FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT INPUT FROM NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANISATIONS TO THE EUROPEAN PREPARATORY PROCESS FOR THE WORLD CONFERENCE AGAINST RACISM, RACIAL DISCRIMINATION, XENOPHOBIA AND RELATED INTOLERANCE
The following information is intended to provide basic facts about NGO input to the European Conference against racism, and arrangements for the Forum for Non-Governmental Organisations which immediately precedes it, which together constitute Europes contribution to the World Conference against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.
The involvement of NGOs in the planning of the European Conference began in autumn 1998, as the first major activity in preparations. Some 350 NGOs and human rights institutions throughout Europe, working at national or international level, were sent a questionnaire, asking:
Over 100 NGOs replied, and the findings of the questionnaire, together with the list of these NGOs, were circulated among respondent organisations. (immediate link to PREP-EUROCONF (98) 1)
Those NGOs which indicated by replying to the questionnaire their interest in being kept informed of European preparations for the World Conference were invited to a meeting at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg on 25 January 1999. The major item on the agenda was:
Among the issues proposed by NGOs were: the role of Europe in the world and its legacy of colonialisation; the importance of legislation; the universality of human rights and the need to ensure the human rights of non-nationals as well as citizens; education in a range of contexts; the growth of extremist movements as well as racist or negationist literature. "Law and education formed the main axes of several transversal themes, while importance was also regularly attached to religious discrimination, the situation of youth, women and national minorities, including Roma, and the need for consulting fully such persons in policy-making and its implementation." (immediate link to PREP-EUROCONF/NGO (99) 1)
The meeting of 25 January 1999 also established the NGO resource group, comprising: two European anti-racist networks (European Network against Racism (ENAR) and UNITED for Intercultural Action); one international NGO which could link up with preparations for the World Conference against racism (International Commission of Jurists); four NGOs active at national and/or international levels, from central and eastern Europe, northwestern and southern Europe respectively (European Roma Rights Centre, Citizens Watch; Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities and SOS-Racismo-España).
The NGO Resource Groups role is to:
In February 1999, the first intergovernmental meeting in the preparatory process of the European Conference took place. A member of the NGO resource group participated. The meeting set up the technical working group, which is responsible for detailed preparation of the European Conference. It also identified "possible themes of the working groups" of the European Conference, reflecting broadly issues identified by NGOs in January 1999. These four themes, now adopted as the topics for working group discussions at the European Conference, are:
Under each of these themes, the meeting proposed consideration be given to cross-cutting issues: the current situation of all groups and persons vulnerable to racism, issues of everyday racism (in the workplace, housing, etc), the role of youth, memory, prevention, contemporary forms of racism and globalisation.
c. Elaborating the Conferences working group themes from an NGO perspective
The NGO resource group has now met four times, on each occasion discussing in advance major items to be addressed by the technical working group. Various members have also participated in all three meetings of the technical working group.
At its first meeting (July 1999) the NGO resource group elaborated on the issues to be covered by the four themes for working groups at the European Conference (immediate link to PREP-EUROCONF/NGO (99) 3). In order to maximise NGO influence on the European Conference, the NGO resource group decided that the themes of the NGO Forum should correspond to the same four themes of the European Conference, reserving the possibility of adding a further theme at a later stage, if this appeared necessary for NGO priority issues to be adequately reflected. The NGO resource group also elaborated on the cross-cutting themes to which each working group shall pay particular attention under its main topic, and came up with a list which included:
Many of the points raised during the first meeting of the NGO resource group were later included in the Explanatory Note on the European Conference adopted by the technical working group at its first meeting. (immediate link to the Explanatory Note)
In March 2000, on the basis of feedback from NGOs during the process of inviting NGOs to register their interest in attending the European Conference against racism and NGO Forum, the NGO resource group decided to add a fifth working group to the NGO Forum on "Immigration and asylum policy" (immediate link to PREP-EUROCONF/NGO (2000) 1)
The NGO resource group also continued to press for attention to be given to the cross-cutting themes identified for the European Conference, proposing that experts invited to write background papers for the working groups of the European Conference should be invited to address specifically the situation of each vulnerable group. The NGO resource group further proposed that each working group should be required to make specific recommendations in relation to each of the cross-cutting themes, especially with regard to vulnerable persons or groups.
The NGO Forum provides the opportunity for NGOs across Europe, and beyond, to join efforts, including in
(immediate link to Explanatory Note of NGO Forum)
It will also adopt a set of NGO recommendations, to be transmitted to the European Conference and presented at the conferences opening plenary session by the Rapporteur of the NGO Forum. Those NGOs participating in the European Conference will seek to inject the issues identified as priorities in the recommendations adopted by the NGO Forum into the proceedings of the European Conference and its General Conclusions. The NGO Forum recommendations will also be appended to the proceedings of the European Conference, documentation which will be forwarded to the second session of the Preparatory Committee (Prep Com) of the World Conference, meeting in Geneva in May 2001.
