Cooperation with NGOs
Civil society’s role
The role played by civil society, including NGOs and the media, is essential to the smooth running of our democratic system, as well as the protection of human rights. By controlling the state’s activity, civil society acts as a necessary counterbalance to its power. FPS Foreign Affairs places great importance on dialogue between civil society’s different representatives, at both national and international level and in its bi-lateral relations with third countries.
Opportunities for dialogue
The Minister for Foreign Affairs meets every year with the main Belgian NGOs to discuss current events and Belgium’s international initiatives. For example, this was the case in March 2009 during the Civil Society Dialogue Forum on Belgium’s UN Security Council mandate and our candidacy to the Human Rights Council. The FPS Human Rights Department meets regularly with human rights NGOs which they consult when writing Belgian reports to UN committees. Belgium consults civil society when drawing up its national report for the Universal Periodic Review.
NGO project financing
In the name of preventive diplomacy, the FPS finances projects put together by human rights NGOs in third world countries. The aim of these projects is to build peace by tackling the causes and consequences of conflicts and taking remedial action.
At UN level
At UN level, civil society is represented by NGOs which may take part in UN projects once they have been granted consultative status by the Economical and Social Council (ECOSOC) Committee on NGOs. Belgium considers their contribution to the Human Rights Council to be crucial.
At Council of Europe level
INGOs (international non-governmental organisations) had consultative status with the Council of Europe until 2003. Ever since, they have had the possibility of being granted participative status, which means they may be involved in defining Council of Europe policies, programmes and initiatives at Committee of Ministers level. A Liaison Commission for INGOs which have been granted participative status (currently made up of 25 members) has been created to improve collaborative relations with the Council of Europe. A Plenary Conference of INGOs with participative status meets every year and sets the Liaison Commission’s aims and objectives.
At European Union level
The European Union places great importance on human rights queries made by NGOs and civil society. An NGO Forum is scheduled at each year end. The European Instrument for Democracy and Human rights finances NGO projects in areas deemed by the EU to be of primary importance.