Thursday 23 March 2023

The Hague Civil Society Declaration on Council of Europe Reform

Earlier this month, on 28 February and 1 March, the first ever Council of Europe Civil Society Summit took place in The Hague, the very city in which 75 years earlier one of the foundational moments of the European movement happened, eventually leading to the creation of the Council of Europe (as well as to the precursors of the European Union). This year's summit gathered civil society representatives from across Europe to come together around a unified message directed at the Council of Europe's member states. The latter will gather in Reykjavik on 16 and 17 May of this year, for the fourth ever summit of heads of state and government. The previous one took place in Warsaw as long ago as 2005, when Europe and the world looked quite different in terms of rule of law, democracy and human rights. The Council of Europe is, without exaggeration, at a crossroads and many would say in an identity and effectiveness crisis, after the ousting of its largest member last year and with the protection of its three core aims under heavy pressure.

In order to reflect the voice of civil society, from human rights defenders to NHRIs, and from human rights NGOs to youth movements, a special text was  developed in The Hague (this author had the privilege to be one of the rapporteurs in the meetings). The text of the Hague Civil Society Declaration on Council of Europe Reform is now available online. This version includes extensive explanatory notes that provide background to the proposals made. It includes a whole section dedicated to structuraal improvements of the implementation of the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights.

The Declaration is now open for endorsements by civil society organisations and individual experts, including academics, around Europe (meaning that they support the overall direction of the proposals and the sense of urgency behind them), both those who have participated in the Civil Society Summit and those who have not. If you are interested in endorsing and supporting the Declaration, you can write to . A list of endorsements will be posted (and regularly updated) here