The European Conference will adopt General Conclusions, in accordance with the objectives identified in paragraph 28 of UN General Assembly resolution 52/111, to be forwarded to the second session of the Prep Com.
In adopting Rules of Conduct for the European Conference against racism, (link to Rules of Conduct) the second meeting of the technical working group (December 1999) provided for the General Conclusions to be elaborated by the technical working group, in accordance with its mandate. The draft text of the General Conclusions will be finalised following the working group sessions at the European Conference. The drafting group responsible for finalising the text comprises: the Chair and General Rapporteur of the Conference, the Chairs, Vice-Chairs and Rapporteurs of the working groups and the Chair of the technical working group. (link to rules of conduct of the European Conference, rule no. 4)
In a departure from regular procedure for intergovernmental conferences, the General Conclusions will be presented to the concluding plenary session by the Chair of the Conference for adoption by general agreement. This procedure was specifically adopted with the objective of being inclusive of all participants at the conference, treating governmental and non-governmental participants on an equal footing (see also below 3 b.). (link to rules of conduct of the conference, rule no.13)
The technical working group, at its second meeting (December 1999) outlined principles for the General Conclusions, inter alia:
At its third meeting (May 2000), the technical working group began drafting General Conclusions. The NGO resource group contributed to the discussion, using as the basis for its input the two documents it had prepared as its contribution to the elements for a Political Declaration (see below 2 c.). (link as soon as possible to the two relevant NGO documents)
The draft General Conclusions, as amended by the third meeting of the technical working group, were examined by an open-ended drafting group on 11 and 12 July 2000, to which all participants in the technical working group were invited. (link as soon as possible to the new draft General Conclusions)
NGOs wishing to comment on the draft General Conclusions should contact one of the members of the NGO resource group (link as soon as possible to the names and e-mail addresses of members of the resource group) or their national government office responsible for preparations for the European Conference against racism.
2.c Political Declaration
At its first meeting (September 1999), the technical working group agreed to hold part of the European Conference against racism, the third (last) day, at ministerial level, (link to programme of the European Conference; day 3) providing also for the adoption of a Political Declaration by ministers of Council of Europe member States. (Other States attending the conference may request to be associated with the Political Declaration.)
At its second meeting (October 1999), the NGO resource group discussed elements which should feature in a Political Declaration. (link to PREP-EUROCONF/NGO (99) 4, paragraph 37) The representatives of the International Commission of Jurists and the European Roma Rights Centre subsequently drafted a written contribution concerning a draft Political Declaration submitted to the second meeting of the technical working group. (link to NGO elements for a Political Declaration)
At its second meeting (December 1999), the technical working group began drafting elements for the Political Declaration. It agreed that the Political Declaration should constitute a strong political message, primarily to Europe, be concise and also easy to read. It should concentrate on contemporary forms of racism, although with appropriate historical reference. It should take as its point of departure the Declaration adopted at the First Summit of Heads of State and Government of Council of Europe member States (Vienna, October 1993). (immediate link to Vienna Declaration) As for the structure, participants agreed it should refer to: the basic principles for combating racism; the current reality in Europe and major challenges faced, including an indication of the groups or individuals most vulnerable to racism; what has already been done in efforts to combat racism; and what commitments must be undertaken for further action. The technical working group felt that the last chapter of the declaration should be drafted in terms of general goals, such as universal acceptance and implementation of relevant international instruments and strengthening the work of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), since these broad commitments would be translated into concrete activities subsequently, when a European action plan is elaborated after the World Conference.
At its third meeting (March 2000), the NGO resource group further discussed elements for the Political Declaration. (link to PREP-EUROCONF/NGO (2000) 1, paragraph 13) It submitted a further document in this regard to the third meeting of the technical working group (May 2000). (link to second NGO document on elements for a Political Declaration)
In view of the Political Declaration being prepared for adoption by ministers of Council of Europe member States, the procedure for its finalisation is different from that for the General Conclusions, which are adopted by the conference itself: elements for a Political Declaration, as agreed by the third meeting of the technical working group, have been transmitted to the Committee of Ministers Deputies (ambassadors of member States accredited to the Council of Europe). There is no longer a role for the technical working group in the elaboration of this text.
In view of this procedure, any NGOs wishing to comment on elements for a Political Declaration should contact directly their government office responsible for preparations for the European Conference against racism.
