Friday, November 17, 2006

Southern civil society views on the EU approach to governance

Brussels, 16 November. A CIDSE-led side event on the 'Theory and Practice of Good Governance' at the European development days, brought together representatives of southern civil society organisations and the European Commission. Starting from the findings of previous CIDSE research on 'Governance and development cooperation', panelists exchanged views and debated the emerging EU governance agenda.

Hildegard Wipfel, KOO Policy Officer, presented CIDSE work on governance and pointed out the three main elements that shape southern civil society views on the issue:
  • accountability of the state and national ownership of the governance agenda;
  • transparency;
  • participation in the process of all national stakeholders.
She argued that these elements clearly reinforce each other once they are in place. Although the EC communication on governance is in line with this approach, there is still a big 'gap between rhetoric and reality', especially with the EC itself not able to 'lead by example' in terms of its accountability, transparency and participation.

From an Africa perspective, Delphine Djiraibe explained how civil society in Chad supports a multi-actor peace and reconciliation process, emphasizing however that these efforts need to be supported much more strongly by the European Commission. In general, she argued that the Commission is too often "not addressing the real causes of African problems".

From the EC perspective, Philippe Darmuzey, of the DG Development Governance Unit, pointed out some key elements of the Commission's governance agenda. He positioned it in the broader context of the Cotonou Agreement, the EU Consensus on development and the EU Africa strategy. He reaffirmed the Commission's belief in the consultation process - and that this process is still ongoing. He emphasized the two main pillars of the EU approach to be: not to impose any conditions, sanctions or values on Africa; and the establishment of an EC initiative on existing African initiatives (such as the African Peer Review Mechanism).

It is most important, he stated, that governance initiatives are 'nationally owned' and that additional budgetary support by the EC is just a top-up element to address specific issues.

A lively debate followed these contributions. CIDSE president Paul Chitnis closed by thanking participants and panelist for their inputs; he said that CIDSE will folow up some of the elements emerging, in particular to make sure issues of ownership and participation will materialize in the actual implementation of the EU governance agenda.

More in the Euforic dossiers on governance and Africa.

Story contributed by Pier Andrea Pirani.