Last week, CONCORD had the pleasure of welcoming to its Brussels office the 20 year-old Chinese NGO platform CANGO, along with a few other partners engaged in Chinese-European dialogue.



From left to right: Min Yan, China-Europa Forum; Nicolas Krausz, Charles Léopold Mayer Foundation; Vaia Tuuhia, Association 4D; Huang Haoming, CANGO; Thierry Viard, ATD 4th World; Olivier Consolo, Nathalie Bekier Djerf, Claire des Mesnards, CONCORD.

It was a great occasion, getting to know each other’s organisations while also starting to identify some areas of possible collaboration.

Civil society is active all over the world, standing up for people’s rights and dignity. We already knew this beforehand, but what a boost to live it by meeting a representative of Chinese CSOs! But there are also a number of challenges to overcome as well if we are to achieve the changes needed by our ever so diverse societies.

CANGO tried to give us a description of the civil society landscape in China. We learnt there are 462,000 CSOs officially registered in China, among which 255,000 are social organisations, 204,000 non-profit organisations related to the social economy, as well as 3,000 foundations. The latter is quite a new phenomenon which has been rising consistently with the wealth and increasing willingness of the new Chinese economic elite to engage in philanthropic activities. Contrary to our European Development NGOs, most of these CSOs (99%) are active in their own country rather than on the international scene; only about 200 are engaged in developing countries, a number which is expected to increase in the next 10 years following an increasing demand on China from neighbouring countries like Bangladesh or Cambodia to play a bigger role in their development.

The 142 CSO networks that form CANGO reflect this reality, which is not only to be found in China but also more generally in the BRICS1: case-in-point is ABONG, the Brazilian national platform of NGOs, which is a member of MESA and a regular interlocutor for CONCORD itself. While platforms can contribute to the achievement of the MDGs in different ways, be it on the ground like CANGO and ABONG, or through advocacy for development cooperation like CONCORD, it remains crucial to share experiences and good practices. Therefore, further relationship-building in the future between CANGO and CONCORD or even more appropriately the IFP2 should not come as a surprise, as long as each partner respects the roles and identities of the other.

Apart from areas like capacity-building, advocacy work or fundraising that such collaboration could explore further, CONCORD was suggested to engage in a tripartite CSO dialogue between China, Europe and Latin America. The preliminary stages of this dialogue date back to 2005, when the China-Europa Forum was created thanks to the support of the Charles Léopold Mayer Foundation. More recently, Rio+20 laid the bases for the extension of this bilateral dialogue to Latin America, where CANGO as an active member of this Forum since 2007, could encounter Brazilian civil society in official events of the People’s summit or in favelas with the international movement ATD 4th World. This was a huge eye-opening experience for both sides, living in countries which already cooperate significantly in the area of trade3 while respective civil societies hardly know of each other! Hence the necessity of the next steps for such dialogue coming in the shape of a workshop in Beijing scheduled for May 2013 and to which CONCORD was invited. CONCORD was happy to be considered for such a tripartite dialogue. What will result from this initial contact building remains to be seen. The path is paved for closer collaboration if the membership would like to take on this opportunity.

1 Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa
2 International Forum of national NGOs Platform , working closely with CONCORD

3 Brazil is China’s first commercial partner