On the occasion of the European Parliament’s vote on the “Report on a new EU-Africa Strategy – a partnership for sustainable and inclusive development” (25 March 2021), the EUPP partner organisations from Germany, Portugal and Slovenia believe that the success of the strategy depends on the level of ambition put on its making. In addition to responding to the challenges deepened by the pandemic, it is essential to allow for the adoption of a genuine partnership that contributes to sustainable development. The protection and strengthening of democracy are key aspects in establishing a strategy that recognizes the importance of dialogue with civil society “in ensuring that democracies function properly”, as recently asserted by the European Parliament’s Development Committee (DEVE).
The Africa-EU Partnership is a key instrument in the relationship between the two continents in order to promote an in-depth dialogue on various issues, in the pursuit of shared goals that contribute to sustainable development and in the assertion of the importance of people-centered policies. The draft report recently adopted by the DEVE Commission points to some important aspects such as the need to make this a “partnership between equals” that responds to the challenges we face while acknowledging people’s most pressing needs and fulfilling the 2030 Agenda.
The important vote of the DEVE Committee is a step in the right direction that must not only be confirmed by the EP plenary but also embraced by the EU as whole leading up to the next AU-EU Summit. It is, however, a step that can hardly be accomplished if the drafting of the next strategy is not based on an open, inclusive, and participatory approach. With this in mind, and at a time when global challenges are severely aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the national NGO platforms of the current trio of EU Council presidencies (VENRO – Germany, Portuguese NGDO Platform – Portugal, and SLOGA – Slovenia), along with CONCORD Europe, are calling on political leaders to adopt an active approach towards the meaningful engagement of civil society organisations (CSOs) from both continents in the discussions on key aspects related with Africa-EU relations.
Mobilizing a broad range of CSOs, especially from Africa, is not only possible but also the right thing to do to build a strategy based on a true partnership capable of addressing joint political challenges with a bottom-up approach that puts people’s needs at its core. As a group of organisations representing hundreds of European NGOs, we have collected insights from African and European civil society partners on issues such as the future of development cooperation, the importance of assuring climate justice in the green transition and, most importantly, the need for a paradigm shift that acknowledges local solutions led by grassroots stakeholders. According to the “Africa-Europe Civil Society Survey” involving around 360 NGOs from both continents, civil society bonds between Africa and Europe are strong. However, 89 percent of the survey participants expressed the need for better involvement of NGOs in the Africa-EU Partnership.
From our perspective, considering the outcomes of the discussions around these issues – and many others – in the build-up to the next strategy would be a key step in strengthening the democratic dimension of the ongoing process. Such an engagement would also contribute to consolidate the foundations for a future partnership that allows for a permanent dialogue with civil society and that considers the challenges of regions with less capacity to respond to climate change and the deepening of socio-economic, gender and access to COVID-19 vaccines inequalities.
The AU-EU Summit may be postponed, but a broad and comprehensive consultation process that allows for the meaningful engagement of civil society from both continents does not have to be. In order for this to happen, strong political will capable of guaranteeing the appropriate financial and logistical support for the participation of civil society in the process is needed. As a group of CSOs that are seeking to contribute to these complex discussions, we believe that the capacity of the next strategy to stand up as a driving force for sustainable development, democracy and inclusiveness depends on the effort that will be put in during the next few months.
Brussels, Berlin, Lisbon and Ljubljana
For media inquiries, please contact:
Katarzyna Krok | CONCORD
Ian Mengel | VENRO
Rita Leote | Portuguese NDGO Platform
Miha Turk | SLOGA