IFMSA at the INGO conference of the Council of Europe

IFMSA present at the winter session of the INGO Conference of the Council of Europe

Between the 22nd and the 26th of January 2018, IFMSA was present at the winter session of the international NGO (INGO) conference of the Council of Europe (CoE) in Strasbourg, France. Next to the Parliamentary Assembly, the Committee of Ministers and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, the INGO conference is regarded as the fourth pillar of the CoE. It actively contributes to the Council’s decision-making processes, for example by developing recommendations addressed to other CoE bodies on the basis of civil society needs.

Since our federation enjoys participatory status at the CoE and therefore forms parts of the INGO conference, we joined the winter session represented by Frederike Booke (SCORA RA for Europe 2017/18) to raise the voice of young global health and human rights advocates and to contribute to the work of the INGO conference through reporting the experience of our local and national members regarding participation in political/institutional decision-making.

This winter session – one of two annual meetings of the conference – was a space for the INGOs to monitor and confer about processes in the CoE as for example the protection of human rights defenders through governmental bodies. The present organizations exchanged their perceptions on shrinking space for civil society to fight for the full enjoyment and protection of human rights for everybody and reported that local and national activists often find themselves in danger, being restricted on their freedom of expression, missing protection from the state or even facing criminalization and prosecution.

Most time of the conference was allocated to sessions of the Thematic Committees of the INGO conference:
the Democracy, Social Cohesion, and Global Challenges Committee,
the Education and Culture Committee,
and the Human Rights Committee.
While the Committee Chairs presented their roadmaps and visions for the coming years, all NGO representatives had the chance to share their points of view and demands for the work of the Thematic Committees and engage in Committee-specific and transversal working groups. For us as IFMSA, it was particularly interesting to look deeper into the working group on protection of human beings and human dignity that covers our priority on antimicrobial resistance as well as access to healthcare for minorities and disadvantaged populations. Moreover, the interactive manner of the conference enabled our federation to ask questions and intervene in different panels throughout the meeting. Through this, as a youth organization, we raised the issue of extra barriers that youth face to be meaningfully involved in political decision-making and brought attention to the special needs of young and volunteer-based organizations when discussing civil society protection and participation.

Overall, the attendance of IFMSA at the winter session was very well perceived and we are aiming at following up on all the possibilities of participation that occurred during the meeting in order to engage in a constant exchange and ensure the enduring involvement of the voice of youth in the INGO conference.

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