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.
One 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.
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.
Today lots of messages arrive in my mailbox, congratulating me with International Women’s Day. It makes me think about last year when I was in Afghanistan. Yeah, International Women’s Day is celebrated everywhere, even in Afghanistan. All the women working in the mission were invited for coffee, tea and cakes.
The Head of Mission was so nice to give each of us a present, a headscarf! It was very much welcomed by most women and some negotiations ensued, to swap the nicest ones. It was a nice day.
Thinking of it still upsets me, International Women’s Day isn’t about having a nice day. It is not a bit like Mother’s Day. And it certainly isn’t about nice scarves to cover a women up!
Women all over the world perform 66 per cent of the world’s work and produce 50 per cent of its food, but earn only 10 per cent of its income and own one per cent of its property!
International Women’s Day is a time to celebrate women and all their achievements, but also to highlight what still needs to change. Last year the Head of Mission asked me to say something to those gathered, as I was so committed to the women’s cause. I told everybody the facts about the women’s productivity and the lack of income and asked him to hire more women in the mission (only 10 percent were women out of 400).
Of course everybody applauded and then the cakes were given to the men standing outside. I am happy to see the celebration was different this year. The EU celebrated on 8 March in Kabul International Women’s Day and the contribution of Afghan women to arts, sports and society in presence of international and national guests with performances from Afghan female athletes and musicians. – See more at: http://www.eupol-afg.eu/?q=node/431
While it is easy to condemn the inequality in Afghanistan, there is still much to worry about in European countries. A new report by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) presents results from the world’s biggest-ever survey on violence against women, revealing the extent of abuse suffered by women at home, work, in public and online. As well as demonstrating the wide prevalence of violence against adult women, the report also details incidents of physical and sexual violence experienced by women in childhood. The survey shows that policy makers need to recognise the extent of violence against women, and ensure that responses meet the needs and rights of all victims of violence against women in practice and not only on paper.
Some major findings: 33% of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence since the age of 15. That corresponds to 62 million women. 22% have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by a partner. 5% of all women have been raped. Almost one in 10 women who have experienced sexual violence by a non-partner, indicate that more than one perpetrator was involved in the most serious incident. 43% have experienced some form of psychological violence by either a current or a previous partner, such as public humiliation; forbidding a woman to leave the house or locking her up; forcing her to watch pornography; and threats of violence. More and full report: http://fra.europa.eu/en/publication/2014/vaw-survey-main-results
Governments and society at large should realize this violence is massive and unacceptable. Sign, ratify the Istanbul convention now! Don’t use the technicalities as an excuse to not to sign, like they do in the Netherlands. Which country is so liberal but still is almost on top of the list of percentage of women violated. The report makes it abundantly clear, women all over the world live in a unsafe society . It is great we have already a UWE project concerning Violence against Educated Women in place! Please participate all when you are asked to fill in the questionnaire!
So no congratulations, no coffee and no cakes on International Women’s Day, we demand a safe society for all!
Abortion rights for women are enlarged in France. The new law passed at the end of January means women can have an abortion in the first twelve weeks without having to prove distress. In many other European countries reproductive rights of women are not so well taken care of. More than 2000 people gathered together in Brussels to protest against the new draft bill to restrict the abortion in Spain and demand access to abortion everywhere in Europe. The European Women´s Lobby want to thank all the participants who joined and expressed their solidarity with the women in Spain and Europe.
The European Women’s Lobby also calls for action to sign a petition against discrimination of sexual orientation and gender identity to counterbalance the extremist opposition to those rights in the EU. Follow the link for more information on these and other subjects. http://www.womenlobby.org/spip.php?page=courrier&id_courrier=408
The Council of Europe’s work benefits extensively from contacts and co-operation with the dynamic elements of society, as represented by NGOs. One of the main challenges currently facing the Organisation is to strengthen NGOs and civil society and to develop participatory democracy on a pan-European basis.
The Council of Europe’s relations with NGOs focus on the following:
I. Relations with international NGOs (INGOs): this can seen as the Council of Europe’s statutory relations with NGOs through the INGOs holding participatory status (which UWE has), known collectively as the Conference of INGOs of the Council of Europe. Through this status INGOs are now actively contributing to the decision-making process at the Council of Europe and to the implementation of its programmes, thus ensuring their relevance to the expectations of Europeans.
Tomorrow will be the start of the INGO conference of the International NGO’s in Strasbourg. Our Vice President Vera John Mikolajewski and I will join this week of negotions and discussions. The agenda is to be found following this link http://www.coe.int/T/NGO/Articles/OING_Calendrier_2014_1.asp. An important topic will be the Resolution dr. Anje Wiersinga will present as the chair of the Taskforce Gender based Violence as a Political Weapon. Will keep you posted.
2013 ended with an incredibly successful joint project of the European Women’s Lobby and the Council of Europe, as events around the project “Act against Rape! Use the Istanbul Convention” have been organized in almost all European countries (28) and gave visibility to the demands to sign the Istanbul Convention. Which as we wrote before was one of the projects our Vice President Marie José worked on for a long time; more info https://uweboard.wordpress.com/2013/11/22/write-to-your-authorities-urging-to-use-the-istanbul-convention.
Purpose of the actions is to highlight the need for improvements and discuss the taboos. The project will continue as not all European countries have been able to sign, ratify and implement this important Convention. In the Netherlands the government intends to ratify the convention mid 2014. One of the issues was the necessity to implement the Convention also in the Caribbean part of the Netherlands which needed more time to work on the necessary infrastructure.
The actions have made it clear once again that Violence against Women (VAW) is to be eliminated. Another milestone drawing attention to the Elimination of Violence against Women is the launch of the results in March of the European survey on VAW – done by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA). The results will show a high rate of VAW in Europe and the necessity to work on the Elimination of Violence against Women.