NGOS AND LOCAL AND REGIONAL DEMOCRACY - CG (10) 23 Part II

Rapporteur :
Mr Bernard SUAUD (France, R)

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EXPLANATORY MEMORANDUM

This report1 consist of two main parts:

    1. The first part analyses the discussions held at the conference co-organised by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe (CLRAE) and the Committee of INGOs holding consultative status with the Council of Europe on "NGOs and local and regional democracy" (Budapest, 28 February – 1 March 2003);

    2. The second part, which is based on the discussions held at the Budapest Conference, sets out practical recommendations addressed to local and regional elected representatives.

The annex to the report contains a summary of the discussions held at the conference and the final declaration of the Budapest Conference

Part 1: Analysis of the discussions

1. The meeting

One meeting, two aims

On paper, the meeting had only one aim: discussing relations between non-governmental organisations (NGO) and local and regional authorities. As things turned out, however, a second theme in fact ran through the proceedings, namely the role and place of INGOs in the work of the Council of Europe. This was foreseeable, given the debate on the question of participatory status for INGOs. Consequently, the discussions were often marked by this issue. A third complementary aim might be added: the launch of joint work by the Congress and the INGO Liaison Committee, a concern which transpired from the workshops.

A debate occasionally lacking in balance

Since more NGO representatives attended the conference than local authority officials, the discussions centred more on the questions and issues raised by NGOs than with problems facing local and regional authorities.

Breaking the ice: mutual distrust based on misunderstandings

Apart from the final declaration, one of the important outcomes of the discussion was the meeting itself. This is because of the lack of opportunities for discussion between these protagonists in a context other than their local day-to-day setting - characterised by mutual knowledge and ongoing situations. Outside this context, and faced with a variety of players sometimes facing comparable situations, this meeting occasionally enabled participants to secure the necessary objectivity and transcend particular positions. One example is the mutual suspicion which arises in some discussions and is often based on individual experience. Dialogue and interactive games showed that a substantial part of such mistrust was also due to an absence of comparison with other territories and above all to ignorance of the constraints and objectives of the different parties. By enabling individuals to put themselves in other people's shoes and to appreciate their expectations with regard to possible partners (NGO/local or regional authority), the interactive games enabled them to see that the perspective changes.

2. The findings

Contrasting realities: legislation and practices

The examples given and the ensuing discussions highlighted the great variety of situations and approaches depending not only on the individual country but also the individual project. Sometimes legislation exerts influence here, and sometimes the main factor is the weight of particular NGOs. On other occasions it is simply habit that makes the relationship simpler, more structured or freer, as the case may be.

The difficulty of seeing things in a European perspective

As a result of this diversity, it is sometimes difficult to adopt a different, more comprehensive perspective, to identify the generic or specific difficulties and to draw the necessary conclusions in terms of possible methods or tools. It is not invariably easy to transcend one's own situation to find a common solution.

The myth of the perfect NGO

Contrary to certain underlying assumptions that emerged in the discussions, there is no such thing as an NGO model or a model NGO. The sector is extremely varied and includes all kinds of groupings, and it is therefore necessary to remember certain facts: NGOs defend a variety of interests, sometimes specific, sometimes general, sometimes defending the public interest, sometimes promoting individual interests. No NGO has a monopoly; for a given area, a number of NGOs may coexist or compete. Nor is an NGO democratic and open to all by definition. NGOs undergo a life cycle, coming into being, flourishing and dying.

Accordingly, it is difficult for local and regional authorities to give all NGOs particular attention or roles “automatically”. What is certain for all that is that they will acquire that recognition as a result of the legitimacy which they bring to bear in dealings with the local or regional authority: such legitimacy may be conferred by the authority or by law, or may be simply acquired by virtue of their work, their expertise or the number of their members.

The myth of the perfect local or regional authority

Here again, variety is the rule. Not only the realities but also the priorities, projects and practices differ according to the timescale, the place and the persons elected to the territorial authorities. As a result, the role granted to NGOs may also vary in the same way as domestic democracy or the endeavour to identify the public interest.

Conflicting points of view

The points of view maintained by INGOs and local authorities are in many respects contradictory, which, in view of the issues at stake and the difficulties of the whole area, is in fact only to be expected.

INGO representatives actually seem to be constantly struggling to secure real recognition of their role, both in general and in specific cases. That quest for honorary recognition goes hand in hand with a desire to be consulted, mandated or delegated vis-à-vis a given issue or field of action and to obtain funding. When recognised, the NGOs in question become genuine institutions and forfeit some of their specificities, commitment and flexibility. In this way, they sometimes forget their purposes as associations or, more straightforwardly, their objectives, and gradually drift towards the instrumentalisation which they fear so much. This situation might be summed up in the following diagram:
Recognition è Gradual institutionalisation è Instrumentalisation.

In contrast, the authorities seem to favour a large number of small structures in order to have a variety of different interlocutors at their disposal and thereby encourage participatory democracy. Now, democracy should be free and bold, but not excessively so, because when it comes to extremely serious matters, the authority seeks out a sole interlocutor capable of understanding its long-term interest, that is to say the survival of its funding.

Quite different structures and purposes

It is doubtless a truism, but the following idea emerged from the discussions and might be reiterated here: a local or regional authority and an NGO are not the same thing and vice versa. While an NGO sometimes consists of authorities and the directors of an association can also be local elected representatives, their structures and objectives are quite different. Sometimes they would ideally like to swap places. It is sometimes tempting for an NGO which has “expertise” in a particular field to carry out, or ask to carry out, a specific assignment and then to invoice the authority for this work. It is also true that some authorities embark on activities lie outside within their remit or compete directly with the work of specific NGOs which do not have the same constraints. All this only exacerbates mutual suspicion. The fact is that a healthy relationship between NGOs and authorities requires each to accept the other's role, indeed sometimes its very existence.

Risks attaching to one-way relationships

One of the major risks is that of a one-way relationship, and this risk warrants particular attention because it is the one most feared by both parties. The NGOs fear instrumentalisation, ie they are worried about the authority in question exploiting their structures exclusively for its own benefit. That would deprive the NGO of its independence, making it an instrument for implementing a policy, as an “annex” of the authority itself.

For their part, the local and regional authorities are afraid of becoming a mere cash desk. The NGOs would apply to the authority, which would be there only to finance their projects; and the NGOs would not take no for an answer.

Often relations between the two tend to go in one direction rather than another - a perception but also a reality -, even though they would both like to have a more balanced and more developed relationship, transcending any mutual dependence.

Participatory democracy: between low participation by one side and dictatorship by the other

The real underlying question during the discussion was that of participatory democracy and the transition from conceptualisation to implementation. Participation is infinitely variable: there are innumerable possibilities between allowing organisations to express their views and allowing them in on the decision-making process. The positions of the various parties in this relationship, which is designed to gather the views of the different local and regional actors in order to involve them in the decision-making process and also to improve this process, may therefore differ from case to case and depending on the procedures involved, which are sometimes codified by law and sometimes more open-ended. In some cases, therefore, the authorities merely ascertain the general view, while in others the NGOs play or seek to play a role which involves them up to the decision-making stage. There again, the roles can be reversed, which cannot be a good thing when a decision has already been taken, since it will be binding only on the authority.

The reality behind verbal expressions of partnership?

