Recommendations for a more effective and meaningful participation of civil society in the future EU-ACP relations

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

In the current context of growing criticism and restriction of civil society action in all parts of the world it is essential for the future EU-ACP agreement to defend the space and role of civil society and to put human rights, fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression and opinion, association and peaceful assembly at its core. The parties should recognize the positive contribution of an independent and diverse Civil Society (CS) that is democratically and transparently organised, in promoting democracy, peace, and wellbeing and in implementing the Agenda 2030 for sustainable development.

The parties should acknowledge the role of civil society organizations as development actors in their own right and respect their ability to seek, receive and use resources both domestically and foreign as inherent to the right to freedom of association. The experience with the current ACP-EU Cotonou Partnership Agreement (CPA) has shown that it is not enough to recognise CS as an actor of the partnership to ensure a meaningful participation in all its dimensions. The CPA gaps on CSOs effective participation cannot be addressed by best practices from other regional partnerships such as the JAES which isn’t exemplary with regard CSOs participation.

Concrete mechanisms have to be established and financially supported to make this happen. The purpose of this paper is to make a proposal on the form these mechanisms could take and how they could be structured and supported. Key for the success of a renewed impetus for civil society participation will be to build the participation and dialogue mechanisms on existing structures and initiatives of civil society; to make sure that there is political will and interest to take account of civil society contributions; to allocate the necessary administrative and financial resources to ensure effective and on-going processes; and to facilitate the participation of a diverse group of CS actors and a balanced representation of CS from all regions involved, EU included.