Wednesday, July 04, 2007

A word from the Portuguese Platform on its Presidency

Source: CONCORD Flash - June 2007.

In the second half of 2007, Portugal will play the leading role in drafting EU policies and priorities and seeing them translated into action. The Portuguese presidency of the European Union is a challenge for Portuguese civil society organisations, and in particular for development NGOs (NGDOs). It is also a unique opportunity for coordinated working, drawing together the different types of expertise and initiative in the various civil society organisations at the national, regional and international levels, with the aim of putting forward an integrated analysis of the issues and boosting action proposals for development.

At the first Civil Society Europe-Africa Meeting, in Lisbon in 2000, over 80 organisations underlined some crucial aspects of the relationship between the two continents such as the need to analyse the promotion of wellbeing and sustainable development; to put poverty reduction at the heart of development policies. They also highlighted the interaction between economic processes and policies and development, in particular globalisation; the inclusion of African countries in the world economy and levels of development aid; the rights of the individual; the pre-eminence of law and good governance, and boosting national and regional capacity in the construction of citizenship by taking into account the role played by civil society.

Since then the international situation has changed greatly, and the relative priorities of political agendas have evolved. So it is time to resume the dialogue. The presidency project of the Portuguese NGDO Platform thus sets out to influence the dialogue between Europe and Africa, and to encourage reflection and action by civil society organisations in five major areas: the two issues of governance and migration, one strategic process, one framework for action on development and one cross-cutting principle – coherence.

The project fits in with the series of "presidencies" initiatives developed previously, and is designed to feed into the actions to be carried out by the national platforms of the Union presidencies that will follow that of Portugal (Slovenia and France). The Portuguese presidency project will thus continue to carry forward the Finnish agenda on coherence between development policies, and will follow up on a number of dossiers already dealt with by its German counterpart in the first half of 2007, in particular the joint EU-Africa strategy, which will be adopted at the second Summit of Heads of State and Government in Lisbon on 8 and 9 December next, and the Economic Partnership Agreements.

The Portuguese Platform's proposals

The project centres around an analysis of the processes designed to step up the effectiveness of the dialogue between the EU and Africa, in line with sustainable development policies and programmes and based on key principles such as ownership, partnership, integrity and innovation. The subjects to be tackled – migration and governance – are particularly important as they represent two vital, multifaceted aspects of development management, in both Europe and Africa, without which it will be difficult to attain the Millennium Goals.

The main ideas underpinning the project are, therefore:
  • The Europe-Africa Dialogue: moving on from statements of principle to actual practice.
  • Good governance: promoting a mutual effort.
  • Development cooperation: innovation, integrity and partnerships to turn development into a process that sparks local, national and regional dynamics which promote development and strengthen institutions.
  • Policy coherence: a prerequisite for effective, sustainable development assistance. The publication of the first report on the coherence of EU policies during the second half of 2007 will be an opportunity to take stock of the situation.
  • Migration: between the right to emigrate and the right to stay at home in dignity, the Platform recognises the two-fold opportunity presented by migration in its different forms, both for communities of origin and for destination communities. There is thus a need to work on developing clear, low-cost tools, notably for sending funds to countries of origin, and to design and set up community projects.
High points in the timetable of the NGDO presidency project

In addition to the activities aimed at influencing the official agenda for the Portuguese presidency, over the next nine months the Platform plans to organise reflection and action by civil society organisations at several different levels:
  • At the inter-regional level, a Civil Society Forum for Europe-Africa dialogue. This will be prepared in cooperation with European partners organised within CONCORD, and will be held in conjunction with the meeting of MEPs organised by one of the project’s key partners, the North-South Centre. It will also be relying on a contribution from African networks when drafting working papers. The outcome will, among other things, inform NGDO positions at the second Summit of Heads of State and Government next December. Working groups will also be formed after the Civil Society Forum, to ensure that the recommendations emerging from the meeting are followed up on.
  • At the national level, a series of debates and decentralised workshops on the presidency themes, with the participation of various civil society players (universities, NGOs, Private Institutes for Social Solidarity, migrants’ organisations, etc.), will link in with complementary initiatives organised in the context of the presidency.
The Portuguese Platform will also organise a trilingual virtual space for development information and education, focusing on the presidency issues and featuring an electronic conference organised jointly with the North-South Centre to prepare for the meeting at the end of October. It will also produce many participatory tools and games designed to improve knowledge of African development issues among people living in the European Union while at the same time giving an indication of the real extent of their awareness of these different subjects.

For further information:

Source: CONCORD Flash - June 2007.

More resources on the EU Presidency; and on Portuguese development cooperation.