The Committee of Ministers is the main political and decision-making body of the Organization, comprising the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of all 47 member states who are represented by their Permanent Representatives, accredited to the Council of Europe. The Committee of Ministers' chairmanships are held in alphabetical order for a period of six months, following the English alphabet.
The Secretary General has the overall responsibility for the strategic management of the Council of Europe’s work programme and budget and oversees the day-to-day running of the Organization and the Secretariat. The Secretary General is elected for a term of five years by the Parliamentary Assembly and heads the Secretariat of the Council of Europe.
The Parliamentary Assembly is the deliberative body of the Council of Europe and has been behind many of the Organisation's major initiatives and legal instruments (such as the European Convention on Human Rights). It was the first European assembly to be created in the history of our Continent. The Assembly is consulted about all international treaties drawn up at the Council of Europe. It elects the judges of the European Court of Human Rights and the Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as the Secretary General and Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe and its own Secretary General. Currently, it consists of 636 members from the national parliaments from all the member-states of the Council of Europe.
The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities is a Council of Europe consultative body. It is responsible for monitoring the development of local and regional democracy and represents both local and regional authorities of the Council of Europe member states.
The Conference of INGOs is the chief body representing the INGOs enjoying participatory status with the Council of Europe (which is more than 400 INGOs). It enables the voice of civil society to be heard in the Council of Europe and establishes an important link between government representatives, parliamentarians and the civil sector.
The Conference of INGOs meets in Strasbourg three to four times a year during the ordinary sessions of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and decides on policy lines, defines and adopts action programmes, etc., and encourages dialogue of members of parliament and local and regional authorities with associations on major social issues.
The European Court of Human Rights is the most recognizable institution of the Council of Europe. It rules on individual or State applications alleging violations of civil and political rights and freedoms set out in the European Convention on Human Rights. The Court’s judgments are legally binding and must be fully executed by the Countries concerned.
The number of judges of the Court is equal to the number of Contracting Parties. The seat of the Court is in Strasbourg.
Due to the increase in awareness of European citizens of their rights under the Convention and the increased number of applications in the past decade a significant backlog of cases has been created in the Court. This situation poses a serious problem for the efficient functioning of the Court. In order to overcome these difficulties, a thorough reform process for the improvement of the Court’s mechanisms has been initiated within the Council of Europe.
The Commissioner for Human Rights is an independent institution within the Council of Europe, mandated to promote the awareness of and respect for human rights in member states.
The Commissioner is elected by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. The main task of the Commissioner is to engage in a permanent dialogue with member states, continually raising awareness about human rights issues, and promoting the development of national human rights structures.
The Commissioner conducts visits to each member state for an evaluation of the human rights situation, and issues reports, opinions and recommendations to governments.