Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Good governance in EU-Africa cooperation: voices from civil society

On the eve of the European Development Days, civil society organisations gathered in Brussels for a two day seminar on 'Just Governance'. The event was organised by ActionAid International and supported, among others Eurostep, Aprodev, and Concord. Around 100 CSO representatives from Europe, Africa and Asia debated the definitions of governance proposed by the European Commission, seeking alternative views.

Seven working groups addressed specific issues, particularly the role of donors, transparancy and accountability, and space for civil society to monitor these. Based on these discussions, a lively panel drew out the key elements that civil society organisations want to bring forward to the Development Days.

Civil society organisations find that the EU/EC on its own should not impose a view on governance; further, the whole approach to governance has to be changed. On one side, the EU faces its own internal governance problems - struggling to link European citizens with its policies - and, more important, it too often acts in contradictory ways, applying double standards (both in bilateral relations as well as in multilateral fora). Furthermore, the aid that the EU provides sometimes contributes to bad governance processes in recipient countries. On the other side, the overall current approach needs to be reviewed, in order to allow each country to choose its own model. More importantly, governance sould be included in a long term political dialogue based on a multiactor approach, as foreseen in the Cotonou Agreement.

Civil society organisations also expressed the need to constantly reflect on their role and capacities, in order to be more transparent, more representative and more coordinated among each other, to achieve a better coherence and 'regulate' their differences. In this regard, there is a strong need to share more the knowledge and the specific experiences that each organisation, in the North and in the South, develops in its work.

For more information, check the ActionAid International website; also the Euforic dossier on governance.

Story contributed by Pier Andrea Pirani.