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The World Forum for Democracy 2016

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world-forum-for-democracyThe 2016 World Forum for Democracy will focus on the relationship between education and democracy. Education is central to democratic societies. Schools, universities, civil society organisations and other learning institutions should encourage the acquisition and practice of values and skills which are essential for democracy.

Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, the French Minister of Education will speak on 7 November during the Forum’s opening session. She was the first French woman to be appointed Minister of Education, Higher Education, and Research. Previously she was Minister of Women’s Affairs, Minister of City Affairs, Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports, and Government spokesperson.

The Forum will involve political decision-makers, inspirational speakers, innovators and social entrepreneurs, as well as leaders from education, civil society, media, academia, youth movements and business.

The Forum official programme will consist of plennary sessions, keynote introductions and a joint debate, a serious as focused working sessions – labs. The event is expected to involve up to 2,000 participants. Many more will participate in satellite events across the world, as well as on social networks.

The Forum is open to the public and participation is free of charge.

Online registration form is open here: http://a.cs.coe.int/team81/wfd-fmd/Inscription/spontaneous.aspx

Deadline for registration: 21 October 2016.

More information here: http://www.coe.int/en/web/world-forum-democracy/about2016wfd

 

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Council of Europe consultations on civil society participation in Romanian public decision-making

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A delegation of the Conference of INGOs of the Council of Europe met with representatives of Romanian NGOs and public authorities in a fact-finding visit in Romania, on 12 and 13 September 2016.

University Women of Romania represented by President Alexandrina Niculescu and UWE Secretary General Roxana Elena Petrescu were invited to take part at the debates.

The purpose of the meeting was to know more about Romania’s recent experience with civil society participation in the public decision making process, clarify with the authorities the political priorities in this area and existing tools for civil society participation and to establish direct collaboration between the Romanian stakeholders and the Conference of INGOs of the Council of Europe.

The meetings in Bucharest were organised in partnership with the Civil Society Development Foundation and were funded by the Council of Europe, cofinanced through the NGO Fund within the EEA Grants 2009-2014. 60 NGO representatives working in various fields (human rights, education or good governance, social services, volunteering) took part in the consultations. The debates covered various difficulties that the NGOs meet in conducting their advocacy activities, means to identify the necessary resources to improve their current situation and the relationships NGOs develop with various public institutions.

The NGO consultations were followed by meetings with representatives of the Romanian Presidency, the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Protection and the Elderly, the Ministry for Public Consultation and Civic Dialogue as well as of the Romanian Parliament.

At the end of the visit, Ms. Anna Rurka, President of the INGO Conference of the Council of Europe, stated that “the political and organizational efforts deployed by the current government to consult the NGOs are visible. We congratulate the authorities for the several innovative solutions which have been presented to us. We are impressed by the dynamism of the NGO sector, its determination to be heard and to promote its expertise. The NGO sector, which is investing a lot of resources to answer the authorities’ requests, needs to see the effects and impact of its proposals. We encourage the authorities to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the law-making process and to avoid the excessive use of the ‘emergency ordinance’, which diminishes both public and political consultation. The lost opportunities for constructive collaboration between public authorities and NGOs is too high a price to pay for both sides – and detrimental to democracy in Romania. We are aiming for more transparency and openness in the public decision making process in the Member States of the Council of Europe”.

A report about this fact-finding visit will follow soon.

Source: www.coe.int

 

Summer School on Human Rights

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cec_kek_human_rights_A1_final.pdf-Adobe-Acrobat-Reader-DC-23052016-132649-214x300The Conference of European Churches, in partnership with the Theological School of Aristotle University, organized the 3rd Annual Summer School on Human Rights “Stand up for Women’s and Children’s Rights!” from 31 May to 4 June in Thessaloníki.

More than 90 people, from different countries and representing a number of denominations, participated in the opening of the Summer School.   Dr Anne Negre, gender equality expert from the Conference of INGOs at the Council of Europe was one of the main speakers invited. Here you can read her entire intervention on Women’s rights and Gender Equality seen by CoE

Other main speakers: Dr Fulata Mbano-Moyo, World Council of Churches programme executive for Women in Church and Society and Rev. Dr Patrick Schnabel, a European legal advisor for the EKD (Evangelical Church in Germany), representatives from NATO, European universities and many CEC Member Churches and Organisations in Partnership.

