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The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities (the ‘Congress’) is a pan-European political assembly, consisting of 648 members who hold elective office (regional or municipal councillors, mayors or presidents of regional authorities) in over 200,000 authorities throughout the 47 CoE member states. It works to promote local and regional democracy, improve local and regional governance and strengthens local authorities’ capacity for self-governance, especially as outlined in the European Charter of Local Self-Government. The Congress also encourages regionalisation processes and cooperation between cities and regions. It is one of the four pillars of the CoE “quadrilogue” (Committee of Ministers, Parliamentary Assembly, Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, and the Conference of INGOs) and works closely with the European Union’s Committee of the Regions.
The Congress holds its plenary sessions twice a year in Strasbourg and is made up of two chambers:
- Chamber of Local Authorities: responsible for studying the local democracies, observes local elections, and promotes social initiatives such as citizen participation, intercultural dialogue, e-democracy and respect for equality and diversity.
- Chamber of Regions: responsible for working with regional authorities at a level between central and local governments with governing powers on issues such as cooperation, transportation and good governance.
The Congress’ works falls into three committees:
- Monitoring Committee: monitoring local and regional democracies (including visits) and preparing country reports and recommendations to fully/better implement the Charter.
- Governance Committee: managing the Congress, including its public finance, cross-border and inter-regional cooperation, e-democracy, and cooperation with intergovernmental bodies.
- Current Affairs Committee: studying the role of local and regional authorities in the major challenges of our society and preparing positions on thematic issues such as social cohesion, education, culture and sustainable development.
Broadly, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities is responsible for (European Charter of Local Self-Government, explanatory report):
- Preparing country reports on states’ promotion of effective local and regional democracy
- Conducting regular country monitoring visits
- Verifying specific aspects of the Charter
- Observing local and regional elections
- Advising the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly on all aspects of local and regional policy
Want more? You can read about the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities and learn about the work of both chambers
How does it help tackle violence against women?
In 2009, the Congress passed a resolution on “Combating domestic violence against women”, providing detailed guidelines for action by all local authorities to end domestic violence:
- Develop comprehensive strategies which specify precise aims and objectives, and criteria for monitoring the situation
- Establish partnerships with all services concerned with violence against women
- Ensure that the victims have access to a wide range of free, high-quality services, specialising in providing assistance to women and children, these services should be
- Set up by women’s NGOs and in consultation with the women themselves;
- Non-discriminatory and accessible to women in situations of exclusion or with special needs (including minorities and women suffering for addiction or mental illness)
- Provide appropriate training for local and regional government staff and elected representatives so that they understand domestic and sexual violence in the context of gender equality and human rights
- Support NGOs working in the field of domestic violence against women, and make resources (for example premises) available to them
- Raise awareness and inform the public at large by:
- Involving men in awareness-raising activities, clearly condemning violence and highlighting the fact that violence against women is not a “fact of life”;
- Drawing attention to local services which defend and support victims and disseminating information in public places and associations on how to secure access to these services;
- Keeping a readily accessible directory of local services involved in combating violence against women;
- Conduct preventive activities in primary and secondary schools, and with this in mind:
- Devise and introduce, in co-operation with the NGOs concerned, programmes aimed at raising young people’s awareness of gender-based violence, gender inequalities and sexual stereotypes and at promoting respectful relationships and non-violent conflict resolution;
- Give appropriate training to teachers so that they can run and support this type of programme and provide education staff with the necessary guidance
- Encourage schools and educational services to detect the signs and indicators of family abuse and to offer support to ill-treated minors and their parents
Want more? Read Combating domestic violence against women (Resolution 279) (2009)