Most of the speakers warmly commended partnership, trust and clear rules but, beyond the mere words, few actual mechanisms were mentioned. Word come easier than actions. It is understandable that the partnership must be balanced (is this possible, even in ideal terms?), continuous (is there a deadline?), evaluated (by whom and how?) and aimed at common concerns. Moreover, behind the word partnership and beyond any specific approach, there are also covert realities which vary according to partner and subject-matter: between offering a lifeline to a neighbourhood association and delegating matters to the public service, the forms and implications diverge widely.

Partnership or monopoly?

    Behind the partnership issue the question also seems to emerge of a given NGO having a monopoly in a specific field. This is both a risk and a safeguard for the NGO, for the local or regional authority and also for local democracy. As far as the NGO is concerned, such a monopoly enables it to stabilise its preserve and probably also its funding. It also paves the way for a relationship of dependency and instrumentalisation. As far as the authority is concerned, monopolies may enable it to embark upon genuine action in the target area with a trustworthy partner, while retaining the right of supervision. On the other hand, this solution also leaves the authority with one single interlocutor and the risk of conflict not only with that partner but also with other NGOs, or quite simply with ordinary citizens. From the point of view of democracy, stable relationships are always preferable, provided that they operate under clearly defined conditions. Where there is one sole partner, there is often a major risk of instrumentalisation, plummeting quality, and misuse of assignments and funds, precluding any kind of transparency.

In some fields, given an appropriate procedure (in terms of publicity, competitiveness and free choice based on specified criteria, including social ones), NGOs, in common with other economic actors, may come to manage certain policies or equipment/infrastructures independently.

Moreover, the creation of centres for associations or local groupings of associations may facilitate an overall partnership between the local or regional authority and the NGOs in its area.

A common goal?

This question is unresolved. It is always possible to ask whether or not there is a common goal. It may well even be the first question put in a relationship between two or more parties. The goal may be specific or general, ad hoc, limited in time or ongoing. In this context, the fact that regular questioning takes place between the parties doubtless constitutes a safeguard against possible excesses.

3. Leads

Winning trust

Once observed, suspicion cannot be eliminated in one fell swoop, since it is bound up with the relative positioning of each party in the democratic process. It would therefore be illusory to think that a legal instrument could make any difference, especially given the phenomenon of generation replacement. Trust takes time, and can be secured through discussions, projects and so on. It would probably be more useful to provide incentives for meetings and common endeavour.

One or more common goals

Any relationship between these two protagonists presupposes the existence of one or more common concerns. This initial stage is vital, even though it may not necessarily involve common projects. Agreement is needed on the concern, not on the substance or the method. Otherwise, what would be the point in the relationship?

Examples of good practice

Although the idea of good practice has to be used cautiously (what is good practice really, when is it good practice, for whom is it good practice, etc), presenting examples is always conducive not only to initiating discussions but also to eliciting ideas. For all that, not all the ideas of good practice were of the same value, in terms of their dimensions or of their inclusion in a wider approach.

A clear approach and clear rules of the game

In the absence of any ideal way of conducting the relationship in question, a clear approach and clear rules of the game would appear to be the optimum way or addressing the issue. At least, this was the wish expressed both by the elected representatives and the NGO leaders attending the conference. Accordingly, this question should be so framed as to pave the way for the eventual construction of a real partnership with predetermined characteristics. Since partnerships do not come about by decree, the first stage involves confidence-building.

A clear definition of roles

In view of the differing, and sometimes even conflicting, conceptions and realties, the first need is to define roles. Leaving room for different interpretations or stances may lead to confusion. Each individual party has its role, its responsibilities and its resources. Clarity can undoubtedly minimise mistakes and avoid endless debate and “beating about the bush”. It would also be conceivable to include among these rules a requirement on authorities to respond to NGOs' requests within a specified time limit.

Multiple relationships

Given the difficulties engendered by bilateral relations, it may perhaps be preferable to promote initiatives involving a number of partners: a number of NGOs, several local and regional authorities, and other structures. While this is doubtless more difficult to arrange, it may also constitute a safeguard against situations of dependency and loss of autonomy.

Essential fields

Above and beyond these mechanisms, there are fields in which the NGOs flexibility, experience and ability to mobilise individuals in support of a project enable them to contribute knowledge, skills and activities which the local and regional authorities would be ill-advised to overlook. These skills are seldom concentrated in one single organisation (this is not the point of such associations) but, drawing on its specific fortes, each organisation has the ability to act, reach a target population and support one or more individuals. In such cases, the authority is well-advised to support their activities and incorporating them into a more general policy.

        4 Expertise
        4 Access to information
        4 Educating people to take responsibility
        4 Access to the law and its implementation
        4 Inspiring democratic debate and mobilising community action

Part 2: Practical recommendations to local and regional elected representatives

The Budapest Conference concluded with the adoption of a final declaration. This text incorporates some of the discussions and provides initial responses to some of the findings made. Set out below are a number the more relevant leads identified, together with others which will form part of the continuing debate. They are of two kinds, which must be clearly distinguished, even if they sometimes overlap:

    1. Institutional co-operation between the CLRAE and INGOs with consultative status within the Council of Europe;

    2. Co-operation between local and regional authorities and local and regional NGOs.

1/ Institutional co-operation between the CLRAE and INGOs holding consultative status within the Council of Europe

Such co-operation may take many and varied forms depending on the degree of bipartite involvement. It is therefore important to differentiate them, bearing in mind that what matters is doubtless more the shared work and interests than any formal encounters involved. Such co-operation is also connected with the general framework for co-operation among the various institutions of the Council of Europe, the development of the status of NGOs within the Council of Europe and the political will of the various players in these structures.

Ongoing relations:

    4 General : Regular (for instance, annual) meetings between the Bureau of the Congress and the INGO Liaison Committee aimed at securing an overview of the issues dealt with by each side;

    4 Thematic: It ought to be possible to arrange institutional co-operation between the committees of the CLRAE and the thematic INGO groupings. It would be very easy to conceive of one or two representatives of a grouping attending a meeting of the corresponding committee of the Congress and vice-versa. This might also take the form of a correspondent mandated to follow a particular committee or a particular discussion in the light of the agenda of the meeting.

Committees of the Congress

Institutional Committee
Culture and Education Committee
Committee on Sustainable Development
Committee on Social Cohesion

INGO groupings

European Social Charter, Social Policy
Human Rights
Education and Culture
North-South Solidarity and Dialogue
Civil society in the new Europe
Countryside and Environment
Health
NGO-Towns
Gender Equality
Extreme Poverty and Social Cohesion

Possible co-operation in relation to work underway:

Committees of the Congress
Institutional Committee
Committee on Social Cohesion
Culture and Education Committee
Committee on Sustainable Development

INGO groupings

Civil Society in the New Europe
Gender Equality
European Social Charter, Social Policy
Human Rights

Education and Culture
Gender Equality
Human Rights
North-South Solidarity and Dialogue

Countryside and Environment
NGO-Towns
European Social Charter, Social Policy
North-South Solidarity and Dialogue

European Social Charter, Social Policy
Human Rights
North-South Solidarity and Dialogue
Health
Gender Equality
Extreme Poverty and Social Cohesion

Ad hoc contacts:

    4 Consultations: in connection with the drafting of a text or simply in addressing a particular issue, the Congress could ask the Liaison Committee or the grouping to give it an opinion or it might question it with regard to the issue; 

    4 Meetings of a less institutional nature: conferences and forums organised by various authorities, notably in the Council of Europe, enable the various protagonists to meet and to discuss together. Such initial contacts should be encouraged insofar as they may give rise to future co-operation. Consequently requests in the context of developing programmes and inviting speakers or participants should be made more systematic.

