Norway was one of the ten founding members of the Council of Europe. Established in 1949, it is the oldest European institution, and now has 47 member states. Its main tasks are to promote democracy, including local democracy, human rights and the rule of law in its member states, and it is the most important forum in Europe for developing rules and standards in these areas.
In addition to human rights and democracy, areas of cooperation include foreign policy issues, education, cultural cooperation, intercultural and interreligious dialogue, the media, social issues, health, environmental and landscape protection, youth issues, sport and cooperation between municipalities and regions.
The current Secretary General of the Council, Thorbjørn Jagland, is Norwegian; he was elected in 2009 and was previously President of the Storting . Norway also held the Chairmanship of the Council in 1989 and 2004. These chairmanship periods gave Norway a good opportunity to influence the the Council’s agenda. Reform of the European Court of Human Rights is one of the top priority issues for Norway.