DEMOCRACY, SOCIAL COHESION AND GLOBAL CHALLENGES COMMITTEE
ACTIVITY REPORT FOR 2016
In 2016, the Committee focused on three issues:
- migration and the call for dialogue in the host countries
- the new public health and human rights challenges relating to demographic transition
- citizen participation in all levels of governance.
At the January session, the Committee mobilised in support of the Open Letter from the President of the Conference of INGOs to the Ministers’ Deputies.
Its action included hearings during a debate entitled “Migration towards and through Europe, an intolerable humanitarian crisis”, which carried on from three previous activities:
- the call for action issued to local authorities during European Local Democracy Week in October 2013 following a tragic event off the coast of Lampedusa;
- the subsequent hearing (in January 2014) of researchers and NGOs on the particular situation at the gateway to Europe and the risks faced in the Mediterranean by those fleeing from conflicts and poverty;
- a side event on Migration and Climate held in September 2015 in partnership with the Directorate of Human Rights, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). This was a COP21 event.
The Committee wholeheartedly and unreservedly supported Anna Rurka’s position that the proper reception of migrants should be a priority, regardless of their status. It did so under the impetus of the co-ordinator of the Europe-Mediterranean working group, Jean-Claude GONON (AEDE), and his belief that all departures into exile are forced departures and only a European response based on the Council of Europe’s founding values is appropriate and capable of preserving peace in Europe.
Among the participants, Daniel Guery, representative of MIAMSI (International Movement of the Apostolate in the Independent Social Categories) and active member of the working group, called on everyone to overcome their fears and speak out about the situation of migrants, calling on voluntary sector leaders and local, national and European elected representatives to foster integration, especially of the poorest.
The committee heard statements by Françoise Poujoulet from CIMADE, an association involved in welcoming and defending the rights of refugees and migrants, which caters for over 1 500 rejected asylum seekers in Strasbourg, and Zinah, a Christian refugee from Iraq, whose only option to escape sexual slavery or death had been exile (link to website).
2. DEMOGRAPHIC TRANSITION, HEALTH AND HUMAN RIGHTS
Given the abuses in healthcare and welfare for elderly persons in Council of Europe member states, the Committee held a side event entitled “Ageing and health: a challenge to public health and social cohesion – a strong need for common action” on 23 June 2016, with Anne-Marie Chavanon and then Thierry Mathieu in the chair.
It brought together a large group of players concerning the prevention of ageism and abuse, the adaptation of care and services and also social inclusion, all issues covered by Recommendation CM/Rec(2014)2 of the Committee of Ministers and the report being prepared by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on “Guaranteeing the rights of the elderly, their full support, a European social commitment”.
The event, which was organised by the working group headed by Dr Thierry Mathieu, Vice-Chair of the Committee, and opened by Anna Rurka, received high-level support, including from John Beard, Director, Ageing and Life Course, at WHO. The committee was particularly pleased by the active participation of the Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Gabriella Battaini-Dragoni, the Deputy Head of the EU Delegation to the Council of Europe, José Mendes Bota, and Lord George Foulkes, member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (UK) and rapporteur of the above-mentioned report.
Other contributors were Radek Malý, Head of the Modernisation of Social Protection Systems Unit, DG for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion at the European Commission, Christine de la Maisonneuve from the OECD, Professor Finbarr Martin, President of the EU Geriatric Medicine Society, Professor Heins Raat of Rotterdam Medical Faculty, Jozseph Gabanyi, founder of the first geriatric hospital in Hungary, sociologists and heads of healthcare institutions involved in pilot schemes with local authorities and NGOs active in the field, such as FIAPA. The keynote speakers included Dominique Predali and Markus Breitscheidel, investigative journalists who have produced reference works and reports in France and Germany.
The Committee adopted a declaration based on the European Convention on Human Rights, the European Social Charter and the Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine (Oviedo Convention). The aim was to draw the attention of member states and their governments to the crucial challenge of social cohesion and respect for the human rights of elderly persons and the public health challenge of ageing in good health.
To contribute to its implementation, the Committee:
- started work on drawing up reference standards for the quality of medical practices (working group headed by Dr Thierry Mathieu and Dr Michel Ballereau, AIRHH);
- started co-operation at European level with the Age Europe platform through ELISAN (European Local Inclusion and Social Action Network) and the ENSA network (European Network of Social Authorities);
- started co-operative projects at national level;
- took part in several colloquies and study visits on the issues addressed:
o contribution by Anne-Marie Chavanon at the opening session of the Conference on Innovation in Care: Better Chances and Opportunities for All Citizens held in Rotterdam on 27 and 28 June 2016;
o participation by Thierry Mathieu and Anne-Marie Chavanon in the boards of these networks;
Study visits in France.
3. PARTICIPATORY DEMOCRACY
- Co-chairing by Anne-Marie Chavanon of the joint working group (NGOs/government representatives) set up with a view to drawing up guidelines on civil participation in political decision-making on the instruction of the Committee of Ministers to the CDDG (18 May, 29 September and 14-15 November 2016).
- Participation in the work of the Steering Committee for Culture, Heritage and Landscape (CDCPP) and the Democracy and Landscape working group (Gerhard Ermischer, Civilscape, and Luc-Emile Bouche-Florin, European Council of Spatial Planners)
- Landscape workshops: addresses by the Committee Chair, Anne-Marie Chavanon:
o Address at the opening session of the 17th Landscape Workshops and presentation of the Council of Europe Landscape Award, for which the Committee Chair is a panel member (9-10 June 2016, Budapest, Hungary)
o Address at the opening session of the 18th Landscape Workshops (5-6 October 2016, Yerevan, Armenia)
- Participation by the Vice-Chair, Thierry Mathieu, in the meeting of the Bioethics Committee (5 December 2016, Council of Europe)
4. WORKING GROUPS
Women’s and Men’s Participation in Political and Democratic Processes, co-ordinated by Anje Wiersinga: work focused on implementation of the conventions, recommendations and resolutions adopted at the Council of Europe and the Conference of INGOs. Particular focus on the inclusion of women in Tunisia, Syria and Kosovo.
Climate and Human Rights, co-ordinated by Karl Donert (European Association of Geographers, EUROGEO) and Edith Wenger (European Environmental Bureau). Follow-up to the work of COP21 and handover to Jean-Michel Caudron, Conference representative for COP22.
Europe-Mediterranean, co-ordinated by Jean-Claude Gonon (European Association of Teachers, AEDE): January session preparation and follow-up.
Social Cohesion and Shared Territories, co-ordinated by Gerhard Ermischer: contributions to the work of the CDCPP and the European Landscape Convention.
European Citizenship, co-ordinated by Hélène Pichon (Centre for Long-Term Strategic Studies, CEPS): feasibility study on the establishment of a network of European intercultural alliances; work completed.
Inclusive Societies, co-ordinated by Anne-Marie Chavanon (International Federation for Housing and Planning, IFHP) and Lorene Spielevoy (Coexister): creating and running a Facebook page on inclusive initiatives.
5. DISSEMINATION OF WORK
Committee websites: www.democracy-coe.org
Twitter (AM Chavanon): https://twitter.com/cdcsem