Common projects?

Above and beyond opportunities for discussion, it is perhaps somewhat early to envisage genuine common projects, but this might nevertheless be a medium-term aim. Already, integrated projects afford a space which may serve to concentrate the resources and also the energies, reflections and experiences of each party into a common project. Some issues raised by this conference would seem to be relevant to future developments.

2/ Co-operation between local and regional authorities and NGOs

Given their roles, activities and objectives and the contacts which they maintain with the population, local and regional authorities and NGOs are necessarily interlinked. Their relations may be good or antagonistic, they may work together or compete, and they may contribute funding or know-how. In the light of the proceedings of the Budapest Conference and the appraisal of that conference, three types of activity could be developed in order to encourage better dialogue, the construction of genuine partnership and the development of innovative joint activities.

2.1 Progressing from suspicion to confidence: opportunities for getting to know each other better

Whereas local elected representatives have often had the privilege of performing functions in NGOs, and while NGO leaders are or have often been elected locally, this does not make them more aware overall than most people of the difficulties encountered by each type of organisation in achieving their aims. In practice, the fact that one side distrusts the other militates for action to encourage encounters, dialogue and the preparation of these groups. In this context, two different types of activities may be distinguished: traditional and non-traditional.

A. Traditional activities at local level.

As proposed earlier with regard to the European level, relations on a similar basis may be envisaged at local level.

A local focus for NGOs

Such action presupposes the establishment of local centres or places where NGOs can meet and coordinate themselves in the particular area. Whereas, of course, certain issues arouse passionate opposition, this type of venue is not designed to smooth out such problems. Its aim is more to serve as a technical platform for sharing resources and know-how, in respect not only of questions of legislation, funding and management, but also of institutional relations regarding NGOs and their role in the territory in question. There is no point in such centres unless they are open to all NGOs without restriction and operate as such open structures.

Ongoing relations:

    4 General: regular (e.g. annual) meetings between the municipality and the local NGO centre in order to review the various issues being dealt with by each of them;

    4 Thematic: between working committees of the local or regional authority and NGOs, institutional co-operation should be possible. Systematic or non-systematic attendance by one or two representatives at meetings might easily be envisaged, or an authorised contact person might follow a particular committee or a particular debate. Such a representative could then combine his or her roles as an expert in the particular subject, a representative of a particular sensibility or a democratic “watchdog”.

Ad hoc relationships:

    4 Consultation: in drafting a decision or simply in addressing a particular issue, the local or regional authority could approach the centre for associations with a view, for example, to providing contributions;

    4 Less institutional opportunities for meetings: conferences and forums organised by various local or regional authorities enable the various protagonists to meet and debate together. Such initial contacts are to be encouraged insofar as they may give rise to future co-operation. Consequently, requests with regard to programme development and inviting speakers or participants should be made more systematic.

B. The traditional activities at different levels

Short term:

    On a par with the Budapest Conference, which enabled participants to transcend their day-to-day patterns, it is always interesting to meet local actors from both NGOs and local authorities with a view to transcending their mutual suspicion. Several different types of meeting are conceivable:

    4 Conferences with active workshops spread over one or more days at the regional, national or European level.

    4 “50/50” structures: in this case, what is proposed is a somewhat longer format (one week) during which a group consisting of equal numbers of representatives of local and regional authorities and of NGOs would meet in order to discuss both their practices and their difficulties through different processes (role-playing, thematic discussions). The Council of Europe is already organising this type of training in the youth sphere with representatives of youth NGOs and local and national officials. This makes it possible to break the ice, understand the difficulties of one's respective partner and to put the different parties’ conceptions into perspective.

Over a longer period

A good means of restoring confidence could also be to promote a long-term partnership with actors from different horizons (NGOs, local or regional authorities, representatives of national authorities) and different regions on a common project. The example of LDAs is interesting in this regard, and could be taken as a model for other activities.

2.2 Pilot projects for co-operation

In order to create healthy, constructive relationships based on new practices, it might be interesting to consider launching a call for pilot projects in this area. A possible objective would be to foster the construction of innovative projects and, in conjunction with the innovations already registered, this would allow a database to be created of innovative partnership projects involving local and regional authorities and NGOs. Its exemplary value might prove that this approach is feasible, thereby giving all parties new ideas and subsequently encouraging exchanges.

2.3 A memorandum on relations between NGOs and local authorities

This type of partnership between local and regional authorities is enshrined in many documents drawn up by the Council of Europe and other institutions, both in the context of machinery (local autonomy, participatory democracy, involvement of young people) and in texts on specific issues (sustainable development, education, combating violence, etc.). For all that, there would seem to be no document dealing separately with this relationship and bringing together all the existing contributions. In view of the issues at stake in terms of local democracy, and in the wake of this conference, the CLRAE and its members could work on a document covering all these ideas and proposing safeguards and ideas for partnership between the local and regional authorities and the NGOs existing in their respective areas. The process of preparing such a document could set an example for collective projects involving local and regional elected representatives and representative NGOs.

The work which has just been concluded on revising the European Charter on the Participation of Young People in Municipal and Regional Life could serve as a model here.

On the basis of recognising the contribution made by NGOs to life in society and local development, this memorandum would set out to define the broad lines for facilitating a lasting and useful partnership for all at the legislative, legal, economic, fiscal and social levels. In this way, it could define not only the purposes of such a partnership but also the corresponding mechanisms: animation of local democracy, the educational role played by NGOs, NGOs as individual economic and social actors, etc.

For instance, on the question of funding, the memorandum could draw on existing examples to devise the most appropriate funding mechanisms for each individual project – one-off or longer term – with a view to increasing efficiency (reducing the time taken by the corresponding procedures and the systems for allocating funding, better use of funds, etc.) and transparency. The procedures for verifying NGOs' use of public funds could also be defined in order to facilitate acceptance of supervisory procedures.

The document could also cover the process of dialogue between local and regional authorities, not only by defining the circumstances in which consultation of NGOs is effective, but also by recognising the NGOs' right to put queries to the authorities when they so wish. It would propose different solutions with the clear aim of involvement in the decision-making process.

It could also define modes of co-operation with NGOs on different issues.

Lastly, the memorandum would remind NGOs of their role both in their activities and in their mode of functioning, the principles of non-discrimination, equality between men and women, internal democracy and regular elections, and likewise the importance of generation replacement.

ANNEX 1: SUMMARY OF THE DISCUSSIONS OF THE CONFERENCE ON NGOs AND LOCAL AND REGIONAL DEMOCRACY (BUDAPEST, 28 FEBRUARY– 1 MARCH 2003)

    This conference, which was prepared jointly by two Council of Europe bodies, namely the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe (CLRAE) and the Liaison Committee for INGOs holding consultative status with the Council of Europe, endeavoured to bring together these two "worlds".

Although both the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the local and regional authorities are actors in local and regional life, they have different roles and objectives. Nonetheless, they are intrinsically linked to each other in their day-to-day activities. They have relationships both as regards legal, fiscal and economic issues and in relation to the projects which they frame and set up either individually or in common, on the initiative of either or both of them. Depending on the time, the place and the people involved, those relationships are to a varying extent good, fair and honest and long term or selective.

