Notes on the Agenda
CM/Notes/1011/2.1a 13 November 20071
1011 Meeting, 21 November 2007
2 Democracy and political questions
2.1 Current political questions
a. Activities for the development and consolidation of democratic stability
- Forum for the Future of Democracy
Item prepared by the GR-DEM of 22 October 2007
CM/Del/Dec(2007)1010/2.1a, GR-DEM(2007)CB12, FFD-AB(2007)8, FFD-AB(2007)9
To adopt the revised guidelines for the Forum for the Future of Democracy, as they appear in the appendix to the present Notes.
At its meeting on 22 October 2007 (cf. document GR-DEM(2007)CB12), the Rapporteur Group on Democracy revised the guidelines for the Forum for the Future of Democracy in the light of proposals made in this respect by the Advisory Board of the Forum. Following examination of the draft revised guidelines at their 1010th meeting (7 November 2007), the Deputies decided, at the request of one delegation, to resume consideration of this matter at the present meeting. The Deputies are therefore invited to re-examine the draft revised guidelines which are set out in the appendix with a view to their adoption (the proposed changes to the current guidelines are in bold).
1011th meeting – 21 November 2007
Current political questions
a. Activities for the development and consolidation of democratic stability
- Forum for the Future of Democracy
(CM/Del/Dec(2007)1010/2.1a, GR-DEM(2007)CB12, FFD-AB(2007)8, FFD-AB(2007)9)
The Deputies adopted the revised guidelines of the Forum, as they appear at Appendix .. to the present volume of Decisions. << see appendix to the present Notes>>
Draft revised guidelines by the Committee of Ministers for the Forum for the Future of Democracy
1. At the Warsaw Summit, the Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe decided
“to establish, within the existing structures of the Organisation as a whole, a Council of Europe Forum for the Future of Democracy to strengthen democracy, political freedoms and citizens’ participation, keeping in mind, inter alia, the conclusions of the Barcelona Conference from 17 to 19 November 2004. It shall be open to all member states and civil society, represented by policy makers, officials, practitioners or academics. It shall enable the exchange of ideas, information and examples of best practices, as well as discussions on possible future action. The Forum will act in close co-operation with the Venice Commission and other relevant Council of Europe bodies with a view to enhancing, through its reflection and proposals, the Organisation’s work in the field of democracy.”2
2. The present document contains guidelines agreed by the Committee of Ministers, inspired by the experiences gathered at the launch meeting of the Forum for the Future of Democracy in Warsaw on
3 and 4 November 2005 and the subsequent exchanges of view in the CM-SUIVI3.
3. These guidelines should be taken into account by all stakeholders involved in the organisation of the plenary meetings of the Forum and all other elements of the Forum process.
Objectives of the Forum
4. The purpose of the Forum for the Future of Democracy is to promote the strengthening and development of democracy. At the core of the Council of Europe, democracy, human rights and the rule of law are mutually reinforcing common values. When looking at individual member states of the Council of Europe, the concrete features and institutions of democracy vary. It is also clear that there is no single form of pluralistic democracy that all European countries should adopt at once or even converge towards gradually. The problems faced are not the same and do not require the same responses. The Forum process should support the development of proposals that address the different challenges to democracy in Europe.
5. The Forum gives the Council of Europe a new and flexible way of working, in particular by involving different sectors of civil society and practitioners, such as political parties, NGOs, and other stakeholders. The Forum is expected to strengthen the Council of Europe’s work in the field of democracy by enabling a shared learning experience within and among member states.
6. Each Forum meeting will deal with one main theme – without excluding the possibility of other themes being addressed by the Forum – so as to enable a focused and in-depth discussion, both in terms of past achievements and possible future developments. An indicative list of themes, which is expected to evolve, can be found in the Appendix to the present document.
7. The tasks of the Forum are as follows:
- identifying the challenges with regard to the theme under consideration;
- considering ideas to address these challenges and make progress in the field of democracy;
- providing an overview on the state of the academic debate on the theme under consideration;
- exchanging examples of good practice of reforms in member states at national, regional or local level;
- assessing and evaluating practical tools used by policy makers, practitioners, think tanks and academia, as well as by NGOs working in the field;
- discussing ideas, good practice and tools in a comparative perspective, while catering for national differences;
- acting as a clearing house for endeavours to enhancing democracy;
- facilitating interaction between stakeholders;
- help develop closer relationships between the Council of Europe and the European Union (e.g. by enriching such initiatives of the European Union as the Commission’s Plan D debate), as well as between the Council of Europe and OSCE/ODIHR in areas of common interest;
- provide an input to the Council of Europe regarding challenges to address in the field of democratic development and in areas where co-operation and assistance can be enhanced.