Among issues related to women’s rights participants discussed human and organ trafficking, sexual exploitation, working conditions and pay, an equal level of education and progress in the work place, arranged marriages and female genital mutilation. The situation of women and children was highlighted and discussed from legal, theological, and practical angles. In many cases, women and children are discriminated or denied their fundamental rights, such as the right to food, shelter, education, access to health care, participation in society and so on.  In some European countries one of three women are victim or a potential victim of different forms of violence, including sexual violence and harassment. Children often face various types of violence and abuse on a daily basis, including bullying in schools. With regard to refugee women and children, the situation is direr still.

Participants agreed that a common response is needed by states, societies, churches and other religious organizations, as human dignity does not have gender or age. The summer school facilitated the exchange about best practices on how to promote gender equality and the rights of the child in church and society.

Summer School participants learned about international, European, and national legal frameworks on the protection of the rights children and women. The United Nation’s Convention on the Right of the Child (CRC) and monitoring systems related to it are especially important for child-centred responses and safeguarding their best interests.

Close analysis of biblical passages and traditional teachings of the churches helped shape discussions. There was a call for a self-critical theology that takes children as a starting point and gives them a voice.

There were several study trips, including to the Centre for Roma Minors, to the premises to the NGO NAOMI, and to the refugee relocation center Diavata. The students who attended the summer school had also possibility to pass the exam from this subject and receive credit for their studies.

Source: www.ceceurope.org

Are religions a place of emancipation for women?

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On 21 st of June, Human Rights Comittee at the Council of Europe will host a side-event moderated by Gender Expert Anne Nègre, Conference of INGOs.  On June 22, a discussion will be opened on the subject, same place, same hour. On June 20, with the participation of the local group of AFFDU, a day in the town on «  Sexism and Racism ». Anne will talk about sexism in communication.  

Here below the programme.

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ARE RELIGIONS A PLACE OF EMANCIPATION FOR WOMEN?
PROGRESS AND SETBACKS

Council of Europe

21 June 2016 from 13.00 to 14.30

Palais de l’Europe, room 2

The European Convention on Human Rights or the Lisbon Treaty for member States of the European Union respect religions or spiritual movements. National laws also protect freedom of conscience and worship for nationals of States countries of the Council of Europe while ensuring equality between women and men. We question the fate of this equality among places of worship.

Moderator Anne Nègre, Gender Expert, Conference of INGOs

Welcome Anna Rurka, President of the Conference of INGOs

Introduction Elena Centemero, Italian Parliamentarian, Chairperson of the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

Mendel Samama, Rabbi of Strasbourg
Mohamed Tahiri, Chaplain, Preacher, Strasbourg Grand Mosque
Tenzin Palmo, Venerable Buddhist, Founder of the convent of Dongyu Gatsal Ling, India
Basile Iorgulescu, Representative of the Romanian Patriarchate, Priest of the Romanian Orthodox Church
Agnès Von Kirchbach, German Theologian, Pastor of the United Protestant Church, France
Paolo Rudello, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the Council of Europe

Closing Gulsun Bilgehan, Turkish parliamentarian, Former Chairperson of the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination, Chairperson of the Media and Information Society sub‑committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

INGO Conference Council of Europe: Impressive, busy and somewhat overwhelming

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A side-event on “A Europe without torture: what is today’s reality?”, a discussion on the situation in Ukraine with the participation of NGOs from Ukraine, and a debate on “which democracy do we want?” were among the highlights of the session. The Conference of INGOs adopted texts on hate speech, the situation in Ukraine and human rights and religions. It took me awhile to write this report as I needed some time to put all the new information in a report which was not too long. I hope this report will give you more of an impression and if you would like to know more about UWE’s work at the Council of Europe: visit the Meet and Greet 2014 in Amsterdam. More information 2014 meet and greet uwe in amsterdam 1  .   