By bringing together actors from these two spheres, that is to say NGO leaders and local and regional elected representatives, to discuss concrete examples, the organisers of this conference sought to transcend general discussion in order specifically to tackle these relations and to conceive of more attractive relationships for the purposes of development and local democracy.

Friday 28 February 2003

Opening session

1. Hans De JONGE, Director for External Relations, representing the Secretary General of the Council of Europe.

In May 1991, the Council of Europe organised the first conference of parliamentarians and NGOs entitled “Policies and citizens” in Budapest, at a time when the countries of Central and Eastern Europe were moving towards a pluralist democratic system. For twelve years now the Council of Europe has been increasing its contacts with NGOs on the basis of the role they play in establishing new democracies and building up civil society.

Such renewal of democracy necessitates a fair sharing of power between central authorities and local and regional authorities but also the development of civil society. Civil society is particularly important since it is based on individuals who have decided to act voluntarily, that is to say without any obligation, for the common good.

NGOs have co-operated with the Council since it was set up. In 1952, the Council introduced consultative status for international NGOs (INGOs), which enabled them to make a contribution to its work within their sphere of competence. Now 400 INGOs hold this status and are organised by means of a Liaison Committee and 10 thematic groupings; they are involved in numerous spheres – human rights, social cohesion, education, culture, North-South relations and the environment.

In an effort to strengthen this partnership, the Secretary General and the INGOs have drafted a proposal for a new participatory status at present before the Committee of Ministers. This new status would, so to speak, make them the fourth institutional pillar of the Council of Europe alongside the Parliamentary Assembly, the Committee of Ministers and the CLRAE.

As far as the Council is concerned, democracy is also based on the development of local and regional authorities; this has been one of its priorities since 1957. In 1994, it set up the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe. Among other things, the Congress assists the member States in actually establishing independent local and regional governments.

The members of NGOs and the Congress are the closest to the citizen, which shows their importance and the interactions necessary for the work of the Council of Europe. In an open and transparent democracy, they need each other and therefore need to be able to trust each other. This conference aims to identify the means of re-establishing this confidence and strengthening possible modes of co-operation between these two important local actors so that we can all fully enter into participatory democracy.

2. Bernard SUAUD, Chair of the Committee on Social Cohesion of the CLRAE.

Local and regional authorities are institutional actors who set out to establish and maintain direct dialogue with citizens in their territory. In this context, co-operation with NGOs is important because of their role as an interface with citizens. The issue at stake here is therefore local democracy, participatory democracy and new forms of social relations in the individual territories.

Co-operation between the CLRAE and NGOs is long-standing. Links exist and NGOs are regularly invited to speak at hearings organised by the Congress. The programme of Local Democracy Agencies (LDAs) constitutes an example in this regard, since it brings together cities, regions and NGOs with a view to promoting local democracy in the broad sense, civil society and inter-community relations in areas, such as those in the former Yugoslavia, where such action was needed. The results of the LDAs have testified to the effectiveness of such local partnership activities.

In view of the numerous local challenges, this co-operation will continue to develop in future years, and this conference will plot the road-map for such developments.

3. Tibor BAKONYI, Deputy-Mayor of Budapest, responsible for European integration, regional questions, youth and sport.

Hungary has a non-profit-making sector comprising 50,000 NGOs, one-fifth of which are located in the capital, which funds 700 of them. Between 1998 and 2002, there was a considerable increase in the number of NGOs, which became more widely recognised and received greater subsidies. They are active in numerous spheres: for example, in Budapest, NGOs provide 1400 places for homeless people.

In an open model of democracy, it is important to use all available channels of communication, and the non-profit-making sector is just one such channel, in particular for the purposes of citizen participation. In this context, the city of Budapest endeavours to maintain ongoing relations with NGOs there. The city and NGOs need each other and therefore also need a carefully considered policy on subsidies, clear rules, and fair bases.

With more and more decisions being taken at the local level, and given the fundamental importance of the principle of subsidiarity, local authorities can serve as a bridge between government, NGOs and the citizen. It is also important for NGOs to be able to act as a check on their power.

4. Daniel ZIELINSKY, Chair of the INGO Liaison Committee.

This meeting is a long-standing project which should enable us to consider the relationship between regional and local authorities and NGOs. This relationship is no easy one: what work can they do jointly and how should that work be shared out? How complementary should they be? What new working methods should be used? While there have been both positive and negative experiences, it is a case now of conducting exchanges and launching joint work.

The subjects adopted for discussion are no easy ones: access to social rights is a long haul which will not produce any immediately visible results. As far as the environment and sustainable development are concerned, we will have to identify working methods and specific measures to attain the objectives announced. Where participation by citizens and young people is concerned, all the high-sounding speeches will now have to be translated into reality. This may be uncomfortable for us all, including, in this particular sphere, the NGOs.

The point of this meeting is not to caricature ourselves and each other, which is a risk for both sides, but to identify leads for future work. This also applies to differences of approach, arguments about funding (what funding, provided on what basis?), the risks of instrumentalisation, and the establishment of associative centres in individual territories.

As has been seen in such accidents as oil spills, NGOs act as precursors; it is therefore time to recognise their value and to embark on a less antagonistic, less paternalistic and more participatory relationship by building lasting partnerships and establishing long-term funding mechanisms.

Moreover, the fact that NGOs are evolving towards participatory status within the Council of Europe constitutes a new stage in the consultation process, marking progress towards joint formulation, implementation and evaluation with a view to shared efficiency.

1st Plenary Session
“Relations between NGOs and local and regional authorities ”

Chair of the session: Anne SFORZA, Assistant Rapporteur of the Liaison Committee

These two actors in the sphere of local democracy do not always share the same aims, since NGOs have their own specific form of dynamics. We should attempt to identify the preconditions for common dialogue by examining both our successes and our failures.

1. Luisa LAURELLI, Vice-Chair of the Committee for Social Cohesion of the CLRAE.

Since 1987, changes in the relevant Italian legislation have empowered local authorities to provide autonomous assistance. In 2000, a new act reforming local authorities entitled them to allocate 0.8 % of their budget to international solidarity campaigns. As a result, Rome has opened a special office for this purpose, and in 2002 the municipality set up a citizens' committee to hear the 130 NGOs concerned with protection of the environment, protection of children and defending human rights.

Now that legislation has become bolder, involvement is much easier. For example, the influx of refugees and immigrants by boat has necessitated the development of bilateral co-operation policies. Rome, a major source of social energies, has undertaken to network all those wishing to become involved in this decentralised co-operation process.

Nevertheless, while the municipality is providing financial support for NGOs, it is also in the process of relegating them to a passive role, while easing its own conscience. It would doubtless do better to become more involved, but Rome cannot provide all the funding, especially since many of the projects in question have more to do with international solidarity, which takes them out of the city’s jurisdiction. Whereas municipal agencies dealing with transport, electricity supplies and environmental protection manage activities directly, this is not true of the aforementioned office, which co-operates with institutions and other actors and devises solutions for providing clear responses, especially when, for example, funds have to be unblocked as a matter of urgency.

The solidarity projects are numerous and are conducted in the long term, but they are limited by reductionist national legislation. Often, therefore, one is left with the feeling that this is only a drop in the ocean. This is the case where the municipality works in co-operation with NGOs and charities to cope with waves of migrants who are merely seeking respect for their fundamental rights, notably those coming from conflict zones.

In this connection, it is vital to launch an appeal for peace, and above all for the recognition of certain fundamental rights.

