Europe in the World: EU delegations

26 January 2015

By Seamus Jeffreson, Director of CONCORD, the European confederation of Relief and Development NGOs

For almost a decade now, in our work on monitoring the performance of European Union delegations’ engagement with civil society, CONCORD has played a “watchdog” role, assessing how policies decreed in Brussels are actually being put into practice in the countries in which the EU works.

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This important role remains. But civil society organisations can also have a role highlighting good practices and encouraging improvements. At a time of Euroscepticism, I think it’s particularly valuable to support steps by the EU to ensure that civil society can play a meaningful role in the planning and implementation of its external policies on the ground. This report, drawing on wide-ranging participation from CONCORD members and partners, describes what’s working well and where things could be better.

The space for civil society around the world to do its job (watchdog, advocate, service provider, educator) is increasingly under threat. EU institutions’ and EU delegations’ efforts to include civil society and other non-state actors in a dialogue about EU programmes and policies is therefore as critical as ever. We want European external policies to be progressive, respectful of human rights and single-mindedly focused on ending extreme poverty. Involving civil society is not only the right thing to do, it is also effective. It makes for better, more inclusive and better-accepted policies.

The role of civil society as a partner in policy dialogue is not accepted or understood in the same way by all the EU’s partner governments. Highlighting successful practices, proposing where things could be done differently or better, is one important way of increasing and improving civil society involvement in decisionmaking and in the implementation of those decisions globally. CONCORD has successfully drawn on its members’ work at EU policy level, combined with in-country presence and relationships, to make a signifi cant contribution to this vital aspect of the EU’s external action – supporting CSO engagement.

My first experience of CONCORD was responding to a questionnaire about CSOs’ interaction with EU delegations back in 2005 while working for CAFOD and Trócaire in Addis Ababa. This report marks another milestone in the process in which European CSOs and their in-country civil society partners are working together to increase and improve the quality of consultation and engagement between the EU and civil society in the countries in which the EU’s programmes and policies have an impact.

I would like to thank all those whose time and hard work contributed to the findings of the report, and I look forward to continued and deeper cooperation between CSOs, our partners and the EU in maintaining and expanding civil society’s role as a key driver of sustainable development with a place at the decisionmaking table.

Read CONCORD’s new report on EU delegations here