It was my first time in Strasbourg and I was impressed to talk and meet with representatives of over 100 International NGO’s. The first days were dedicated to the so called committees among which the Culture and education committee see http://www.coe.int/t/ngo/conf_educ_en.asp for the agenda.
The first meeting was a lively one with lots of discussions and presentations and a paper on religion and human rights which was later adopted by the full conference at the end of the week. http://www.coe.int/t/ngo/Articles/CONF_PLE_2014_APP1_HR_religions_en.asp The INGOs are “determined to safeguard, whatever happens, democracy, human rights and the rule of law, the Conference of INGOs of the Council of Europe is launching an appeal to the men and women of Europe and to NGOs operating on the ground so that, together, everyone can take action at their own level and in their own setting to ensure continued respect for the equal dignity of all individuals and of the values connected with this inviolable principle.” Part of this concern is also the ever growing amount of so called Hate speech growing racism and intolerance in Europe, combating Hate speech will be part of the 2014-2016 program.
It will prepare a “Civil Society White Paper’ to combat hate speech and prepare a “Civil Society Forum”, together with the media and political parties, for the purposes of launching the White Paper and drawing up a Charter of good conduct for tackling hate speech more effectively. I participated also in a working group on Gender equality from the Dutch Gender Advisor Betty Doornenbal. Priority is still the signing of the Istanbul Convention to combat gender based violence. More info: http://www.coe.int/t/ngo/conf_tg_gen_en.asp.  Another important meeting was the working group Living Together in which UWE also participates.

Ukraine
Representatives Ukraine at INGO COEOne of the most impressive and sad occasions at the INGO conference were the statements of NGO’s of Ukraine stating the difficult circumstances and violence they live in. At the initiative of the Conference of INGOs, a group of civil society representatives from Ukraine participated in meetings at the Council of Europe end of January.

The NGOs met with the Secretary General, the Commissioner for Human Rights and participated in a hearing with the INGO Conference at which they reported their concerns regarding the current situation, in particular Human Rights violations. The Conference of INGOs adopted a Resolution urging Council of Europe bodies to monitor the ongoing situation and offered to be the platform to promote dialogue and civil society involvement to help resolve the crisis in Ukraine. Message of solidarity to civil society representatives in Ukraine.
Statement by Jean-Marie Heydt, President of the Conference of INGOs, Strasbourg , 20 February 2014
The Conference of INGOs is deeply shocked and appalled by the current turn of events in Kiev, specifically, the escalation in violence and the many unfortunate deaths that have occurred. Our thoughts are with the families of the victims. The Conference of INGOs of the Council of Europe once again expresses its solidarity with Ukrainian civil society at this difficult moment and calls for an inclusive dialogue and a peaceful and democratic solution to the current crisis. The Conference remains ready to offer its platform for involving national and international civil society actors in these efforts.
Personal observations
Although resolutions can’t negate the effects of violence and force as is shown in the case of Ukraine and Georgie The INGO Conference is an important tool to enhance democracy it advises the Council of Europe via the President of the INGOs Jean-Marie Heydt. It has three special programmes the Code of Good Conduct, the Dialoque Toolkit – you will be introduced to at the Bucharest Conference in September – and The Expert Council.
Especially the Expert Council which investigates and writes reports on the situation in countries on the participation of civil society is an impressive tool. Next year they will very likely investigate Turkey after investigating Russia and Azerbeidzjan! http://www.coe.int/t/ngo/expert_council_en.asp  Its work covers the 47 member countries of the Council of Europe and Belarus. It was created in January 2008 by the Conference of INGOs of the Council of Europe with the aim of creating an enabling environment for NGOs through examining national NGO legislation and its implementation and provides advice on how to bring national law and practice into line with Council of Europe standards and European good practice.

The INGO Conference is a wonderful platform to meet lots of other representatives of INGO’s and find partners to create new actions and work towards our goals. I met representatives of the Catholic women, Teachers union, Jewish women etc. etc. and was able to make some contacts. The first few days of the conference are a preparation for the last day in which the voting takes place. As the UWE is on the Standing Committee we are part of a group that can help decide what should be the agenda of the conference. The Conference however decides.

New Vice President
A new candidate for Vice Presidency of the UWE (Vera has done this intensive work September 2014 over six years) to participate in the INGO of the Council of Europe needs to be fluent in English en preferably also speak French as some meetings are in French and not always translated into English. The documents of the INGO and the meetings can be found on the website of the Council of Europe http://www.coe.int/t/ngo/default_en.asp to find out more about the Committees look under structure where you will find the documentation.