Ministers' Deputies / Rapporteur documents
Rapporteur on confidence building measures and co-operation with NGOs
RAP-CBM/NGO(2005)3 1 April 20051
Request for observer status with the Steering Committee for Human Rights (CDDH) submitted by the Conference of European Churches (KEK)
Report by Ambassador Magheru, Rapporteur on confidence building measures and co-operation with NGOs, on the meeting held on 21 March 2005
For consideration at the 924th meeting of the Ministers' Deputies (20 April 2005)
1.1 This report outlines the consultations I held further to the decision taken by the Ministers' Deputies at their meeting of 19 January 2005 (912th meeting, item 4.1), following their consideration of the abridged report of the 59th meeting of the Steering Committee for Human Rights (CDDH), inviting me to “consider the request for observer status with the CDDH made by the European Conference of Churches (KEK) and to report back.”
1.2. Following preliminary consultations with the Secretariat, on 21 March 2005, I organised an informal meeting in which delegations considered the KEK's request for observer status, drawing on an information document providing a description of the organisation and a brief overview of its cooperation with the Council of Europe, the regulatory aspects to be borne in mind with regard to its request and additional considerations of relevance (RAP-CBM/NGO(2005)2).
II. Summary of the discussion
2.1 In the course of the discussion, ten delegations were against granting observer status to the KEK, stating that it did not seem appropriate to reverse a decision taken unanimously by the CDDH on the basis of duly considered technical and legal arguments. These delegations, stressing the danger inherent in broadening the criteria for granting observer status, endorsed the CDDH's point of view that it was essential not “to create a precedent which would encourage other organisations, notably [those] representing religious faiths or philosophies, to request the same status.” They further pointed out that:
- the KEK was an ethical body which explained why it had observer status with the CDBI which dealt with questions of an ethical nature;
- the topics addressed by the CDDH in the short and medium-term did not justify regular KEK participation and contributions;
- there was clear provision for consulting civil society insofar as NGOs competent in the field of human rights regularly participated in the activities of the CDDH, and other NGOs with an interest in certain activities were consulted as appropriate;
- in line with this approach, the CDDH had suggested inviting the KEK in the light of the topics under discussion to attend those of its meetings which could be of interest to it and to which it could make a significant contribution.
2.2 Four delegations, however, were in favour of granting the KEK observer status. One of these delegations stressed that while it was for the CDDH to state its position on the matter, the final, political, decision fell to the Committee of Ministers. Moreover, pointing out that the KEK was highly representative of a plurality of views, that it was extremely professional and had a long history of cooperation with the Council of Europe, this delegation considered that its request was valid and to reject it would be unreasonable politically. A fifth delegation said that in these circumstances other, more structured forms of cooperation should be explored.
2.3 The Director General of Political Affairs, having confirmed that the ultimate decision on such a question lay with the Committee of Ministers, drew attention to the merits and representative nature of the KEK as a unique organisation bringing together 126 churches, primarily Protestant and Orthodox, in Europe and as such very probably represented a majority of the 800 million Europeans. He felt, and was supported in this by the Secretary of the CDDH, that a solution should be found which was just and fair to the KEK and its sustained interest in activities in the field of human rights. More generally, it would be advisable if the Ministers' Deputies, particularly through their Rapporteur on confidence building measures and co-operation with NGOs, would provide a pragmatic response to the KEK's wish to hold political dialogue on other key Council of Europe areas of activity.
2.4 Several delegations supported the proposal to find a compromise solution to enable the KEK to participate in a focused way in the activities of the CDDH and one delegation added that the participatory status which the KEK already benefits from, justified envisaging broad political dialogue with it.
III. Conclusions and recommendations
3.1 I concluded the discussions noting that delegations had:
- acknowledged the added value of the KEK's contributions as a unique organisation which was highly representative and federating, and agreed with the proposal to encourage the CDDH to adopt the approach it had itself suggested in its 59th report (see the appendix to RAP-CBM/NGO(2005)2), namely to invite the KEK to its meetings, in the light of the topics being discussed;
- taken due note of the KEK's request to engage in political dialogue with the Council of Europe in areas of relevance to its action, and of the proposal to consider what forms such dialogue could take;
- instructed the Secretariat to prepare, for consideration by the Ministers' Deputies at one of their forthcoming meetings, draft decisions along the lines of the above recommendations.
Note 1 This document has been classified restricted on 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.