2. Cyril RITCHIE, leader of the grouping "Civil society in the new Europe".

The conference on “Policies and citizens” in 1991 tackled these same issues and, if you read its report, the discussions held at the time are still relevant. Co-operation between local and regional authorities and NGOs may take the form of regular exchanges of information, meetings to discuss existing or potential projects, setting up a standing committee for dialogue with the authorities, funding NGOs, promoting local research, and so on, the aim being to progress towards education in citizenship, strengthening good governance, promoting local development, and therefore improving community life in general.

The Council of Europe’s 2004 action programme lists numerous areas conducive to such co-operation (promoting pluralist democracy and good governance, technological development, and human dignity and democracy, building a stable, coherent society, promoting the European cultural identity and diversity, human dignity and sustainable development); but such co-operation must be allowed to exist.

Because there are many difficulties, as pointed out in a survey carried out by a local authority, in which 150 NGOs sent in answers. 60% were not satisfied with their relationship with the authority because of its resistance to co-operation, lack of interest, lack of knowledge and lack of trust. Whereas 72% of NGOs considered that regular meetings were necessary, only 33% of the local authority representatives were in favour of such meetings and agreed on the need to support NGOs.

Yet each side could help the other. For instance, local and regional authorities can step up support for NGOs (through training, information, explaining the tax system, and devising rules for carrying out social projects). For their part, NGOs could help those authorities in the areas of promoting the participation of women and restoring balance between the sexes, providing information to various social strata, developing actions targeted at young people and at those on the fringes of society, promoting health, etc. They could also participate in election supervision and in conflict prevention, which are not exclusively matters for the authorities but are everyone’s concern. In this field, NGOs have a role to play in education, prevention and also mediation.

2nd Plenary Session

Workshop I: Participation, elections, referenda

Case Study No 1

Promoting the participation of women in politics at the national, regional and local level, Netherlands

Lyda VERSTEGEN, International Alliance of Women

This action follows on from the Beijing Conference (1995) and forms part of the Council of Europe’s integrated project “Making democratic institutions work”, one of the priorities of which is male-female balance. The “Vrouwenbelangen” project is the outcome of fifty years of training women for politics, thirty years of raising awareness of the importance of the female vote and fifteen years of various projects drawn up on a parity basis with men with a view to increasing the role of women in politics. Their recent projects deal with “The role of women in political parties” and “Women in politics as a matter of course”.

In each case, the target groups are:
4 political parties, in order to promote the inclusion of female candidates,
4 women themselves, in order to encourage them to join political parties, become active and show their initiative and leadership capacities,
4 the electorate, in order to encourage them to vote for women.

Funding is available at local level, and elected representatives participate in the women’s forums; and it is all fairly convivial but not always very active. The percentages of female elected representatives is increasing, albeit slowly, currently standing at around 35%. Where local elections are concerned, there is a considerable difference between the countryside (24%) and towns (up to 40%). The group's projects seem to be making progress, particularly as regards their request that political parties specify the candidate’s sex (M or F) on the ballot paper.

Case Study No 2

Local Democracy Agency, Sisak

Stanka PUSKARIC, LDA Delegate Sisak, Croatia

The Sisak Local Democracy Agency (LDA) is an international NGO belonging to a network of 11 agencies established in South East Europe (Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Kosovo) and supported by the Council of Europe following the war in the former Yugoslavia. Each agency is linked to a network of European cities, provinces, regions and organisations which assist it in its activities of promoting democratic, social, cultural and economic development on the basis of tolerance, solidarity, respect for human rights and freedom of expression. Since 1996, this LDA has successfully developed numerous projects designed to empower citizens and communities, reinforce participation in elections, and promote training for elected representatives and local officials in order to ensure more peaceful co-existence by different populations. Specific attention has been paid to the participation of young people as a result initially of the creation of a youth council (with an Italian partner city) and women (through the development of specific tools designed to help them organise themselves).

In 2002-2003 various projects concentrated on citizen participation:

4 dialogue with elected representatives through the local media, thus making them
partners in local democracy,

    4 the role of women, by disseminating information on their rights, organising seminars, resorting to international comparisons and operating an emergency telephone number for victims of domestic violence and social exclusion,

4 an exchange of know-how between two nature reserves (in Italy and Croatia),
4 promoting the rights of minorities by establishing a “civil society school”, which endeavours to empower the minorities through a series of 18 workshops,
4 Involvement of young people in civil society through two seminars and a festival,
4 Training for local elected representatives,
4 An action entitled “I can clear one square metre of mines”, a major information campaign designed to collect funds for mine-clearance operations by selling € 1 coupons to individuals, businesses and associations.

Summary of the workshop: Claude CASAGRANDE, former Vice-President of the CLRAE

In these three areas (participation, elections and referenda), NGOs can play an important educational role in explaining various situations to citizens, which helps to prevent abstentionism. They also have a more political role, namely to ensure that the voices of women, young people and minorities are heard.

Four important points emerged from the debate:

    1. The presence of women makes for a different, complementary vision. The role played by NGOs in facilitating that participation is very important since women often start off in NGOs. Parity is a useful indicator but not an aim.

    2. Combating “family voting”, namely voting carried out by the husband or the father to the detriment of the women and girls in the family, will require a major drive by NGOs to educate women in particular.

    3. Political parties also have a role to play by operating democratically at both the local and the national level.

    4. Young people not belonging to NGOs must be provided with forums for self-expression.

Workshop II: Access to social rights

Case Study No 3

Access to prevention and to care on the part of underprivileged persons

François-Paul DEBIONNE and Huguette BOISSONNAT, ATD Fourth World

Since the early 1970s, ATD Fourth World has been conducting surveys of how the most destitute groups perceive their health and care. Their findings raise questions for communities and for the health sector. ATD is therefore endeavouring to share its findings and perceptions.

Accordingly, in the context of a partnership with the city of Nancy (France), which belongs to the network of cities of the World Health Organisation (OMS/WHO), ATD suggested that that city should be involved in an exchange of knowledge with all local associations on the consequences of living on the breadline. This work subsequently gave rise to public feedback in the form of an exhibition and debates. During this period, the NGO acted as a consultant rather than as a lobby group, and was recognised for its skills of representation and expertise.

Subsequently, in a second phase, action was conducted to combine the knowledge of persons living on the breadline with that of the persons able to help them. Its aim was to identify the factors which led to failures in the area of access to care: field expertise and sociological analyses. To this end, two working groups were set up in order not only to enable the persons involved to express their opinions but also to take their testimony into account and secure joint validation of this work. A group of experts subsequently checked and validated this work, which had taken two years.

Throughout this operation, the watchword was partnership, which took the form of regular transverse meetings, joint development, exchanges of knowledge among the various actors and careful listening. Other essential aspects were: spending quality time together (all actors), a communication channel with public decision-makers and field workers, a “sound box” (involving the community enabled the subject to be aired in public), and credibility and communication, which enabled the work to be relayed.

Case Study No 4

Public health, drug addiction and access to justice

Roberto RUOCCO, Assessore regionale della Puglia, Italia

The idea is to replace horizontal subsidiarity by vertical subsidiarity. The question of co-operation between the voluntary sector and local authorities in Italy has long been ideologically oriented by the strong influence of the Church, but nowadays co-operation is working. This development has gone through four stages:

4 1st stage: the Middle Ages
No co-operation but a deep-seated antagonism on the issue of drugs and their treatment.

4 2nd stage: mere funding or necessary co-operation between NGOs and the authorities.

