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Thursday, April 19, 2007

CONCORD at the EU-ACP Joint Parliamentary Assembly

The Joint Parliamentary Assembly brought together parliamentarians from ACP countries with Members of the European Parliament to discuss the issue of governance in a hearing on 21 March 2007. CONCORD had the opportunity to sent two representatives: Angela Haynes, from HelpAge International and representing BOND, who presented the European NGO perspectives, and Paul Samangassou, Incoming Executive Secretary of Caritas Africa, who presented perspectives from African civil society.

Angela Haynes emphasised the importance of good governance for sustainable development and highlighted the need for a European Union concept of good governance to be based on international human rights law, to promote domestic accountability and to include an international dialogue for all countries to share learning and best practice. She also raised key concerns highlighted in the Cotonou Working Group's paper "Whose Governance", calling for clarification on the criteria, indicators and forms of measurement to be used in the "governance profiles" which will assess a country's performance and its eligibility for funds from the 2.7 billion Euro incentive tranche. She stressed the need to work within the framework of the Cotonou Agreement to ensure real partnership between the ACP and EU countries in developing an owned good governance agenda, and real participation by parliaments and civil society, including the most marginalised.

Paul Samangassou highlighted some of the negative consequences of poor governance including abuse of power due to lack of government accountability and elections which are not fair or transparent. He identified the need for increased participation by citizens in decision-making in order to achieve good governance. The role for civil society organisations (CSO) in this is to create spaces to facilitate participation by citizens, but they need to work with public institutions. He gave the example of Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers: while this is an example of how CSOs can play a role, it is not enough in terms of good governance.

The ensuing debate was wide-ranging and included a discussion on the role of governance in the Cotonou Agreement, the ACP's understanding of good governance, the African Peer Review Mechanism and need for best practice examples, and the role of CSOs. Some ACP parliamentarians criticised CSO criticism and monitoring of governments, arguing that they should work with their governments instead. Others welcomed the distinct role of CSOs in ensuring participation, accountability and scrutiny of government, but there was agreed recognition of the distinct roles played by civil society and parliaments. There was consensus on the fact that donor funds should not go to corrupt governments, but also concern that EU member states need to address their responsibility in causing or perpetuating bad governance in ACP countries.

Angela Haynes concluded that European NGOs fulfill a range of roles, but one very important one is holding their governments and the EC to account for their actions and behaviour in relations to partners in the South. While NGOs are not in favour of externally imposed conditionality, they do support conditionality from below, where calls for governance reforms by broad-based coalitions of in-country actors including parliamentarians and civil society are supported by external donors. For his part, Paul Samangassou concluded that the role of parliaments and CSOs are complimentary, as was demonstrated in Cameroon where CSOs organised workshops to raise parliamentarians' awareness on issues relating to the EPAs. CSOs have also stepped in in situations where governments have not been capable of playing their role, taking on their functions.

For further information: Angela Haynes, EU Representative HelpAge International: ahaynes@helpageinternational.org

Source: CONCORD Flash - March 2007.

See also Euforic dossiers on ACP-EU cooperation and governance.

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