggestions emanating from civil society can be considered as a true expression of European citizens.

Bearing in mind all above mentioned, the Council of Europe has, over the years, developed fruitful working relations with NGOs since it first created a consultative status for international non-governmental organisations in 1952. The rules for co-operation were governed by Committee of Ministers Resolution (93)38 until November 2003.

Wishing to reflect active and constructive role of NGOs, and to clarify, facilitate and intensify the co-operation between the COE and the INGOs, Committee of Ministers suggestedparticipatory status for NGOs. Resolution (2003)8 on participatory status was adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 19 November 2003. All NGOs enjoying consultative status were automatically granted participatory status. All of them are gathered in the Conference of International Non-Governmental Organisations (Conference of INGOs) which makes with the Committee of Ministers, Parliamentary Assembly and Congress of Local and Regional Authorities a “Quadrilogue” – an expression for democratic pluralism and essential element for the further development of a citizens’ Europe.

WHAT IS PARTICIPATORY STATUS?

Non-governmental organization which applies and meets conditions is granted a participatory status. This means that NGOs:

  • May address memoranda to the Secretary General for submission to the committees, as well as to the Commissioner for Human Rights;
  • May be invited to provide, through their specific activity or experience, expert advice on Council of Europe policies, programmes and actions;
  • Shall receive the agenda and public documents of the Parliamentary Assembly in order to facilitate their attendance at public sittings of the Parliamentary Assembly;
  • Shall be invited to public sittings of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe;
  • Shall be invited to activities organized for them by the Secretariat;
  • Shall be invited to attend seminars, conferences, colloquies of interest to their work according to the applicable Council of Europe rules.

Practically, participatory status gives NGO an opportunity to:

  • Influence on COE member states she is active in;
  • Be heard in all COE bodies;
  • Establish good relations and cooperation with other important INGOs and to joint efforts on common goals;
  • Access documents;

WHAT ARE OBLIGATIONS OF A NGO HAVING PARTICIPATORY STATUS?

For their part, the organizations enjoying participatory status undertake to:

  • Keep themselves regularly informed of Council of Europe activities and developments in standards by means of the numerous sources of information available, including the Internet;
  • Furnish, either spontaneously or at the request of the Council of Europe’s different bodies, information, documents or opinions relating to their own field(s) of competence on matters which are under consideration or which could be addressed by the Council of Europe;
  • Work to promote the respect of the Council of Europe’s standards, conventions and legal instruments in the member states, and assist in the implementation of these standards, and this in close contact with local, regional and national NGOs;
  • Give maximum publicity to the initiatives and achievements of the Council of Europe in their own field(s) of competence;
  • Disseminate information on Council of Europe standards, instruments and activities, as well as information from the INGO thematic groupings, to their members, on a regular basis, and ensure that they too work actively to fulfill the requirements of the participatory status;
  • Submit every four years a report to the Secretary General.

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