Monday, May 07, 2007

EU-Africa Joint strategy: civil society conferences in Germany and in Ghana

A first outline of a joint strategy should be adopted at the EU-AU Ministerial Troika meeting on 15 May. The content of the draft is not available to civil society actors but we heard from the German Presidency that it contained 39 points covering a broad range of issues.

A conference organised by ECDPM and VENRO, the German NGO platform, brought together around 100 African and European civil society actors and AU and EU officials in Bad-Honnef (Germany) on 23 and 24 April. The aim of the conference was to formulate clear expectations of a representative sample of key Civil Society Organisations vis-à-vis the EU and AU regarding the contents of the EU-Africa strategy and their role in it. A further aim of the conference was to identify common viewpoints and to develop recommendations to the official negotiators, so that these can be taken into account in the deliberations of the EU-Africa Ministerial Troika Meeting of 15 May. However, the invitation was sent at late notice (around Easter) and it was quite difficult for EU civil society actors to prepare themselves and to make sure that some of their partners were present at the conference. The African actors, present in number at the meeting, had all been invited by the organisers.

Rob van Drimmelen, general secretary of APRODEV and talking on behalf of CONCORD urged the EU and the AU to continue the consultation process beyond the meeting in May and to allow for inputs until and even beyond the Summit in December. 'We would like to see the Summit as a milestone in a process and not the end of the process itself', he said.

For Concord, working towards a Joint EU-Africa Strategy presents a possibility to rebalance the relationships between Africa and the EU and to make these relationships more comprehensive and inclusive of the various different actors and stakeholders. Concord would like to see that the Joint Strategy demonstrates a shared commitment to the promotion of all human rights, gender equality and the fight against poverty. The frameworks to be used are already there: the Millennium Declaration, the Cotonou Partnership Agreement, the European Consensus on Development, and other international commitments that were made by the EU and African states. It would be good to know how the results of this conference will be incorporated in the 'official' drafting process, and at what stage the draft Joint Strategy will be made public for comments and inputs, said van Drimmelen.

No concrete response was received at Bad-Honnef but the Portuguese NGO platform is planning to organise a major Europe-Africa civil society Forum during the Portuguese Presidency while the African Union still intends to organise an inter-continental civil society consultation in September and it is obvious that civil society organisations on both sides will maintain pressure until the Lisbon summit.

In Bad-Honnef, African participants would have liked to see a more deliberate connection with the debates and results of the Accra meeting that was organised by the African Union Commission from 26 to 28 March.

At that meeting, African civil society noted in particular that governance, both as a process and outcome, should be seen as permanent work in progress confronting every country. They believed that no region of the world can claim a monopoly of goodness hence the Joint Strategy should be anchored on a desire to improve and deepen governance both in Africa and Europe. They agreed on 7 priority areas which should be the main issue areas that would underpin any joint strategy or partnership with Europe:

1. development imperatives should determine the socio-economic policies to ensure social equity and economic growth; basic needs should be the anchor of Afric's socio-economic development;
2. the values of democracy, rule of law, social justice, participation and citizenship, particularly in relation to women, youth and the Diaspora;
3. the strengthening of public institutions and service;
4. emphasis on regional integration and continental unity as pillars of the partnership arrangements. In this area, particular attention must be focused on the indivisibility of Africa.
5. the need for adequate infrastructure;
6. promote gender responsive policies;
7. the requirement of balanced integration into the world economy encompassing trade,labour movements and investments.

Source: EU News - Issue 3, May 2007 (APRODEV, CIDSE, Caritas Europa).

For more information, see and Euforic dossier on Africa.