The change in the method of electing mayors in Italy facilitated the establishment of such co-operation between regional authorities and the voluntary sector. In Puglia, a number of projects designed to combat drug addiction and alcoholism were identified, and LIT 20 million was allocated to voluntary sector projects prioritising prevention, education, and health protection.

A further project was the establishment of street units (“Delphino”, a street unit which has been active in Bari since 1995) designed to approach drug addicts directly, sound out their needs and analyse possible solutions with them. In co-operation with various health and family planning professionals, this unit made 10,000 contacts in one year, conducted 127 HIV tests, distributed condoms and sterile syringes, and recovered the used needles. They also succeeded in mobilising citizens to assist in these activities.

4 3rd stage: integrated relations.
This is the present stage. In 2002, the public authorities introduced a policy directed at handicapped persons with no family support and sought the assistance of NGOs to develop 47 projects with them in five different provinces. Co-operation between the NGOs and the municipalities is no longer ad hoc but continuous and ongoing. Interaction and complementarity are being established.

4 We are advocating a 4th stage: horizontal subsidiarity.
A change was made to the law in 2002: henceforth NGOs are exempt from local authority taxation, thus providing an additional 15% in funding for the voluntary sector. The region of Puglia is one of the few regions to have opted for this. A bill reforming the social services is now before Parliament, with an eye to taking this co-operation much further and involving more interactive and closer relationships in terms not only of action but also of discussion and preparation. This is what is known as horizontal subsidiarity.

Summary of the workshop: Jean-Marie HEYDT, leader of the grouping “European Social Charter and social policies”

The discussions centred on the major policy thrusts to be adopted in order to improve access, notably for the most underprivileged sections of society. If a right is to be effective, it must be energised, which is far from easy for the population groups concerned since they do not always have opportunities to express that right. The two case studies have come up with some initial responses, the first on access to care through vital partnerships, particular by combining knowledge from different areas; the second on the possible changes to integrated co-operation between NGOs and communities through horizontal subsidiarity.

The question remains of the risks of NGOS being instrumentalised by the authorities, and also of NGOs losing their way, which illustrates the difficulties of any joint work and the need for clear partnership rules embodying aims, means and evaluation, the whole of which could, for example, be accompanied by an agreement.

Continuation of the 2nd Plenary Session

M. HERWIG VAN STAA, President of the CLRAE

In Europe, the CLRAE is one of the three pillars of the Council of Europe, together with the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly. It has two chambers: that of the regions and that of the local authorities. The major texts which it has initiated include the Charter of Local Self-Government, which is now 10 years old but which has not yet been covered by a Committee of Ministers resolution because the requisite two-thirds majority has not yet been secured. The parallel European Union body is the Committee of the Regions.

In Tyrol, many associations are co-operating with the region in introducing professional services and a clear commitment on the part of the regional authority in selected fields.

The results of this conference, in particular its final declaration, will be incorporated into the proceedings of the Congress.

Key points in the ensuing discussion:

    1. The operation of local and regional authorities in Europe varies widely owing to historical factors, whether a country is centralised or federal, etc, but the situation is evolving. The Congress' aim is not to impose any particular model but to ensure that each member State can identify with the Charter of Local Self-Government and that the Charter can inspire debate and reform. The discussion is continuing on regionalisation, but, in any event, unless local or regional authorities are given financial powers, their scope for action will be limited.

    2. As far as gender parity is concerned, much has already been done, but it is felt that an additional effort is needed in the various political parties. For its part, the Congress will no longer accept delegations which lack an adequate number of women, and will ensure that nominations consistently include members of both sexes. This is no easy matter for the national parliaments, but some parties, such as the Greens, are more innovative than others. The Nordic countries have largely shown the way, and we must continue to heighten people’s awareness, since women have every right to be in politics, and not only in the social or health sectors.

    3. The change in the status of INGOs in the Council of Europe could help strengthen links with the Congress. The INGOs expect the Congress’ support in order to move forward with this co-operation among local actors, which may also enable them to influence the work of the Council directly. As far as the Congress is concerned, NGO expertise could be helpful for its work in general.

Saturday 1 March 2003 morning and afternoon

3rd Plenary Session

Workshop III: Public Services/ environment

Case Study No 5

Training those involved in urban development projects

René TABOURET, International Centre for Studies in Urban Architecture

This activity concerns project development combining local development and town planning activities into one single strategy and accordingly mobilising local actors by means of a participatory process. It has taken the form of integrated, gradual training for players from different cultures during the process of designing the project, thanks to a partnership with the administrations and operators concerned. Five cities have been involved: Athens, Chambéry, Dublin, Prato and Valencia. The results have included some successes and some failures: success in Chambéry, where genuine work was carried out on the ground in underprivileged areas; failure in Prato, where there were limited openings for dialogue with civil society.

In both cases, the idea was to closely involve local inhabitants in the development of town planning projects, an innovative approach which did not seek to impose any specific project, but to listen to people, getting them to react to several alternative, preparatory projects, the final decision being in the hands of the local councillors.

What we learned:

4 Action has to start as far upstream as possible,

    4 Participation or participatory democracy must not depend on general ideas but should be practised concretely without fear of criticism,

4 The whole action should be opened up to lay persons, gradually, through training,
4 This creates the conditions for collective learning, culminating in cultural change.

Case Study No 6

Raising awareness and promoting energies in a manner compatible with sustainable development
François SAINT-OUEN, Foundation for the Economy and Sustainable Development of the Regions of Europe (FEDRE)

The aim of this foundation is to fight for implementation of the principles of sustainable development defined at the Rio Summit in 1993, an endeavour in which local and regional authorities have an essential role to play. It concentrates particularly on promoting this issue in the countries in transition in Eastern Europe and the Balkans. For example, it has concluded an agreement to promote energies based on sustainable development with the region of Omsk in Siberia. One of the central elements has been an international forum sponsored by the Council of Europe, which was attended not only by leading personalities of the Russian State but also by politicians and business leaders from Western Europe. Apart from that event, a long-term effort has heightened the awareness of the population and, even more so, of the media and politicians, using it as a tool to promote their region. This operation, which also involved regional authority funding, has been followed up by the introduction, at the initiative of the authorities, of regional programmes of environmental training for students and the conclusion of a partnership agreement between the city of Omsk and the canton of Geneva regarding an environmentally oriented urban renovation operation.

Summary of the workshop: Robert LAFONT, leader of the grouping “NGO-Towns”

The discussion centred on the quality of life in urban and rural settings.

Two important points were stressed with regard to public services: the maintenance of a sufficient level of public service in the rural environment, and worries about the effect of liberalisation in this regard. The defence action taken by NGOs could play an essential role in such matters, influencing the population and also the media.

Where the environment and sustainable development are concerned, an example of a strong and continuous partnership was described. The project linked up a municipality in Lower Saxony, the Land and various NGOs and aims at creating and operating 26 environment centres intended to influence the behaviour of the inhabitants and in particular school pupils through training/information sessions. This successful experiment has led to transfrontier exchange with Hungary.

Moreover, the draft European Charter for Sustainable Development, which has been opened for public consultation, includes the principle of participatory democracy involving NGOs not only in a defensive but also in a positive role as think tanks.

