(Extract from the Official Gazette of the Council of Europe
1. The Assembly affirms that the realisation of equal opportunities for women and men
is a necessary condition for the functioning of a democratic society.
2. Examination of the present political landscape in the different Council of Europe
member states reveals that women are very much under-represented in the political
institutions: parliaments, governments, local and regional authorities. Such
under-representation is all the more serious given that women pay particular attention to
the specific needs of the community.
3. Many factors work against the better representation of women in public life.
Cultural practices that perpetuate stereotypes and prejudices, biased political and civic
education, and the traditional responsibilities of the private sphere constitute so many
obstacles to the entry of more women into political life.
4. In certain member states it has turned out that a level of 30% of women in political
bodies constitutes a "critical mass". Beyond this threshold clear qualitative
progress can be seen and women can free themselves of the male model of exercising power,
to bring their own vision.
5. However, there is nothing inherent in the "first past the post" system of
elections to parliaments that prevents women from gaining 30% or more of the constituency
seats, and the use of a list system must not be allowed to be an excuse for failure to
elect women to "first past the post" seats. To avoid this, targets should be set
and it is necessary to examine how women have succeeded in being elected in systems that
were either wholly or largely "first past the post".
6. The Council of Europe has been working for some years for greater equality of women
and men in political life.
7. The United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination
against Women, which was adopted on 18 December 1979 and entered into force on 3 September
1981, provides for the elimination of discrimination based on sex through ensuring for
women the right to vote and the right of eligibility and the right to participate in the
formulation and implementation of government policy.
8. The Parliamentary Assembly, in Recommendation 1008 (1985) on women in politics,
recommended that the Committee of Ministers invite the governments of the member states to
promote equality for women through a national institution endowed with the necessary
powers and resources to facilitate womens participation in political life on an
equal footing with men.
9. The Platform for Action of the Beijing United Nations Conference (4-15 September
1995) recommended governments to take all necessary measures to ensure equality of access
for women and full participation in power structures and decision making.
10. The European Ministerial Conference on Equality between Women and Men as a
Fundamental Criterion of Democracy (Istanbul, 13 and 14 November 1997) recalled that it is
incumbent upon governments and political parties to take action to promote the role of
women in politics.
11. The Parliamentary Assembly nevertheless notes that despite all this, little
progress has been made in the member states of the Council of Europe.
12. The Assembly therefore invites its national delegations to urge their parliaments
to introduce specific measures to correct the under-representation of women in political
life, and in particular:
i. to set up parliamentary committees or delegations for womens rights and equal
ii. to institute equal representation in political parties and to make their funding
conditional upon the achievement of this objective;
iii. to adopt dispositions aiming to reconcile family and public life;
iv. to introduce legislation to create a system of equality education, beginning in
elementary schooling, so as to ensure the same chances of access to all levels of
13. The Assembly recommends that the Committee of Ministers:
i. prepare a recommendation to the member states on equal representation in political
and public life by means of specific instruments;
ii. institute a European ombudsman for the re-balancing of representation in order to
promote the consolidation of "empowerment" and "mainstreaming", as
defined in the Beijing Platform for Action, and their follow-up, and for co-ordinating all
national equality organisations in the various member states;
iii. instruct the relevant steering committees to introduce an education programme in
the field of equality.
14. Furthermore, the Assembly recommends that the Committee of Ministers invite member
i. to implement the principle of equality and adopt special measures such as provided
for by the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination
ii. to implement the Platform for Action of the Beijing Conference;
iii. to set up a public structure to be responsible for equal opportunities, and a
statistical system for monitoring the progress of equality policies in member states;
iv. to promote information campaigns aimed at changing attitudes regarding the
importance for true democracy of womens participation in political life, and at the
same time, to promote the sharing of responsibilities between both partners within the