During the conference 'Civil Society and the Joint EU-Africa Strategy', we had several opportunities to collect impressions and thoughts from participants.
Nelson Muffuh from Christian Aid shared with Euforic some of the concerns expressed by civil society organisations from both Europe and Africa. "In my view, the Joint Strategy should present African solutions to African problems; it should also be based upon and built around the needs of the people and, more importantly, it shouldn't be just another attempt to foster and impose the European agenda. What we are seeing is instead a consultation process where civil society participation is limited in terms of time and space: this way, how can our contribution be meaningful? Moreover, it's not really clear where the scope for civil society organisations to influence the outcome of the process is. This goes along with a lack of transparency: where is the outline of the strategy as the negotiators are working on it? The possibility to have this document in advance, in preparation of this meeting, would have given us the possibility for a more informed discussion".
In spite of this, Muffuh also highlighted some positive elements of the consultation process: "In fact we can at least say that, this is the first attempt (by the European Commission) to do things in a different way, however this needs to be built upon, in order to have a more comprehensive approach to African development. In this regard, this conference is hopefully a positive indication of what needs to be done. Of course it's not a magic stick, and a conference as such can't change everything. But for sure, this event is pointing in the right direction, especially because it provides a great opportunity for CSOs, both in Europe and Africa, to talk to each other. There is a great need for more synergies among CSOs in the two continents. We already work together, but we need to do it in a more concerted, systematic and strategic way".
For more information, see europafrica.org and Euforic dossier on Africa.
Story contributed by Pier Andrea Pirani.