On 6-7 July, Civil Society Organisations, Local Authorities and Other Development and Human Rights actors gathered alongside European Institutions and Member States at the EU Partnership Forum 2017 in Brussels. With this Forum, the EU wishes to allow CSOs and Local Authorities to play their full role as actors of governance, advocates and implementers by gathering feedback on best practices, and thus, help the EU institutions further develop these essential partnerships, such as recognised in the newly adopted European Consensus on Development.

“The Consensus re-shapes our approach to development,” said Klaus Rudischhauser Deputy Director-General for International Cooperation and Development, European Commission, in his opening speech. Partly based on the Sustainable Development Goals, which have broadened the definition of security, resilience, migration or gender, it contains a potential change of paradigm in our global strategy within the EU’s external action. How will it be implemented and how do they involve all stakeholders were among the questions on the table.

How the EU invests in development

The EU has developed a diverse set of financial tools for civil society and local authorities, including reactive and innovative support models. Under this topic, participants were consulted on the EU’s External Investment Plan and its multi-level approach based on 4 pillars:

  • policy and political dialogue with partner countries;
  • structures dialogue with business SMEs;
  • country level sector, value chains analysis;
  • coordination and coherence.

Following a presentation delivered by Commission representatives, participants were invited to share their views on certain aspects of the Investment Plan, but a number of answers remain pending. Indeed, “on the scale of the investment, what will it represent for beneficiaries, namely most vulnerable groups, and how will it work in practice?” asked CONCORD Europe Board member Floris Faber (Act Alliance). And with the leitmotiv “Leave no one behind,” will the Plan include “a criteria allowing to measure the impact of investments on inequality, especially for health and education?” continued Isabelle Brachet from ActionAid.

Progress in also being made with regard to the EU Trust Fund for Africa, although one should be precautious on drawing hasty conclusions as the fund was only launched 19 months ago.

“The session on the AU-EU Summit hugely benefited from listening to Paul Renier’s take on the preparations that week in Addis Ababa, noting the overlap and divergence among the two continents in terms of policy priorities and agenda setting. His commitment to multi-stakeholder implementation and to CSO participation in Abidjan was also warmly welcomed by participants.”

Bob van Dillen

Caritas

How to secure Civil Society and Local Authorities

Klaus Rudischhauser highlighted the worrying developments in certain countries where we see governments legally reducing the space for CSO and decredibilising their work. Indeed, “recent measures against hungarian civil society are legitimised through national democratic processes,” underlined former CONCORD Board member Izabella Toth. “Supporting democratically elected leaders and strong local authorities, as well as of an active and vivid engaged civil society” is key to successful development, added Antonella Valmorbida from ALDA. Mr. Rudischhauser reassured participants by reiterating the EU’s commitment to provide a safe space for CSO.

“We see our role as trying to provide a voice for the voiceless in influencing EU policy.  Powerful interests currently have a disproportionate influence.  For this we need to expand the channels of dialogue (other policy areas, EU Delegations and Embassies).  Civil Society needs stable, core funding to play this role properly.”

Seamus Jeffreson

CONCORD Europe Director

What’s next?

The EU-CELAC Civil Society forum on 7-8 September is being organised jointly by CONCORD and its regional partner Mesa de Articulacion. The main outcome of the CSO Forum will be a joint declaration from EU-CELAC CSOs giving recommendations for the upcoming Summit of EU-CELAC in San Salvador on 26-27 October. “We want to create a communication tool that will help facilitate a more profound and engaging dialogue,” said Carlos Cabo, former CONCORD Europe Board member, to ensure the outcomes of the Summit are based on a genuine discussion that allows all stakeholders to speak up and thus, guarantee stability to the joint responses needed to answer the complex and evolving challenges in the field. The EU-CELAC Summit is an important intergovernmental benchmark for our societies, creating a space for political dialogue between two regions, which contributes to finding common strategies to address the existing interdependencies between Latin America-Caribbean and Europe – offering solutions to the contradictions that these interdependencies can create in both continents, regarding matters of human rights and sustainable development.