As in 2006, Africa is the big topic of the year. Consequently, NGOs active in relation to the German Presidency of the European Union highlighted it during the main event of their "Presidential" campaign – the CONCORD / VENRO international conference entitled "Prospects for Africa – Europe's Policies", organised by VENRO (the German national NGO platform) and held on 12 March, ahead of the informal development ministers' Council meeting in Petersberg. It was attended by 250 people.
Discussions focused mainly on the negotiation of the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs), the future of the EU-Africa partnership and the role of European and African NGOs. On the EPAs, NGO speakers and participants strongly urged Federal Development Minister Wieczorek-Zeul, who attended the meeting, to refrain from imposing short deadlines. It is crucial to develop mechanisms for a fair distribution of the desired EPA impacts and to ensure that they will really contribute to combating poverty in ACP countries.
With the forthcoming presidencies in mind, Portuguese and Slovenian Secretaries of State João Cravinho and Andrej Šter presented their development programmes and the planned steps for fulfilling the existing commitments to ensure coherence between EU policies in terms of development. Mr Cravinho also spoke about the challenges ahead the EU-Africa summit that is due to take place during the Portuguese presidency. A common EU-Africa strategy can only be credible and sustainable if European and African civil society is sufficiently involved in formulating it. Louis Michel took the floor mainly to criticise the role of NGOs in the decision-making process, and to stress that NGO are not entitled to speak at a political level.
In vigorous speeches, Agnes Abuom of the World Council of Churches and Justin Kilcullen, president of CONCORD, responded by illustrating the important role NGO are playing in both Africa and Europe as agents of change, empowering citizens and democracy, holding governments to account and contributing to the formulation of public policies.
For further information: Anke Kurat (email@example.com).
Source: CONCORD Flash - March 2007.
See also europafrica.org and Euforic dossiers on ACP trade, ACP-EU cooperation, Africa.