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Participation in Decision-Making and Law-Making

Introduction


      Basic principle

Non-governmental organisations should be able to contribute to matters of public debate and, in particular, to the development of the law and policy at all levels, whether local, national, regional or international. See Paragraph 43 of the Document of the OSCE Moscow Meeting, 1991, Paragraphs 12, 76 and 77 of the Council of Europe’s Recommendation CM/Rec(2007)14 on the legal status of NGOs in Europe,  Article 8 of the United Nation General Assembly’s Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, Articles 6, 7 and 8 of the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (Aarhus Convention) (UN), Article 5 of the Convention on the Participation of Foreigners in Public Life at Local Level (CoE) and Article 15 of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (CoE).

      Means of participation

This contribution should be facilitated by the establishment of mechanisms that enable non-governmental organisations to have dialogue with, and to be consulted by, public authorities at all levels of government, as well as by ensuring that those organisations have timely access to all relevant official information. See Article 6 of the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (Aarhus Convention) (UN) and the Code of Good Practice for Civil Participation in the Decision-making Process (CoE).

These mechanisms may, on account of the numbers of non-governmental organisations involved, work through genuinely representative organisations and/or employ special fora for communication by and with interested non-governmental organisations. See, e.g., Article 5 of the Convention on the Participation of Foreigners in Public Life at Local Level (CoE) and the Code of Good Practice for Civil Participation in the Decision-making Process (CoE).

      Ability to propose changes to law and policy

All dialogue should be a two-way process and, in particular, proposals by non-governmental organisations for changes in policy and law should not be seen as inadmissible or unlawful. See Paragraph 12 of the Council of Europe’s Recommendation CM/Rec(2007)14 on the legal status of NGOs in Europe and the Code of Good Practice for Civil Participation in the Decision-making Process (CoE) and Article 7 of the United Nation General Assembly’s Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

      Need for consultation and an opportunity to comment

Non-governmental organisations should always be consulted about proposals to amend laws and other rules which are concerned with their status, financing and operation. See Paragraph 77 of the Council of Europe’s Recommendation CM/Rec(2007)14 on the legal status of NGOs in Europe.

Non-governmental organisations should also be able to comment publicly on reports submitted to international supervisory bodies as to the implementation of obligations under international law prior to their submission. See Articles 5 and 9 of the United Nation General Assembly’s Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and Paragraph 11 of the Document of the Copenhagen Meeting of the Conference on the Human Dimension of the CSCE, Copenhagen, 29 June 1990.

All consultation of non-governmental organisations should be such as allows sufficient time for a response, taking account of the need for those organisations first to seek the views of their members and partners. See Articles 6 and 8 of the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (Aarhus Convention) (UN) and the Code of Good Practice for Civil Participation in the Decision-making Process (CoE).

Furthermore any consultation should occur at a stage in the development of law and policy that allows for the possibility of taking account of the views expressed by non-governmental organisations. See Articles 6 and 8 of the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (Aarhus Convention) (UN) and the Code of Good Practice for Civil Participation in the Decision-making Process (CoE).

      Ability to undertake research

Non-governmental organisations should be free to undertake research on the impact of legislation and governmental policy and to disseminate the results of this research. They should also be able to seek support for their proposals from the general public. See Paragraph 12 of the Council of Europe’s Recommendation CM/Rec(2007)14 on the legal status of NGOs in Europe and Article 6 of the United Nation General Assembly’s Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

      Ability to contribute to implementing public policy objectives

Public authorities at all levels of government should be prepared to use non-governmental organisations in the implementation of public policy objectives. However, in doing so, public authorities should treat non-governmental organisations as partners, without seeking to change their priorities or to undermine their freedom to manage themselves. See Management and Internal Organisation, Article 35 of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings and the Code of Good Practice for Civil Participation in the Decision-making Process (CoE).



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