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The Secretariat serves all statutory bodies of the organisation and all other committees and bodies. It is headed by the Secretary General and Deputy Secretary General, who are appointed by the Parliamentary Assembly on the recommendation of the Committee of Ministers for a once renewable five-year term of office, while other staff are appointed by the Secretary General. All members of the Secretariat are independent of any government or national legislature, although they are nominated from member states. The Secretariat is based at the CoE headquarters in Strasbourg.

The Secretary General is the public figurehead who speaks as the CoE representative to other organisations and countries, as well as liaising directly with CoE committees and monitoring bodies. While the Statute does not explicitly outline specific duties for the Secretary General, the role is responsible for the overall coordination, strategic management and budget of the CoE. Within the Secretariat, the Directorate General I (Human Rights and Rule of Law) and Directorate General II (Democracy) answer directly to the Secretary General.

The Secretary General is responsible for (Statute of the Council of Europe, Articles 37 and 38):

  • Managing the work of the Secretariat
  • Providing secretariat and other assistance as the Parliamentary Assembly and Committee of Ministers may require
  • Submitting the budget of the Secretariat to the Committee of Ministers

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How does it help tackle violence against women?

Violence against Women Division

The Violence against Women Division provides the secretariat for the monitoring mechanism of the Istanbul Convention. It ensures the smooth running of all meetings of GREVIO and the Committee of the Parties to the Istanbul Convention prepares the evaluations of state parties to the Convention and thus plays a key role in ensuring the monitoring of the implementation of the Istanbul Convention. It is “home” to the Istanbul Convention and provides support and assistance to other branches of the Secretariat on all questions related to the Istanbul Convention.

The Violence against Women Division also supports and runs co-operation activities on violence against women in the context of the EEA/ Norway Grants and other projects, for example in Ukraine.

iconLockWant more? Contact information for the Violence against Women Division can be found on the CoE website

Gender Equality Unit of the Equality Division

The Gender Equality Unit of the Secretariat plays a key role in researching and advising on approaches to tackling VAW at the national, regional and international level. Some of its work includes: organising events on CoE gender equality standards and activities during the Commission on the Status of Women (United Nations) sessions; engagement and cooperation with the European Union on gender equality activities; and promoting the Istanbul Convention within member states.

The Gender Equality Unit of the Secretariat also assists in the implementation of the Council of Europe’s Transversal Programme on Gender Equality. To accomplish this work, it frequently coordinates activities with the Gender Equality Commission to develop plans of action and coordinate activities in support of the Transversal Programme. Some of its work includes:

iconLockWant more? Contact information for the Gender Equality Unit can be found on the CoE website

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