3.a Forum for NGOs
The Forum for NGOs will take place on 10 and 11 October 2000, starting at 11 am on the first day and ending at midday on 11 October before the commencement of the European Conference at 2 pm. (link to programme and explanatory note of the NGO Forum)
The NGO Forum is open to all European NGOs working at national and local level, as well as international NGOs with a programme for combating racism in Europe. In view of several non-European States being invited to attend the European Conference against racism (Canada, Japan, Mexico and the USA), NGOs from these countries may also take part in the NGO Forum.
To attend the NGO Forum, NGOs should complete immediately a nomination/application form. (link to nomination/application form) (In view of the continuing interest expressed by NGOs to attend the NGO Forum, the date for sending in an application has been extended during the summer.)
An invitation letter to attend the NGO Forum, with an accompanying registration form, will be sent to all NGOs which have completed the nomination/application form. All such NGOs will be invited to send one representative to the NGO Forum. It is essential that NGOs complete the registration form by 8 September 2000 at the very latest. To be able to have access to the premises where the NGO Forum will be held, NGO representatives must have registered.
In addition to the official programme of the NGO Forum, efforts are currently being made to arrange facilities for NGOs to hold fringe meetings, on specific request of any NGO, either in the margins of the NGO Forum or the European Conference itself. Confirmation of such arrangements will be made at a later date, by posting information on the website: http://www.ecri.coe.int. Any NGO wishing to organise a fringe meeting should write immediately to the Secretariat of the European Conference, specifying the subject on which it plans to hold a meeting. While every effort will be made to accommodate requests for fringe meetings, it may not be logistically feasible for all such requests to be met.
3 b. NGO participation at the European Conference against racism
The plenary proceedings of the European Conference are open to interested NGOs, either through access to the public gallery of the hemicycle where the plenary sessions will take place or through access to a meeting room on the premises of the Council of Europe to which the proceedings will be transmitted. The registration form for attendance at the NGO Forum requests NGOs wishing to attend plenary sessions of the European Conference to indicate this, since such NGOs will need to have organised in advance of these meetings access to Council of Europe premises. (link to Rules of Conduct paragraph 43) Such NGOs will not, however, have access to the working groups of the European Conference.
In addition, 80 NGOs, representing NGOs active at national level in Europe in combating racism and international NGOs working in this area, are invited to participate in the European Conference against racism, as agreed by the technical working group at its third meeting. The participation expenses of such NGOs at the NGO Forum and European Conference (travel expenses and a per diem allowance for accommodation, meals and all other expenses related to participation) will be covered under arrangements agreed by the European Commission and the Council of Europe under the terms of a Joint Programme.
It is intended that these 80 NGOs will introduce into the European Conference the outcome of the NGO Forum, as elaborated in the set of recommendations adopted at the conclusion of the Forum. NGOs participating in the conference will have the same speaking rights in working groups (link to para 50 of rules of conduct) as all other participants in the European Conference, as well as the right to make documents available to other participants during the European Conference, subject to the Rules of Conduct (link to para 55 of the rules of conduct)
In the light of these arrangements for NGO participation in the European Conference, the technical working group proposed to consider NGO participation at its third meeting on the basis of recommendations from the NGO resource group, in conjunction with criteria established by the resource group, as elaborated further by the technical working group. Under the criteria adopted by the technical working group, only one national NGO active in combating racism from the 41 Council of Europe member States can be accommodated among the 80 NGOs invited to participate in the European Conference.
The NGO resource group considered the following criteria of importance:
The technical working group also proposed that, in addition to inviting NGOs with a focused mandate to combat racism, including those representing migrant workers, other NGOs with a broader approach in the field of human rights protection should also be invited.
At its third meeting (March 2000), on the basis of some 150 nomination/application forms received from NGOs indicating both their interest in participating in the European Conference and the areas of their expertise, the NGO resource group proposed 80 NGOs to participate in the European Conference. (link to list of NGOs invited to participate in the Conference)
3 c. Internet conference
At the initiative of three NGOs, Duo A, United for Intercultural Action and the Magenta Foundation, an internet site, the Internet Centre Anti Racism Europe (http://www.icare.to) has been open since the beginning of the year 2000 providing detailed information about preparations for the European and World Conferences against racism, focusing in particular on NGO input and participation in these events. A UN-discussion list enables NGOs to exchange comments on issues to be debated at European and world levels.
During the NGO Forum and European Conference against racism, I-CARE will provide live reports on these events and promote chat sessions, enabling NGOs unable to attend to contribute to the proceedings and receive news of developments through the internet.