Key points from the perspective of Henk Baars, head of EN-RE's delegation. From EN-RE, Fernand Jehl (was physically present on the first day) and Hugo Castelli participated online.

Report 8,9 and 10 April 2024

President Gerhard Ermischer has an introductory speech and introduces Michael O'Flaherty Europe's new High Commissioner for Human Rights. Michael turns out to be an approachable and fluent person and names all the difficulties that are about when it comes to preserving and instituting human rights. Civil society as gathered here with all these NGOs, he calls the beating heart of it, because ideas and philosophies always come from the bottom up. They always challenge the existing system. The quality push comes from there. He mentions some of the difficulties in these "difficult times". Overly complicated regulations,

the difficult access to politicians the threat to freedom when it comes to gatherings and demonstrations with LGBTQ+, Jewish and Muslim groups having the hardest time. He promises to share his views more often, will visit places where it matters (e.g. pride events) and wants to work more with partners and other officials in Europe. Those who always come up with the most important material are always the people who don't want credits. There are comments from the floor advocating the issues of gender, interfaith/interconvictionality and migration. Many comments and work of the CINGO gets lost in the political process.

Chairman Gerhard Ermischer briefly reports on the fortunes of the standing committee over the last six months. A lot has been done online. That really is an achievement of the last few years. He once again justified saying goodbye to Russia as a member of the Council of Europe and welcomed a new structure to increase the Cingo's internal influence. The Social Charter process is struggling as is the issue of sustainability and the clean and healthy environment. AI has special attention and there has been much talk about transparency in parliament. Some improved access to PACE has emerged.

Report by Jeremy McBride, President of the Expert Council on NGO Law. he too has done a lot to highlight the transparency of European ;political processes. It is very important for NGOs not to become dependent on government funding. A great quote is "Ending poverty is a political decision". Besides, there really is a crisis when it comes to climate and sustainability. Harry Hummel (CURE) one of the Dutch delegates asked again about the knock-on effect of various recommendations. The answer remained vague.

Presentations of final reports of existing committees were examined and new committees were approved. You can read about all these matters in English by clicking on:

Outcome of the spring Session of the Conference of INGOs… 8-10 April 2024

You can read this page in French by clicking on “English” and choice of language underneath “Français”

Then you need to click on Meeting of the First General Assembly...Monday 8 April 2024 and then on Point 8 Final Reports of the first 4 Thematic Committees and then on Point 10 for the 4 remaining committees.  There is also a lot of interesting information in Point 5: the Minutes for Approval of the Autumn session 9-11 October 2023.

Then please click on Meeting of the Second General Assembly...Tuesday 9 and Wednesday 10 April

and then on Points 6 and 7 Presentation of new committees and Point 8 Vote of new committees and their Chairs.

Hugo saw online that all the new committees were approved and their proposed Chairs elected.  Please remember that you can participate in the committees without having to travel to Strasbourg

On the second day 9 April, most of the time went with votes for a new standing committee, chairmen and vice-chairmen who all have to present themselves as well.The Dutch delegation of several NGOs have somewhat coordinated how they will vote. There will be a Dutchman in the leadership. Simon Matthijssen, someone with a lot of experience. The votes are strictly controlled. Validity must be recorded out and out to ensure the democratic process. A solid executive (standing committee) eventually emerges. You can see that their three-year mandate, which is now being partly reinstated, evokes emotions among themselves and in the room.

On the first day, I had asked for some polling around the wars. I now get the opportunity to do so. My intervention involves comments on the ongoing escalations of Europe and NATO. Ordinary citizens have virtually no input. In the media, you only hear military experts. They don't want war, but apparently the politicians do. A fairly comprehensive answer from the president follows. The Council of Europe is out for conflict management and strictly adheres to the rule of law and tries to uphold peacemaking principles and looks mainly at human rights. Simon Matthijssen comes up with the theory that real and solid democracies would not so easily attack each other because of the democratic thresholds in the decision-making process.

The Sports and Human Rights Commission deserves some attention here. There is a lot going on with stereotypes, hatespeech , violence, intersexuality and discrimination. Access to sport is also difficult in some countries. The positions of girls also deserve attention. There is even an NGO called Catholic Society for Girls. There is much acclaim in the audience, but there are also comments on whether older people and sports are included. That si the case.

Then again a lot of time passes with votes on the permission to establish and appoint chairmen and vice-chairmen. In doing so, I make an intervention criticising the weak presentation of the proposed AI committee. The standing committee shows its agreement with this during the votes, sending a critical signal. For now, the committee is allowed to proceed with quite a few abstentions.

During informal meetings, I speak to Olga SADOVSKAYA World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) / Organisationmondiale contre la Torture (OMCT). She is Russian and I ask her how she views the war. She is pessimistic. The lines of communication with Russians are hair-thin. We should be glad(I think) that she has been elected to the standing committee and can make a realistic noise.

To conclude, a few comments picked up:

" Democracy is a culture and an effort" "The Council of Europe is in a sense alone in the political process" "Governments do not always understand that they cannot have all the resources and that much of it is voluntary" "There is no clear path to ministers"


The planned meeting of the Dutch representations with the Dutch ambassador could not take place at the last minute due to time constraints. We are trying to reschedule for the CINGO session in October.

It was an intensive session and gave a good insight into the complex democratic processes in Europe.

EN-RE must complete a questionnaire by 15 June to ensure its membership for the coming period. This will be considered at the representatives' meeting in Strasbourg in May.

Henk Baars April 2024