“Only a matter for politicians?

Civil society, money and political activities”

6-7 June 2016, Room 5, Palais de l’Europe, Strasbourg


Monday, 6 June 2016

12.00                           Opening

The measure of a country’s democracy lies above all in the dynamism and diversity of its NGOs, whose closeness to citizens enables them to initiate communication between the various segments of society and political institutions. At present, laws, measures and policy decisions in several countries reduce the ability of NGOs to engage in activities aimed at participating and introducing changes in public policies, often in connection with restrictions on access to foreign funding.

What are the challenges that NGOs are facing in a time when civil society space is shrinking?

·         Welcome by Anna Rurka, President of the Conference of INGOs

·         Keynote speech by Intigam Aliyev, human rights defender from Azerbaijan and member of the Expert Council on NGO Law

·         Statement by Ambassador Astrid E. Helle, Permanent Representative of Norway to the Council of Europe and chairperson of the GR-DEM

13.00 to 14.30             Lunch break

14.30 to 16.00             First session: Freedom of Association

The rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association are protected by the European Convention on Human Rights (articles 10 and 11).  Their exercise is not only a question of enjoying human rights and fundamental freedoms but also of civil and political rights.

How to strengthen the ability of NGOs, as democratic players in their own right, to take action?

·         Introductory statement and moderation of the session by Nils Muižnieks, Commissioner for Human Rights

Contributions by:

-     Olga Abramenko, Expert of ADC "Memorial", Representative of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)

-     Maria Dahle, Executive Director, Human Rights House Foundation

-     Brigitte Konz, President of the Steering Committee for Human Rights (CDDH)

-     Andrea Rossi, Deputy Head, Division of Human Rights and Multilateral Diplomacy, European External Action Service, EU

-          Loredana Tassone, Expert for the Human Rights Committee and the Permanent Delegation to Strasbourg, Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe – European lawyers promoting law and justice

16.00 to 16.30             Coffee break

16.30 to 18.00             Second session: Political Activities of NGOs

In a democracy, NGOs contribute to the political debate and to the development of new policies and laws. This political engagement is about participating in public affairs and influencing legislation; it is not about achieving power in elected bodies.

What is the difference between “political activities” and “public policy activities”?

How to prevent inappropriate restrictions on NGOs?

·         Introductory statement and moderation of the session by Yves Cruchten, Luxembourg, Socialist Group, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe

·         Statement by Mihai Lisetchi, Secretary of State, Ministry for Public Consultation and Civic Dialogue of Romania

Contributions by:

-     Päivi Anttila, Senior Sector Officer – Civil Society, EEA and Norway Grants

-     Konstantin Baranov, Member of the Coordinating Council, International Youth Human Rights Movement

-     Katerina Hadzi Miceva, Director of the European Center for Not-for-profit Law, member of the Expert Council on NGO Law

-          Jacopo Leone, Democratic Governance Officer, Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, OSCE

-     Andrei Pop, Director of Programmes, Civil Society Development Foundation

-     Danny Sriskandarajah, Secretary General, CIVICUS (Video message)

18.15 to 19.30             Reception at the Blue Restaurant, Council of Europe

Tuesday, 7 June        

9.30 to 10.30               Third session: Foreign Funding

“NGOs should be free to solicit and receive funding – cash or in-kind donations – not only from public bodies in their own state but also from institutional or individual donors, another state or multilateral agencies …” (CM/Rec(2007)14, paragraph 50)  but a considerable number of countries have introduced laws which de jure or de facto limit NGO’s access to foreign funding.

What is the situation of NGOs?

What action do governments and donors take to regulate and provide financial support to NGOs?

·         Introductory statement and moderation by Cyril Ritchie, President of the Expert Council on NGO Law

Contributions by:

-     Gunnar M. Ekelove-Slydal, Deputy Secretary General, Norwegian Helsinki Committee

-     Anna Gerasimova, Director, The Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House

-     Marko Grdosic, Chair of the Advisory Council on Youth of the Council of Europe and Chair of AEGEE-Europe

-     Ishai Menuchin, Chairman of the Board of Amnesty International Israel

-     Alastair Rabagliati, Director of operations, European Endowment for Democracy

-     Hanna Surmatz, Legal Counsel, European Foundation Centre

10.30 to 11.00             Coffee break

11.00 to 12.00             Continuation of the third session: Foreign Funding

12.00 to 13.00             Conclusions and closure

·         Snezana Samardzic-Markovic, Director General of Democracy, Council of Europe

·         Anna Rurka, President of the Conference of INGOs