Workshop IV: Participation of young people in municipal and regional life

Case Study No 7

Participation of young people in municipal life

Richard STOCK, International Federation of Europe Houses

In the context of a twinning arrangement involving the towns of Weingarten, Mantua, Bron and Grimmia, a number of young people involved in local life (through associations or youth councils) met for a week in order to discuss new forms of involvement in decision-making processes and other relations with local elected representatives. They presented their findings to the elected representatives and officials of the cities in question when meeting in parallel to discuss the same subjects. This sharing process subsequently gave rise to a Co-operation Charter.

Case Study No 8

Young people, actors in cities

Manuela MEICHELE and Colin MORGENTHAL, Judendrat der Stadt Friedrichshafen

This youth council was set up in 1990. It consists of 25 members between the ages of 15 and 20, who endeavour to act as spokespersons. It is a neutral body with consultative status in the municipality which organises regular meetings with the mayor and the various municipal committees as well as the local administration. They elect their officers, set up different internal working groups (social issues, information, etc) and select their projects. Their most important projects include the creation of a website, a wall for tags and graffiti, improved library opening times, a campaign for the homeless, safeguarding youth centres and building bicycle parks and bicycle tracks. They also organise meetings in schools to report on their work.

Summary of the workshop: Helene LUND, Vice-Chair of the Culture and Education Committee of the CLRAE

There are numerous obstacles and barriers to youth participation (changes in society, violence). Yet there are many attractive elements on offer, eg social commitment, its role in character-building, the need to pool skills, and the role of individuals in society. Participation has an important role to play in the upbringing and education of children and young people: showing them what is possible, decompartmentalising certain modes of thought, facilitating encounters and learning to manage failure and conflict. This falls within an active, three-dimensional process of civic education: a cognitive dimension, in learning the law and rules; an educational aspect, with initiation into social life, listening and debate; and a participatory strand geared to solidarity.

The crisis in participation is not peculiar to young people: it affects all population groups. It is not enough to create appropriate structures; the issue has more to do with the approaches adopted by local or regional authorities and covers a wide range of realities. Although the angle adopted is educational, it is also clearly political: allowing people to influence public decision-making.

The question of co-operation with INGOs is important in this sphere, even though these organisations still have to make efforts as well. We have to get off the beaten track if we want to interest young people as well.

4th Plenary Session

“The mechanisms for interaction between NGOs and local and regional authorities”

1. Anne-Marie FRANCHI, International League for Teaching, Education and Popular Culture

The aims of partnership should centre on the common interest, that is to say, equal rights, equal dignity, involvement as a value and the ideas of social cohesion and sustainable development.

This approach and all that it will involve (complementarity, co-operation, partnership and so on) can be seen at two levels: that is to say, the European and the local, and these two levels will interact with each other. The resources and leads at European level include the NGOs' expertise and their recognition as experts in certain fields. Since the NGOs' thematic groups more or less match those of the committees of the Congress, this may be straightforward.

At local level, joint decision-making, common projects, etc. are also leads for possible future work, the basic idea being that where there is participation, there is also a capacity to provide support and move things forward. This also presupposes advice and evaluations if progress is to be made.

This brings us to an incipient type of local subsidiarity, although this result will depend on securing common desires and mutual frankness.

2. Luisa LAURELLI, Vice-Chair of the Committee on Social Cohesion of the CLRAE.

Efforts must be made locally to set up partnerships with NGOs. NGOs often wish to have a joint, frank relationship with elected representatives, but without being instrumentalised. Joint development of projects accompanied by proper expertise can lead to shared effectiveness and sound distribution of responsibilities. This also presupposes transparency on both sides.

Nowadays there is a relationship based on delegation rather than mutual trust. The realities are complex and necessitate skills that can be provided by sharing and trust. Evaluations are also necessary for the authorities, since they cannot be expected to manage all the requisite projects. There is more flexibility now, but it could still be improved on.

In order for the Congress and NGOs to co-operate on a larger scale, the aims, and particularly the citizen’s interests, must be agreed on, which will necessitate a “hands-on” approach.

3. Robert LAFONT, leader of the grouping “NGO-Towns”

In the town planning field, the need for participatory democracy and relations between elected representatives, members of professions and NGOs has long been in evidence. But even so, local, national and international associations are not all treated alike, in view of the opposition role, which may be positive or disruptive, played by each level.

In any event, excesses must be avoided: NGOs are not supposed to act as crutches for the public authorities, but they must not act irresponsibly either.

4. Helene LUND, Vice-Chair of the Committee on Culture and Education of the CLRAE

There are three possible approaches to co-operation:

    1. Interaction, whereby NGOs directly influence public policies,
    2. Funding of projects, with the NGOs as beneficiaries,
    3. Local and regional authority dependency on NGOs for certain activities.

The functions and aims of NGOs and local and regional authorities differ: the legitimacy of a local authority is undermined where are low turnouts at local elections, not where there is high NGO involvement. Moreover, an NGO has a sharply focused vision of the world - which is its strength -, whereas a local or regional authority and its council must above all take account of the general interest.

Clear relational mechanisms do exist in some cases, for instance in Denmark, where in such fields as town planning, elected representatives are bound to give NGOs a hearing over a period of eight weeks before taking any decision. This is important for the purposes of a constructive debate. Since the council uses taxpayers' money, the hearings have to be taken seriously. It is rather a rigid system, but it does have the advantage of creating realistic expectations on both sides and therefore facilitating interaction. So all that remains is to clarify the roles and the mechanisms.

Key points in the ensuing discussion:

    1. There is real diversity among different countries with respect to the NGOs' role and influence at local level and therefore their ability to act.

    2. Sometimes there is genuine confrontation without any cogent reason for such antagonism.

    3. While NGOs must not be "puppets" in the hands of the local authorities, they also tend to shift all the blame for unsatisfactory situations on to the politicians, which is somewhat demagogic and gives them a very bad reputation.

    4. There is also great diversity among NGOs and not all of them agree on the general interest, which makes it difficult to automatically assign them any specific role.

    5. In some cases and for some assignments, NGOs can do better than the authorities; and in such case it should be for them to act and to be financed for their work. Evaluation procedures should obviously be implemented here, but NGOs should be left some latitude and supervision should be more flexible.

    6. The legitimacy of local elected representatives is often called in question. At the same time, doubt is also cast on NGO officials’ legitimacy, even where democratic processes exist to confer such legitimacy.

    7. A real distinction is drawn between elected representatives consulting NGOs on a given project and the whole area of decision-making, which remains in the hands of the elected representatives.

Final Session

1. Hans de JONGE, Director for External Relations, representing the Secretary General of the Council of Europe.

The aim of this conference was to strengthen participatory democracy through close partnership, which entails a relationship of trust between the actors involved. The meeting has shed some light on the means of achieving such a relationship. Democracy does not only involve defining rules: it is also a matter of culture, which is reflected in a specific attitude to life, and NGOs play a major role here. Civil society is highly varied, with groupings of different sizes and with different interests and aims.

While local and regional authorities are generalists, NGOs divide up into sectors, specialising in their respective fields. Often these two types of body disagree, and NGOs also have a role to play in informing and mobilising citizens: this is the theory of powers and forces of opposition.

Two important texts have been mentioned: the European Charter of Local Self-Government promoted by the CLRAE, and the proposal for participatory status for NGOs in the Council of Europe.

The workshops have given rise to numerous discussions, emphasising in particular the importance of the various possible modes of co-operation: for instance, NGOs can encourage people to vote or help to increase the participation of women and young people. Other important issues are the need to ensure communication between the authorities and NGOs, fears of instrumentalisation, and so on.

