Podium at the High-Level Forum Africa-Europe Vienna 2018 Ahead of the meeting between the leaders of the African Union and European Union on 9 December 2020, the Joint Africa-Europe Strategy (JAES) European Civil Society Group addressed a letter to the Permanent Representatives of EU member states to the European Union. The JAES Group calls on the EU to organise inclusive, meaningful and timely consultations with civil society from both continents to understand their perspectives and hear their recommendations on the future partnership between AU and EU. You can read the complete letter here.

Dear Madam / Sir,

We are writing to you on behalf of the Joint Africa-EU Strategy (JAES) European Civil Society Group, which brings together European civil society platforms and organisations around the implementation of the JAES. Since 2008, we have maintained an on-going dialogue with the EU institutions.

We are addressing this letter to you ahead of the meeting between the leaders of the European Union and African Union on 9 December, which will pave the way for the adoption of a renewed partnership between the two continents during the EU-AU Summit in 2021.

Civil society plays a critical role in promoting democracy and good governance, peace, and wellbeing, as well as in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which will be key objectives of the future EU-Africa partnership. EU member states, by signing the European Consensus on Development, have committed to promote civil society space, thereby to strengthen CSO voices in the development process and to advance political, social and economic dialogue.

However, civil society is facing increasing hostility globally and we are witnessing a shrinking space for action, both in Europe and in Africa. The current COVID-19 pandemic is further limiting the possibility for civil society organisations to participate and contribute to the political processes. In this regard, we stress the importance of the future partnership between EU and Africa recognising civil society as a crucial actor, with a commitment to protect and promote civic space as a precondition for building more inclusive and democratic societies.

CSOs have a crucial role in upholding and achieving the universal values and cross-cutting themes for EU engagement, affirmed in the Strategic Agenda and Council Conclusions of 30 June and 15-16 October 2020. These include non-discrimination, equal rights and equal opportunities for all, gender equality and women’s empowerment, youth inclusion, education and skills, social, environmental and economic sustainability, good governance and the rule of law. In recent months, civil society in Africa and Europe has proven time and again its relevance as a crucial actor to support those most in need – even in areas where public institutions are largely absent. Without civil society involved in all parts of the process leading to the summit next year, developing a revised AU-EU Strategy that is based on the needs and perspectives of the people on both continents will be difficult.

In addition, the months leading to the AU-EU summit in 2021 offer an opportunity to involve civil society at all levels of political and policy dialogues. We call on the European Union to organise meaningful and timely consultations with civil society, from both continents, to hear their views and recommendations on the future EU-Africa partnership.

Moreover, we believe that the successful development of a people-centred partnership will highly benefit from a continuous exchange with civil society: we regret the EU did not systematically and regularly involved civil society in the past months around the future EU-Africa partnership and ahead of the EU-AU Leaders’ meeting on 9 December. This is why we call on the EU to regularly engage with civil society during the months ahead of the summit in 2021, to ensure their voices are heard and taken into account when the EU and the AU will shape their future relationship.

A specific space should also be granted to civil society during the summit next year, making sure their recommendations will be heard by African and European leaders.

We remain confident that European leaders will show the ambition to agree on a future EU-Africa partnership that recognises civil society as a key partner for building a sustainable future in both continents.

Yours sincerely,

The JAES European Civil Society Steering Group

About the JAES Group
The JAES European Civil Society Committee (CSC) provides a platform to European civil society organisations to ensure the participation of CSOs in the current Joint Africa-Europe Strategy (JAES) at all levels, and in the discussions on the future partnership between the EU and Africa. Currently the JAES CSC counts about 30 members from various sectors of the European Civil Society: development cooperation, climate and environment, political foundations, social, health and gender organizations, diaspora, youth (among others). Some of them are platforms or networks which gather a wide range of connected organisations. The JAES European CSC and its steering group were founded on proposal of the EU Commission after the Lisbon Summit, which launched the strategy, pledging to create the conditions required to enable CSOs to play an active role in promoting a broad-based and people-centred partnership.

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