For debate in the Standing Committee — see Rule 15 of the Rules of Procedure

Doc. 9893

28 August 2003

The Council of Europe’s North-South Centre and its contribution to development co-operation in the 21st century

Opinion

Committee on Culture, Science and Education

Rapporteur for opinion: Mr António Braga, Portugal, Socialist Group

I.       Conclusions of the Committee

The Committee on Culture, Science and Education agrees with the draft resolution presented by the Committee on Economic Affairs and Development and in particular with the call for the Centre to engage in reforms. The Committee’s opinion is mainly based on my participation in the Executive Council of the North-South Centre, where I represent the Parliamentary Assembly, together with Mr Frey.

II.       Explanatory memorandum

The Mandate of the North-South Centre

The North-South Centre was set up in 1989 as a Partial Agreement of the Council of Europe. If we can say the Council of Europe is the Guardian of Europe’s political culture of pluralism, democracy and respect of human rights, then we must expect that the North-South Centre can also be described as the Council of Europe’s “window to the world”.

The Centre was created with a dual mandate: to provide a framework for co-operation for increasing public awareness of global interdependence issues in Europe and to strengthen policies of solidarity between Europe and the Continents of Asia, Africa and Latin America in conformity with the aims and principles of the Council of Europe.

As Mr. Frey says in his report, if this dual mandate - increasing awareness in Europe of global interdependence and strengthening policies of solidarity between Europe and the “South” - was relevant when the Centre was set up in 1989, it is even more important that in today’s increasingly globalised world, where Europe, and the Council’s values, can and must play an important role. This is being achieved through the Council’s North-South Centre.

Quadrilogue Structure

The Executive Council includes representatives from governments, parliaments, local and regional authorities and civil society. This “quadrilogue” formula not only contributes to bridge-building between complementary partners with different approaches, means and priorities, but also ensures the long-term sustainability of the practice improvement and policy approaches of the Centre. While other intergovernmental organisations have recently begun to engage more directly with civil society, the Council can be proud of this track record of engagement with, and indeed co-management by, governments, civil society, parliamentarians and local and regional authorities1.

Systematic application of evaluation results

The North-South Centre is based on a partial agreement of the Council of Europe which so far has only directed 20 members; it has a small staff and a budget that is too dependent on programme-related fund-raising. Nevertheless, one of the outstanding features of the Centre has been the systematic application of evaluation results. A root and branch external evaluation of the Centre, in 1999, led to a three-year process of implementation of the findings of the evaluation, closely monitored by the member states. This has meant key improvements in the programme focus and achievability of results in the twin pillars of the Centre’s work: achieving enhanced public awareness in Europe through global education and achieving strengthened polices of solidarity and human rights, through North-South policy dialogue.

Global Education

Parliamentary Assembly Resolution 1318 (2003) "recommends member states to (...) promote global education to strengthen public awareness of sustainable development, bearing in mind that global education is essential for all citizens to acquire the knowledge and skills to understand, participate in and interact critically with our global society as empowered citizens" (paragraph 20.l.). The core purpose of the Global Education Programme is the promotion, improvement and growth of Global Education in Council of Europe member states. This is achieved through international networking between quadrilogue actors in member states.

The North-South Centre’s work in the field of Global Education (which includes a strong Youth Dimension – a sectoral and transversal priority of the Centre) has involved a significant number of actions and processes which are showing measurable results:

-       The Europe-wide Global Education Congress, held in Maastricht, Netherlands in November 2002, brought together governments, civil society representatives, parliamentarians and local and regional authorities from 41 of the member states of the Council; this Congress led to the agreement of the “Maastricht Declaration” – A European Strategy Framework for Improving and Increasing Global Education to the Year 2015”. Follow-up will be monitored through a peer-review process of national country reporting that is being piloted in 2003.

-       The Centre facilitates the GENE network (Global Education Network Europe), which brings together global education policy-makers and government funding bodies to share strategies and experience, in areas such as evaluation, training, funding mechanisms and structure-building; through multi-later round-tables.

-       Since 1999, the Centre has facilitated the growth of “Global Education Week”; Europe-wide awareness-raising week; (growth from an original 12 countries to now involve 38 member states of the Council).

-       The Centre organises the World Aware Education Awards, to improve co-ordination, networking and partnership between organisations active in the field of global education in Europe, particularly in Central and Eastern European countries.

-       Youth has been identified as a particular partner and target of the Centres activities, and a transversal element of the Centre’s work. Strengthening youth global education has been an important element of the Centre’s programme. This has been achieved through a training programme, which includes global youth training (most notably the Summer University on Youth and Development), and inter-regional youth training (including the NSC/Youth Directorate/European Commission partnership on Euro-med youth training).

The Mediterranean dimension

Trans-Mediterranean dimension is present since early 1994. The Assembly has taken a position on this field, in particular through the report by Lluis Maria de Puig on cultural cooperation between Europe and the countries of south Mediterranean, which was debated by the Assembly at the January 2003 part-session.

The international context since 11 September, as Mr de Puig put it in his report, demonstrates the urgent need to build a dialogue based on mutual respect, knowledge and acknowledgment of « the other ».

Since January 1994 several activities took place both in Europe and in countries from the south Mediterranean (examples: Colloquy in Algiers, Conference in Rabat, Seminar in Cairo, Conference in Alexandria, etc.). At this level the North-South Centre plays, and should continue to play, a role of catalyser, of driving force for a dynamic of euro Mediterranean cooperation between the different actors.

The North-South Centre is an excellent location for activities and relations between Europe and the countries in the south Mediterranean.

The programme for 2003 and 2004 includes activities such as:

- intercultural et inter-religious dialogue;

- strengthening of democratic processes;

- promotion and protection of human rights (in particular women’s right in 2003);

- the role of the media as a means for dialogue.

As Mr de Puig pointed out in his report, one possible form of co-operation is accession by the south Mediterranean countries to the Council of Europe’s conventions and its open partial agreements. The majority of conventions are open to non-member states, but to date only Morocco (party to one convention) and Tunisia (party to two conventions) have taken advantage of this option. It seems desirable that all these countries be encouraged to participate more fully, in particular by joining the North-South Centre.

It is to be regretted that in ten years of existence of the North-South Centre not one single country from the South has joined the partial agreement and this situation is not acceptable. The Council of Europe in general and the North-South Centre in particular should encourage the accession of countries from the South and in particular those from the south Mediterranean”

III.       Amendment proposed by the Committee on Culture, Science and Education to the draft resolution in Doc. 9816

After paragraph 8, add a new paragraph to read as follows:

“The Assembly regrets even more so that over the same decade not one country from the South has joined the Partial Agreement and considers that this situation must be changed. It calls on the North-South Centre to encourage the accession of countries from the south and in particular those from the south Mediterranean.”


1 Interest has been expressed in the quadrilogue model by, inter alia, members of Kofi Annan’s Eminent Persons Panel on the reform of UN/civil society relations.