EU Delegations Report 2017

Towards a more

effective partnership 

with civil society


EU Delegations are official representatives of the European Union vis-à-vis the authorities and population in their host countries. CONCORD has been monitoring for 10 years the relationship between EU Delegations (EUDs) and civil society organisations (CSOs) across the world by publishing the EU delegations reports every 2 years.

Since the launch of the European Commission 2012 communication:The roots of democracy and sustainable development: Europe’s engagement with Civil Society in external relations’, the EU has intended to develop a more strategic engagement and structured dialogue with civil society organisations in its partner countries. This has been translated into instruments and programmes and the adoption of country roadmaps for the engagement with civil society by EU delegations. 

Such communication represents an historical moment for the EU recognition and promotion  of the central role of civil society in development, democratic governance and in building equitable and inclusive societies. The 2017 EU Delegations report purpose is to track how this engagement is put in practice in partner countries. It is based on the outcomes of a survey sent to CSOs worldwide in 4 languages (English, French, Portuguese and Spanish) and on semi-structured interviews to targeted CSOs and EUDs in 5 countries.

The 2017 report aims to assess, from a CSO perspective, how EUDs support an enabling environment for civil society at country level and promote their participation in policy making and development.

The EUD report 2017 is available in English, French and Spanish.

On 27 March, CONCORD held a seminar, which was the occasion for a broad group of CONCORD members to exchange with EU institutions and Member State representatives on the way forward towards a more effective partnership with civil society at country level.

The EUD reports are used as advocacy tools to improve the engagement between EU delegations and CSOs, gather examples of good practice and lessons learnt, give feedback and make recommendations to the EU (delegations and headquarters), to EU member states, and to the civil society community.

The previous reports are available on


Survey Respondents


Country Examples


The edition 2017 “Towards a more effective partnership with civil society” specifically assesses, from a CSO perspective, how EU Delegations engage with civil society at country level to reach the objectives of the 2012 EC communication. Concretely, the following aspects of the EUD – CSO relationship have been analysed:

01Dialogue, Coordination, Participation
02Roadmaps, Staff and Competences
03Information and Communication
04Capacity Building
05EU Funding
Roadmaps are particularly important to build a structured dialogue and to support CS structuration and capacity building for advocacy, domestic accountability and active citizenship

The EU invests in institutional strengthening, through the promotion of dialogue between institutions and between the government and the sector. The EU’s visible appreciation for civil society’s role and activities is very important for the relationship between CSOs and the government.

– National NGO, Brazil

The EU delegation has not issued a single statement reflecting concerns about shrinking space for CSOs in Pakistan. We don’t see any visible efforts by the EU delegation to challenge the shrinking of CS space or to leverage all the instruments the EU has at its disposal.

– Regional NGO, Pakistan

The roadmap helped to raise the profile of the EU delegation, increase its contact with different organisations, bring about more events in which civil society took part, and promote contacts between civil society and the ambassadors of EU member states.

– National Office of INGO, Peru

The complexity of procedures and guidelines for grant management are directed more at INGOs than at national actors. If the procedures do not change – complexity of documents, time – the impact of EU support for CSOs will be weak.

– National office of INGO, Honduras


Important note: The EU Delegation to Honduras has pointed out to CONCORD that the section on CS dialogue in Honduras does not give an accurate picture of the wider contact of their engagement with civil society actors and in particular does not describe the Delegation’s role and work in publicly promoting human rights defenders in Honduras. Their reply (letter) provides a description of this work with civil society and human rights defenders.


  • The Civil Society perception is that the political strength of the EU and its member states could be better used to protect and promote civil society space. This should become an integral part of the EU’s political dialogue with partner governments, be it in the context of human rights dialogue, electoral processes, sectoral cooperation, trade and economic cooperation or any other dialogue process.
  • A structured dialogue between EUDs (and possibly EU Member States embassies) and Civil Society is essential for achieving the three objectives of the 2012 EC communication and for turning the roadmaps into real strategic processes that have an impact on the enabling environment. When such a dialogue exists, it should be the place for open, frank dialogue on what can be done to protect and promote Civil Society space under the mandate of each stakeholder.
  • In donor coordination and joint programming, it is of the utmost importance to include Civil Society’s environment and funding as key aspects of the process, and to use the donor coordination mechanism to facilitate access to political dialogue and sectoral policy making for CSOs, and to leverage their positions.
  • Continuous support for structuring, coordination and joint learning in Civil Society, while opening spaces for dialogue with a wide range of CSOs, is of paramount importance if Civil Society is to play an active role in democratic governance, accountability and policy making.