8. The results of the Forum will be examined by the Committee of Ministers. On this basis, the Committee of Ministers could decide the launching of new activities and, if appropriate, ask relevant intergovernmental structures, the Venice Commission or other specialised Council of Europe bodies to prepare guidelines or recommendations.
Working methods of the Forum
9. In principle, one meeting of the Forum will be organised each year. Any proposals for additional meetings will have to be considered by the Committee of Ministers in the light of available financial and human resources.
10. There is no need to establish a fixed format for the Forum, as the meetings should be seen as part of a developing and flexible process. The following principles may, however, be used as a starting point in the preparation of each meeting of the Forum:
- the meeting will normally take place in a Council of Europe member state upon invitation by its authorities;
- the host country may choose to organise the Forum jointly with other national partners, such as a university;
- in the absence of an invitation from a member state, Forum meetings will take place in Strasbourg under the authority of the Secretary General;
- member states should be encouraged to involve civil society at a very early stage in their respective national process leading up to the Forum. This can then serve as a basis for participation in the Forum;
- each Forum meeting will be organised as a 2-3 day conference;
- part of the Forum meetings should be structured around small-scale, focused technical workshops rather than plenary sessions. This would enable participants to focus on particular themes which are of most relevance to them and which would add most value on democracy issues in their member states;
- at each meeting, there shall be brief reports on the work and proposals of the previous Forum meeting and its follow-up as well as on events organised and progress made by the Council of Europe with regard to its acquis in the field of democracy promotion and reform. All such events should be regarded as an element of and a contribution to the Forum, be identified as part of the Forum Process, and be included in the Forum website (see paragraph 16).3
11. Each meeting of the Forum needs to be thoroughly prepared. In order to enable a substantive discussion of the theme chosen, a significant body of information is required, such as research reports, opinion polls, reform proposals and initiatives, examples of good policy practice, individual case studies and comparative studies, and practical tools.
12. Each host country should, as early as practicable in the preparatory process, set up a domestic preparatory group, mirroring in its composition the Council of Europe’s Quadrilogue approach. The General Rapporteurs of each Forum session should be involved in the preparatory process at a very early stage.
13. Once the main theme – and sub-themes, if appropriate – of a Forum meeting have been decided upon, the Advisory Board (see below) could ask the Secretariat to issue an open call for contributions with regard to the above-mentioned types of input to Council of Europe member and observer states, the Parliamentary Assembly, the Congress, the INGO Conference, and the Venice Commission as well as to other stakeholders. Contributions from non-member states would also be considered, if relevant.
14. In order to forge transversal links with different Council of Europe sectors, the Advisory Board could propose to the Committee of Ministers to invite particular Council of Europe bodies (e.g. steering committees) to contribute to the preparation of and the follow-up to Forum sessions.
15. The Forum is an open and flexible process of information and experience exchange. At the same time, there is a need for a degree of continuity and coherence in its work. In between meetings of the Forum, smaller conferences, seminars and workshops may accordingly be arranged, both with a view to evaluating the relevance of Forum outputs and testing their value-added, and to preparing future meetings of the Forum. One such interim meeting would be held in preparation of each Forum session as part of the work of the domestic preparatory group (cf. paragraph 12) and a second one for consideration of immediate and longer-term follow-up after each Forum session. The choice of participants at such follow-up meetings is to be agreed amongst Forum stakeholders.
16. It may be considered to co-organise such interim meetings with one or more existing Council of Europe institutions/bodies, including the Council of Europe’s Schools of Political Studies. The possibility of using the Internet for more interactive communication with different stakeholders between the meetings shall be looked into.
17. Papers, other contributions and possible conclusions will be published on a special website. From a multi-annual perspective, it may be considered to collate the results of successive meetings of the Forum and of related events into an online repository of the main issues, challenges, reform proposals and innovative solutions relating to democracy, providing interested stakeholders with a tool for democracy reform.
18. The Advisory Board is an informal structure whose task it is to oversee the preparations – in close
co-operation with the host country, if applicable – and follow-up to the annual sessions of the Forum.
19. The Advisory Board is composed of representatives of:
- Council of Europe member states (Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers, Chairman of GR-DEM, the previous, present and following Forum host country);
- the Parliamentary Assembly;
- the Congress;
- the INGO Conference.
The European Commission will be invited to participate in the meetings of the Advisory Board.
A representative of the Venice Commission will also be invited.
Representatives of the delegations of interested member states may also participate in the meetings of the Advisory Board.
The Secretary General of the Council of Europe chairs the Advisory Board.
Any travel expenses and subsistence for attending meetings of the Advisory Board will have to be borne by the budget of the respective entity.
