Ministers’ Deputies
CM Documents

CM(2007)77 final 7 May 20071
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117th Session of the Committee of Ministers
(Strasbourg, 10-11 May 2007) –

Proposal for “Council of Europe annual exchanges on the religious dimension of intercultural dialogue”

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Background

The challenges facing European society through the diversity of its cultural environment have made intercultural dialogue and its religious dimension a political priority of the Council of Europe. Since the Third Summit of the Heads of state and government of the Council of Europe, our Organisation has been actively promoting democratic management of cultural diversity, while building fully on standard-setting achievements and its considerable competence in the fields of human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

The work carried out by the Committee of Ministers on the religious dimension of intercultural dialogue, which includes the work of the ad hoc Reflection Group (GT-REF.DIR), is part of the overall framework of action undertaken in the field of intercultural dialogue and the decisions taken on the matter at the Warsaw Summit. It is also linked to the conclusions of the Faro Conference, in particular the Council of Europe’s White Paper process on intercultural dialogue.

In view of the importance of the issues at stake, the choice of the promotion of intercultural dialogue, and in particular its religious dimension, as a major priority was self evident to the San Marino Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers. Its resolve was strengthened by the appeal addressed to the Committee of Ministers by the participants to the “Volga Forum”2 concerning the setting up of appropriate mechanisms for an open, transparent and regular dialogue between the Council of Europe and the main religious organisations in Europe.

The San Marino Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers has shown strong interest in this idea. It has consequently decided to organise a European conference on “the religious dimension of intercultural dialogue” as the culmination of its Chairmanship.

Conclusions

Discussions within the ad hoc Group in this connection led to the unanimous conclusion that the main objective to be achieved by any action by the Council of Europe in this field should be to promote and strengthen its fundamental values – respect for human rights, promotion of democracy and the rule of law – in order to foster within European society, mutual respect and awareness, tolerance and mutual understanding. The purpose of the proposed dialogue would be to involve representatives of religious communities and INGOs active in this field, so that they too could contribute to the strengthening of these values within European society. The Group also agreed that the Council of Europe should, at all costs, avoid theological debate, nor should it become the framework of an interconfessional dialogue.

In the light of the overview of activities and initiatives undertaken both within the Council of Europe and by other international organisations, and bearing in mind the above-mentioned objective, the Council of Europe’s real innovation and added value in the field of the religious dimension of intercultural dialogue would be the very fact of establishing dialogue with representatives of religious communities and civil society active in this field. No other international organisation has, so far, really embarked upon such an initiative. In view of the standard-setting achievements of the Council of Europe through its conventions in the field of human rights and the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights, the Council would seem to be the best placed to engage in such a dialogue on the basis of upholding its fundamental values.

All the Group’s discussions and the conclusions referred to above have led to a compromise proposal setting out the general framework of a dialogue on the religious dimension of intercultural heritage between the Council of Europe and representatives of religious communities and civil society active in this area.

Proposal

“Council of Europe annual exchanges
on the religious dimension of intercultural dialogue”

In the context of promoting the Council of Europe’s fundamental values, the Committee of Ministers is proposing that “Council of Europe annual exchanges on the religious dimension of intercultural dialogue” be organised, on an experimental basis.

The Committee of Ministers will pilot these exchanges, deciding how they should be organised and choosing a discussion theme reflecting the Council of Europe’s values.

In the light of the theme chosen, the Committee of Ministers will identify the most appropriate participants from among the representatives of religious communities and civil society active in this area, and experts or academics, on the basis of the criteria and arrangements set out below.

After the 2008 meeting, the Committee of Ministers will assess the exercise and discuss possible follow-up action. In so doing, it will take full account of the White Paper process and will bear in mind any new ideas and suggestions which might emerge from the activities carried out as part of the Council of Europe’s White Paper on intercultural dialogue.

* * *

Regarding the choice of participants

The main criteria in determining the Committee of Ministers’ choice of participants in this exercise will be their adherence and commitment to the Council of Europe’s fundamental values and their willingness to enter into dialogue.

The Committee of Ministers will also be guided in its choice by best practice in member states; accordingly, their authorities will be asked for an opinion on the most appropriate participants in the light of the themes selected by the Committee of Ministers. In selecting participants, in particular representatives of the INGOs/NGOs, the academic world and the media, the Committee of Ministers will endeavour to respect the principle of gender balance in an appropriate manner.

As set out in the Group’s terms of reference, the religious communities concerned will be the three religions traditionally present in Europe.

With regard to civil society, reference should be made to Resolution Res(2003)8 on participatory status for international non-governmental organisations with the Council of Europe, which sets out in Articles 2 and 9 of its appendix the conditions to be satisfied by INGOs and their commitments.

Lastly, experts or academics who might be asked to participate should have recognised professional competence and satisfy the same criterion of adherence and commitment to the fundamental values of the Council of Europe and to promoting those values.

Choice of theme / proposed themes

The Committee of Ministers will choose the discussion theme for the “Annual exchanges” in line with the fundamental values of the Council of Europe; it should be concrete and specific.

The discussions held so far and the information provided on the activities and initiatives undertaken by the Council of Europe on the religious dimension of intercultural dialogue have shown the interest that has been expressed for reflection and action on questions of relevance to European society.

The Committee of Ministers might be guided by this in its choice of theme and focus on topical issues relating to European society, or in fields in which the Council of Europe is already active and in which the religious communities and other participants could make a useful contribution. In this context, it would be appropriate to exploit best practice in member states as far as possible.

Examples of possible themes: the teaching of religious facts in education for democratic citizenship;
the promotion of Council of Europe values and the religious communities; the fight against intolerance, discrimination and exclusion;
freedom of expression, freedom of conscience, freedom of religion.

Organisational arrangements

Timetable

- May 2007 – adoption of the “Annual exchanges”
- Spring 2008 – Holding of the 2008 meeting
- May/June 2008 – Evaluation and possible follow-up

Number of participants

- 16 representatives of religious communities
- 7 representatives from INGOs/NGOs
- 7 representatives from the academic world and the media

Other participants

Member and observer states
Institutional partners within the Council of Europe
European Commission

Secretariat

The Secretariat will be provided by the Co-ordinator for Intercultural Dialogue, assisted by the relevant directorate(s), according to the theme chosen.

Budgetary implications - Indicative simulation

Elements of the basic estimate:

    - Approximately 60 participants, 30 of which reimbursed (travel and per diem)
    - 2 working languages
    - 1 working day
    - Fees for 2 rapporteurs at 500 € each
    - Translation costs for working documents and final report at 21.35 € per page
    - Distribution of the report in two languages – total of 500 copies at 0.0238 € per page
    - Reception by the Secretary General
    - Venue - Strasbourg

Provisional Budget

 
 

Euros

Cost of the meeting (travel and per diem)

20.500

Interpretation

1.950

Fees

1.000

Translation of working documents and final report (approx.)

2.150

Distribution of report (approx.)

1.200

Visibility and other expenses

2.500

Total

29.300

Note 1 This document has been classified restricted at the date of issue. It was declassified at the 117th Session of the Committee of Ministers (10-11 May 2007).
Note 2 International conference on “Dialogue between cultures and inter-faith co-operation”, 7-9 September 2006, Nizhniy Novgorod (Russian Federation), organised as part of the Russian Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers.


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