  • Many CSOs recognise the usefulness of the roadmap as a tool for improving the EUDs’ knowledge of Civil Society’s situation and landscape, and for broadening and deepening dialogue – but Civil Society has too little visibility, information or involvement at the implementation stage to be able to grasp and assess the strategic nature of the roadmap.
  • Resources, capacity and mutual understanding are key to an effective engagement between EUDs and CS, and both sides should devote more attention and resources to establishing good, strategic relationships between all EUD departments and a broader range of CS actors.

  • Good communication and information that are relevant, timely and empowering are essential for meaningful consultations of Civil Society and for maintaining strategic long-term cooperation between EUDs and CSOs.

  • Support for Civil Society initiatives in the sphere of capacity building, learning, research, policy work and advocacy is a good way to strengthen CSOs as development actors in their own right, at all levels from local to regional, and to empower them in defending their space and rights.

  • Funding instruments and modalities must be harmonised and simplified, and their implementation must be context-specific, to ensure that all Civil Society actors can play their role. This will help quality partnerships to develop between CSOs and between them and other development actors (local authorities, ministerial departments, academics, the private sector, etc.).

  1. 1EUDs are considered as relevant partners of CSOs in comparison with other donors
  2. 2Positive trends show that EUD-civil society dialogue is increasing, which is the most positive effect of the roadmap process
  3. 3There are a number of interesting experiences to learn from, example with Cambodia (see page 15 of the report)
  1. 1EUDs should increase the visibility of the roadmap and step up its monitoring (ideally, jointly with CSOs) as well as its internal and external reporting
  2. 2EUDs should ensure that the staff is contributing to protect and expand civil society space
  3. 3CSOs should engage with EUDs by actively seeking and asking for information on the roadmap
  4. 4CSOS should monitor roadmap implementation

  1. 1Civil Society is mainly consulted for the first phase of the Roadmap’s elaboration
  2. 2Civil Society is less (is not) consulted when it comes to the implementation phase nor for the monitoring
  1. 1EUDs should invest in a more systematic dialogue with CSOs and, ideally, take the lead in coordinating joint efforts
  2. 2EUDs should include CSOs in decision-making, in the ongoing political dialogue, not only during the consultation phases
  3. 3CSOs should better coordinate and strategize their representation roles and positions towards EUDs
  4. 4CSOs should feed their members back with the information they get from EUDs

  1. 1EUD capacity building initiatives to civil society are not sufficient
  2. 2Capacity building focuses on donor requirements too much
  1. 1EUDs should facilitate capacity building on project management and on the financial management of EU funds
  2. 2EUDs should integrate a long-term approach to their capacity building activities (not a one-shot training)
  3. 3CSOs should exchange much more on good practices and capacity programmes
  4. 4CSOs should coordinate to ensure all kinds of CSOs (small and big) can benefit from these programmes

  1. 1CSO perception that the volume of funding available for CSOs has decreased in the last years
  2. 2The complexity of EU funding rules and procedures has significantly increased
  3. 3The way EU funding is set in place tend to privilege to big international NGO structures and does not leave enough place for grassroots (local and small) organisations
  1. 1EUDs should review programming processes at mid-term to assess if the mechanisms support local and small CSOs
  2. 2EUDs should work with civil society to ensure that the funding modalities are tailored to the needs of local and small CSOs
  3. 3EUDs should simplify access to funding for CSOs
  4. 4CSOs should actively engage in consultations, reviews and consultations of funding instruments
  5. 5CSOs should review their partnerships to ensure they are based on mutual accountability

  1. 1Good information and clear communication is key for maintaining strategic long-term cooperation between EUDs and CSOs
  1. 1EUD and CSOS should respectively communicate their contact persons
  2. 2EUD should use accessible channels to communicate timely and regularly with CSOs
  3. 3CSOs should better disseminate their own work, lessons learned and best practice

Disclaimer: For the sake of transparency, access to survey data is available on demand. Contact: Zuzana Sladkova.