Brussels, 10th March 2020 — Yesterday the European Commission (EC) and the European External Action Service (EEAS) released the joint communication ‘Towards a Comprehensive Strategy with Africa’ . The document will be used as a framework for talks between the European Union (EU) and their African Union (AU) counterparts when defining the new EU comprehensive strategy with Africa, which will be approved at the EU-AU summit in October 2020 in Brussels. In addition, it will shape further collaborations and EU actions under the EU-Africa partnership.
We, the JAES Civil Society Steering Group, welcome the efforts of the EU to strengthen its partnership with Africa. We call on the EC and EEAS to ensure that they maintain a balanced approach and put people at the center by going beyond the five priorities.
We believe that the involvement of African and European civil society in the definition and implementation of the strategy is crucial to make the entire process more democratic, transparent and accountable.
We also welcome the recognition of the potential and key role of young people and women in the realisation of peace, sustainable and inclusive development.
We look forward to an EU-AU Summit that gives civil society a real space to participate and to a strategy that truly responds to people, especially girls and young women’s aspirations, created through an open and inclusive process on both continents.
The time has come to review the nature of the relationship – or partnership – that the EU has with Africa. 2020 is a year that offers this opportunity, with the conclusion of the Post-Cotonou Agreement negotiations and the EU-AU summit scheduled in October. Both sides should acknowledge – and build into the new strategy – that partnership doesn’t come about simply by using that word. CONCORD urges both sides to ensure that all the interested parties will be involved in a truly participatory way. Of course, here we are referring particularly to civil society in Europe and Africa. A comprehensive and inclusive strategy development must necessarily give space and listen – from the very beginning – to those who will bear the greatest impact from the implementation of the strategy: people. CONCORD Europe is ready to do its part by taking an active role in the consultation process and enhancing the space for policy dialogue at global, European and regional levels.
This timely strategy must pave the way for a genuine relation between equal partners that has learned from past failures, has the ability to boost Africa’s structural transformation and takes heed of the fact that Africa has over the year developed multiple partnerships with new and very diverse actors. ADEPT calls for the close association of the African diaspora, notably its organizations conducting development actions in Africa, which plays a major – albeit understated – role in Africa’s development. The African diaspora’s human and financial capital must thus be given center stage. Our organization also invites the European Union and the Africa Union to establish a real multi-stakeholders’ partnership providing appropriate space for civil society in Africa and in Europe.
Climate change is posing enormous and unbalanced risks to safer, more resilient and sustainable development in Africa. The EU-Africa Strategy and Summit later this year must be used to advance implementation of the Paris Agreement; the SDGs; scale-up adaptation and actions to address loss and damage; and accelerate the clean energy transition. The Strategy should be founded on joint climate and environmental action and include a commitment to support countries to implement ambitious and just climate action through their climate plans, so as to empower the most vulnerable to deal with climate change. All investment and cooperation under the strategy must be climate-resilient. There can be no support for activities that undermine human rights or damage the environment.
A frank partnership would not be built on a strategy that only focuses on African problems and neglects the negative spillovers of the EU’s internal and external policies in Africa. We need the EU to step up and be truthful to its commitment to human development in Africa.
To realise a partnership at eye level, we have to develop a joint strategy together with our African partners. It’s high time to change the process accordingly. As Civil society we’re deeply committed to support shaping this partnership.
This new partnership is an excellent opportunity to unlock the potential of children and young people’s rights and set the stage for gender equality. It will be key to put gender equality at the center of the partnership, to ensure girls and young women can be whatever they want to be!
For EU-Africa relations to be fair, equal and sustainable, the protection of African human rights defenders is paramount. The restriction of space to defend rights, bolstered by repressive regimes and authoritarian leaders, is a worrying trend across Africa. Protection International Africa hopes that a new EU-Africa strategy based on human rights will help communities of human rights defenders to better defend their rights in all areas of their life. For girls and young women in particular, discriminatory gender norms and stereotypes create pervasive obstacles to the realisation of their influence on public policies that protect human rights defenders and forge partnerships that put an end to the criminalisation of human rights defenders. The new EU-Africa strategy can and must contribute to an enabling environment for human rights to be respected, where human rights defenders can carry out their work free from risk.
The renewed partnership between the EU and Africa could be a catalyst in unlocking youth potential: with the correct tools and support, the largest youth generation in history have the power to write their present and our joint future. We welcome the focus of the joint communication on youth and women. It now needs to be at the heart of the relations between the two continents. The EU and Africa must allow young people to engage and participate by listening to them, by respecting their rights, by providing them with the appropriate life skills, by investing in quality education and youth-friendly healthcare services, including sexual and reproductive health and rights
CONCORD Europe, representing 2600 NGOs in Europe and abroad, welcomes the fact that the European Union is reviewing and updating its partnership and cooperation with African states and the African Union, but it is our view that such an important process, reflecting the ambitions of a ‘geopolitical Commission’, would have required the involvement of the African partners from the start and a much more inclusive process.
In addition, a new EU strategy with Africa should take into consideration the ongoing negotiations on the EU-Africa protocol of the future EU-ACP agreement: these two processes should mutually influence and reinforce each other.
According to CONCORD Europe, a new comprehensive EU-Africa strategy must be shaped around ten core elements – which are a prerequisite for a strategy that aims at building a real partnership.
What is the JAES Civil Society Steering Group?
Since 2008, it maintains an ongoing dialogue with the EU institutions. It steers the Joint Africa-EU Strategy (JAES) European Civil Society Group.
Members of the Steering Group:
- Concord Europe
- European Network of Political Foundations (ENOP)
- Africa-Europe Diaspora Development Platform (ADEPT)
- ACT Alliance EU
- Deutsche Stiftung Weltbevoelkerung (DSW)
- Forum for Equitable Development – Slovenia
- International Planned Parenthood Federation
- Wetlands International European Association