20. Depending on the topics discussed, the Advisory Board may invite, as necessary, relevant Council of Europe institutions/bodies (e.g. Steering Committees such as the CDLR, CDDH, CDMC, CDEG, CD-ED, and the Joint Council on Youth), observer states and other organisations or experts to its meetings as part of the preparation and/or the implementation of the conclusions of Forum meetings.
21. The Advisory Board will
- on the basis of suggestions by the host country, and taking into account the Council of Europe’s acquis and ongoing activities, elaborate proposals for the attention of the GR-DEM and for subsequent decision by the Committee of Ministers as to the themes to be chosen for the meetings of the Forum;
- assist the host country in the preparation of the programme for each meeting of the Forum, and particularly in the selection of participants and speakers;
- determine the requirements with regard to background studies and other material;
- present to the Committee of Ministers the conclusions of the Forum’s meetings.
22. The Advisory Board should meet with the following frequency:
(1) one follow-up/evaluation meeting, after each Forum meeting;
(2) one preparatory meeting about half-way between Forum meetings;
(3) one meeting on the eve of each Forum meeting.
Additional meetings of the Advisory Board can be organised, if necessary.
Participants in sessions of the Forum
23. In the spirit of the Council of Europe’s Quadrilogue approach, invitations to each Forum session shall be issued independently by the Council of Europe’s institutional pillars (Committee of Ministers, Parliamentary Assembly, Congress, and INGO Conference) to their own particular constituencies, ensuring that participants would include not only members of the respective body but also other elected representatives or representatives of organisations from Council of Europe member states. The Advisory Board shall issue guidelines as to the number of participants at Forum sessions.
24. Participants in sessions of the Forum should be highly qualified in matters regarding democracy.
High-level personalities, representatives of political parties and of civil society who wish to participate in the Forum meeting should be able to do so to the greatest possible extent. Competence and expertise in relation to the themes of each Forum meeting should be the most relevant qualification when deciding on inviting participants from civil society and academia. Also other aspects such as geographical distribution and gender equality should be taken into account.
25. Other relevant Council of Europe institutions/bodies, such as the Venice Commission may be invited to participate through a limited number of representatives in the Forum meetings.
26. Observer states, the European Commission and some selected international organisations and initiatives (e.g. OSCE/ODIHR, IDEA, UN, Community of Democracies) will be invited to each session of the Forum and asked to share information about existing initiatives relating to the theme chosen for the respective meeting. Other specialised institutions (such as the International Centre for Democratic Transition in Hungary) could be invited to contribute to the Forum process.
27. The Forum for the Future of Democracy is part of the Council of Europe’s annual Programme of Activities (Project 2006/DGAP/935).
28. In the case of the Forum meeting taking place in a member state upon the invitation of its authorities, the costs relating to the meeting venue, including the technical facilities required for simultaneous interpretation of proceedings, and participants’ hospitality, will normally be borne by the host country.
29. The Council of Europe will bear the cost for inviting speakers, chairpersons and rapporteurs to the Forum as well as the cost of interpretation between its official languages, French and English. Other languages are subject to special arrangements.
30. The precise arrangements for the reimbursement of travel and subsistence expenses of participants will be determined in the light of available budgetary (and possibly, additional extra-budgetary) resources. Particular consideration should be given to appropriate financial assistance to participants from civil society.
31. In conformity with the decision taken at the Third Summit, the Forum will be serviced out of existing Secretariat structures. Accordingly, a unit of three members of staff (1 A4, 1 B5 and 1 B3) at the Directorate General of Democracy and Political Affairs (Directorate of Democratic Institutions) will serve as a permanent Secretariat for the Forum. This unit is also in charge of the Project “Good Governance in the Information Society”.
32. The Secretariat will seek the authorisation of the Ministers’ Deputies to request the secondment of a national official to the Council of Europe to reinforce the Secretariat of the Forum.
33. The Secretariat of the Forum will be responsible for
- preparing and organising, in co-operation with the respective host country, the annual sessions of the Forum, including the meetings of the Advisory Board;
- ensuring continuity between Forum sessions and maintaining the Quadrilogue approach;
- preparing reports for the attention of the Committee of Ministers or relevant Rapporteur Groups;
- liaising with academic scholars and other relevant experts in order to make use of scientific work, including the commissioning of papers and studies;
- ensuring that the necessary synergies are created with relevant Council of Europe activities;
- organising any interim seminars, working groups or other consultations, as necessary;
- ensuring visibility of the Forum process, including the setting up and maintenance of a dedicated website.
Note 1 This document has been classified restricted at the date of issue. Unless the Committee of Ministers decides otherwise, it will be declassified according to the rules set out in Resolution Res(2001)6 on access to Council of Europe documents.
2 Warsaw Summit Action Plan, section I.3, document CM(2005)80 final, 17 May 2005.
3 It may be considered to gather such events under a logotype such as “Council of Europe – at the core of democracy”.