The EU met with ACP states as the two came together to discuss the shape of development cooperation.

Representatives from the European Union and African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries came together in a high level panel event on the 13th of November. Brought together by MEP Patrice Tirolien, the Rapporteur on EU-ACP relations, the participants sat side by side as they tried to get a clearer picture of what development cooperation between the two should look like in the near future with a report on the 11th European Development Fund (EDF) looming over the horizon.

Important figures were in attendance and keynote speeches were made by Andris Piebalgs, the EU Commissioner for Development and Dr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas, the Secretary General of the ACP Group of States. euacp1Although Commissioner Piebalgs was quick to reassure ACP states of their aid eligibility in the next EDF, Dr. Chambas was equally keen in reminding the EU of the binding commitments it made to ACP states, a response made after the Commissioner repeated the EC plans for using a differentiated and gradual approach for allocations to certain countries under the 11th EDF, a move that will result in several middle income countries losing out on aid.

More positively, EU aid still holds massive support among EU citizens despite the current gloomy domestic situation and Commissioner Piebalgs supported Joanna Maycock, President of CONCORD, on her belief that this fact should be reflected in the next EDF. Maycock said, “to retain sustainable support with third countries and its citizens and CSOs is essential.  As the global power dynamics shift, inequalities increase and human rights and women rights are under attack, these partnerships are more important than ever”.

euacp2The European Union has certainly made all the right noises with the Cotonou Partnership Agreement and their recent communication on Civil Society, both of which recognise civil society’s key role as a development actor. But words must be accompanied by concrete action, the European Commission should ensure civil society has a voice in the current EU aid discussions – including negotiations on the 11th EDF. This is particularly the case in the country-level joint programming process which sets out how much funding each sector (e.g. health, education, gender etc.) will get; this is, as Alexandra Makaroff, Plan EU Funding Manager and co-chair of the FDR working group highlighted, “the first test case for the EC to put in practice its commitments to engage with CSOs more effectively”.

Cécile Vernant, DSW Senior EU liaison officer, also highlighted the gap between words and action, Situations on health, education and gender are still worrying in many ACP countries. This is a bad time to cut funding for these issues if we want to eradicate poverty and foster inclusive growth and sustainable development. The EU and ACP states must try harder to show they care about these issues”.

Similarly, while high level attention on the subject is encouraging, Wiske Jult, European Policy Officer at 11.11.11 and convenor of the CONCORD Cotonou Working Group (CCWG), was not getting carried away; the group had the opportunity to raise Civil Society concerns for the future of EU-ACP relations. But the debate is only starting. The Group will closely follow-up MEP Tirolien’s report and the debates it will generate”. The group intends to keep up the momentum and ensure a fair deal for ACP states by working alongside its Southern partners and organising a lunch meeting for Parliamentarians from the EU and ACP countries during the upcoming 24th EU-ACP Joint Parliamentarian Assembly.