Thursday, November 16, 2006

Good governance and civil society participation

Brussels, 16 November. The European development days round table on 'Voices of civil society' brought together an interesting mix of speakers such as Patrizia Sentinelli, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs in charge of Development (Italy), Gerard Karlshausen (Concord), Susanna Florio (European Economic and Social Committee), Ahmed Sow (Director of the Centre for Development of Enterprise), Denise Auclair (CIDSE), Isabelle Hoferlin (International Trade Unions Confederation) and Ibrahim Khadar (CTA).

The speakers introduced the principal actions of their organisations in stimulating and supporting civil society to play active roles in development. All mentioned the importance and the positive impact of decentralised cooperation in relation to the involvement of civil society.

Critical opinions enlivened the the debate: Ahmed Sow argued that we need to be critical towards CSOs in terms of their capacities and their possibilities to respond to the expectations that are often raised. They also need to be made aware of the possible roels they can play. Susanna Florio noted that 70% of African organisations responding to a recent survey did not know what the Cotonou Agreement is; the 30% who do know of it felt that EU representatives in their countries do not pay sufficient attention to the beneficiaries. She emphasized that thes civil society organizations must have access to information if they are to be able to participate effectively in development activities.

This was reiterated by Ibrahim Khadar who argued that civil society organisations need to be informed: "Information produces knowledge, and knowledge produce wisdom: we need to support this process expecially in ACP countries, in order to have stronger civil society organisations that can talk on facts and engage in dialogue with the EC, and donors in general, on an equal footing", he said.

Patrizia Sentinelli recognised the failure of the current public aid system and claimed that new modalities of cooperation must be found. Referring to the involvement of civil society she highlighted the distance between political actors and institutions and civil society as the main problem. She noted that in any case, the only goal to achieve should be a better performance, and that governments should not just consult civil society organisations, but make agreements together.

For more information, check the Euforic dossier on civil society.

Story contributed by Eduardo Rejón Parrilla.