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2012 report from icjw delegates

In Strasbourg, ICJW delegates basically attend regular NGO meetings (of the 3 NGO Committees and of the INGO Conference), but also observe developments at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) and, with the participatory status of ICJW, go to Committees of PACE. 

This year, the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination held a joint hearing with the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media on the subject “Countering Intolerance and Discrimination against Muslims in Europe”. At the Plenary of PACE the delegates followed with interest the debates on “Multiple Discrimination against Muslim women in Europe: for equal opportunities” as well as the urgent PACE debate on the “Crisis of Transition to Democracy in Egypt”. The delegates made it a point to attend a lunch-time Round Table discussion: “Honour” crimes on the rise, as well as the side-event organised by the Italian MP, Fiamma Nirenstein: “The Longest Hatred: the European Engagement against Anti-Semitism” with Professors Robert Wistrich and Shmuel Trigano.

The NGO Council is struggling for its existence simultaneously as the Council of Europe is losing ground as an institution with political influence. It is increasingly producing reports on social political issues with human rights problems, a clear change in focus from previous emphasis with recommendations on more direct political issues with human rights. In the alarming European financial crisis most states feel that recommendations and debates without decisions are luxury. They are not willing to contribute to the same extent as before.

This development should in theory bring NGOs nearer to the main stand, as they have the appropriate knowledge of real life in civil society. NGOs are, however, still considered more a threat than a resource in many European countries with Belarus as a shocking example (one of the focus countries of COE and also NGOs) and disturbing examples from Russia lately.

It is to be noted that Mrs. Gabriella Battaini-Dragoni, a well-known COE personality to ICJW from the ICJW European Conference in Brussels 2008, was appointed Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe.

At the next session of January 21-24, 2013, ICJW's representatives will be attending an NGO Meeting on the Draft Declaration on Democracy and a Meeting on “Living together in Multicultural societies”.