Possible leads include joint decision-making and evaluation-and-advice, the need to share responsibilities, the possibilities for delegating powers, and above all the use of NGO expertise.

The President of the Congress has also proposed setting aside a session of the Congress to discuss the NGO/local authority relationship.

2. Claude CASAGRANDE, former Vice-President of the CLRAE

Amendments have been moved to the draft final declaration and these have been examined by a joint group. For reasons of inconsistency, language or aim, not all the amendments have been accepted, bearing in mind that a final declaration does not reflect all the verbatim proceedings. Some general principles were implemented in selecting the amendments: effectiveness, relevance to the subject of the conference, a general rather than a specific approach, or the existence of more important Council of Europe texts.

A conclusion stating the determination to continue with the work accomplished has also been added.

Key points made in the ensuing discussion:

    1. Addition of the concept of gender mainstreaming
    2. The role of NGOs on behalf of the most vulnerable sectors of society.

3. Bernard SUAUD, Chair of the Committee on Social Cohesion of CLRAE, representing the President of the CLRAE

We now have the keys to specific new prospective actions, as called for by the final declaration. The results of this conference will be examined at the next meeting of the Bureau of the Congress and will be the subject of a full report, a resolution and a recommendation at a forthcoming session of the Congress.

4. Daniel ZIELINSKY, Chair of the INGO Liaison Committee

This conference has facilitated a frank exchange and enabled us to identify joint solutions. The INGO Liaison Committee is therefore also intending to devote a session to this question. Each of us must now shoulder our responsibilities, including with regard to the question about democratic practice put to the associations, which also applies to certain local and regional authorities. Where the latter are concerned, this also applies to certain decisions which have been rejected by the population but which are in the public interest, such as accepting the Roma peoples.

5. Hans de JONGE concluded by thanking the organisers, the officials responsible for Integrated Project 1, who contributed financially to the conference, the members of the secretariat of the Council of Europe, the persons who chaired the various meetings, and the participants for their contributions to the debates and the final declaration.

ANNEX 2:

“Budapest Declaration

on

NGOs and Local and Regional Democracy”

approved on 1 March 2003

by the

Conference

on

NGOs and Local and Regional Democracy

The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe and the INGOs enjoying consultative status with the Council of Europe, meeting in Budapest on 28 February and 1 March 2003 to discuss relations between NGOs and local and regional authorities in the Council of Europe’s 44 member countries2,

The participants express satisfaction at the addresses given and discussions held at the Conference and:

A. Considering that:

1. Local and regional authorities and INGOs/NGOs each have functions that give them responsibilities in daily life and to the benefit of citizens,

2. Organised on a voluntary basis NGOs, each one in its area of statutory competence and in accordance with their mode of operation, play a crucial role in building real civil societies, bringing together citizens and the authorities, at local and regional level, and in the strengthening of true pluralist democracy;

3. As representatives having been entrusted with democratic legitimacy through elections based on universal suffrage, local authorities undertake general responsibility for all sectors of local public life. The exercise of these responsibilities should be based on the principle of subsidiarity;

4. Committed partnership between local and regional authorities and NGOs makes it possible to strengthen local and regional democracy and citizen participation, bringing local and regional authorities and citizens closer together, and ensuring that all points of view and stances are taken into account;

5. The legitimacy of this partnership derives from the need to bring decision-making closer to citizens and expand the machinery for consulting, for informing and for citizens’ participation, with a view to moving towards new forms of local and regional governance and a process of ongoing consultation and dialogue between NGOs and local and regional authorities;

6. The partnership is characterised by the complementary nature of the services that local and regional authorities on the one hand and NGOs on the other provide for the public at local and regional level, in numerous fields such as social action, education, culture, environment, urban planning, management of natural resources with a view to sustainable development etc;

7. It is a partnership that has made and will continue to make a joint contribution to conflict prevention and resolution, by allowing the return of persons displaced during the conflicts. The relentless search for all means to preserve peace should be a continuous objective pursued by the partners in question.

Believing that:

8. The principle of partnership between local and regional authorities and NGOs is not always recognised and implemented in all Council of Europe member states;

9. Efforts still need to be made so that local and regional authorities and NGOs recognise one another mutually and effectively as fully-fledged partners and develop mutual support and encouragement in areas where joint action on their part will produce more positive results than separate action;

10. Local and regional authorities could make greater use of NGOs’ specific know-how for the purpose of conceptualising and implementing some of their projects;

11. NGOs and local and regional authorities could develop new relationships under which local and regional authorities would not confine themselves to providing financial assistance for the activities of NGOs, but could assign them responsibility for more tasks;

Call on:

The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe:

12. To invite member states that have not already done so to ratify the Council of Europe’s Convention 1243 and to adopt favourable legislation on NGOs modelled on the fundamental principles on the status of NGOs in Europe adopted in July 2002 by a Council of Europe Multilateral Meeting;

13. To approve the participatory status of international NGOs with the Council of Europe, under which their active participation in the work of the Council is recognised;

14. To invite the Steering Committee on Local and Regional Democracy (CDLR) to consider institutional machinery for fostering partnership between local, regional and national authorities and NGOs;

The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe:

15. To encourage the drafting, with the Liaison Committee of INGOs enjoying consultative status with the Council of Europe, of a Memorandum of Partnership defining more clearly the rights and responsibilities of each party;

16. To continue developing the network of Local Democracy Agencies (LDAs), as a living example of successful co-operation between local and regional authorities and NGOs in the field of conflict prevention and resolution;

17. To complete the process of revising the Charter on the Participation of Young People in Municipal Life, and to strengthen its implementation;

18. To expand activities aimed at promoting the Council of Europe Convention on the Participation of Foreigners in Public Life at Local Level;

19. To consult NGOs in an appropriate manner during its monitoring of local and regional democracy and its observation missions of local and regional elections;

20. Regularly to invite INGOs, in their fields of competence, to take part in the work of its various committees;

21. To create the conditions for institutionalising the partnership between local and regional authorities and NGOs for dealing with environmental emergencies.

The Liaison Committee of INGOs enjoying consultative status with the Council of Europe:

22. to organise with the CLRAE exchanges of information and projects;

23. to seek co-ordination between the INGO Groupings and the CLRAE committees;

24. to ensure the sharing of significant experience of, and the dissemination of good practices of local and regional co-operation;

25. to strengthen co-operation with the CLRAE in the field of non-formal education, in particular training of women and young people in active citizenship and in participation in local and regional democracy, drawing inspiration from the practices developed at the Council of Europe in gender mainstreaming, the Council’s youth sector and help for the most disadvantaged groups.

26 to commit themselves to intensify lobbying vis-à-vis governments in favour of the basic Council of Europe texts, in particular those concerning NGOs and INGOs.

Conclude that:

27 The Conference participants wish that the CLRAE and the Liaison Committee of INGOs enjoying consultative status with the Council of Europe ensure the wide distribution, follow-up and evaluation of the present declaration.

 

1 The Secretariat of the CLRAE wishes to thank the expert, Mr Mikaël GARNIER-LAVALLEY, for preparing this report.

2 Conference organised jointly by the Liaison Committee of INGOs enjoying consultative status with the Council of Europe, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe, the NGOs Unit of the Directorate General of Political Affairs, the European Youth Centre Budapest and Integrated Project 1 on Making Democratic Institutions Work.

3 ETS 124 on the Recognition of the Legal Personality of International Non-Governmental Organisations



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