For members of civil society and other advocates wanting to effectively engage with the CoE or other regional organisations on issues related to VAW, there must be some understanding of the organisation’s structure and the function each of the main bodies fulfils. Each body within the CoE serves a different function and will have different methods of engagement, all of which work together to achieve the goals and purposes of the CoE – as well as serving as mechanisms for civil society engagement. The Statute of the Council of Europe can provide a starting point for understanding the CoE and its work.
In 1949, the Statute of the Council of Europe (the “Statute”) was signed in London (United Kingdom), creating the CoE framework and outlining goals of the regional organisation, main bodies and their functions. Human rights, democracy and the rule of law are the three founding principles that guide the CoE’s work today. Chapter 1 of the Statute describes the nature and aims of the CoE. Article 1 states that:
a. The aim of the Council of Europe is to achieve a greater unity between its members for the purpose of safeguarding and realising the ideals and principles which are their common heritage and facilitating their economic and social progress.
b. This aim shall be pursued through the organs of the Council by discussion of questions of common concern and by agreements and common action in economic, social, cultural, scientific, legal and administrative matters and in the maintenance and further realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
c. Participation in the Council of Europe shall not affect the collaboration of its members in the work of the United Nations and of other international organisations or unions to which they are parties
d. Matters relating to national defence do not fall within the scope of the Council of Europe
Originally, only the Committee of Ministers, a Consultative Body and the Secretariat were established under the Statute. Since then, other bodies have been added to the CoE institutional structure. Today, the aims of the CoE are achieved through:
- Commissioner for Human Rights
- Committee of Ministers
- Parliamentary Assembly
- Congress of Local and Regional Authorities
- Conference of INGOs
- European Court of Human Rights