Civil Society Communique on Engaging Civil Society for an Effective Africa-EU Partnership

Thursday, February 17, 2022

1) The African Union Economic, Social and Cultural Council (AU-ECOSOCC) in collaboration, with OXFAM International, on 9 February 2022, convened a virtual meeting on strengthening Civil Society Participation in Africa-EU partnership and to address the challenges of Civil Society Organizations in participating in the Africa-European Union Partnership. The webinar was a pre-summit event ahead of the AU-EU Heads of State and Government Summit.
2) The meeting was attended by over 200 participants including, representatives of ECOSOCC, OXFAM and other departments of the African Union Commission, Regional Economic Communities, Regional, National and grassroots Civil Society Organizations, networks and coalitions representing different sectors, countries and sub-regions across Africa.
3) The objectives of the meeting were to:
a) Provide a platform for discussion on opportunities and challenges of civil society participation in the Africa-EU partnership process;
b) Create opportunities for sharing experiences and good practice in CSO and AU-EU relations;
c) Facilitate exchange of innovative and forward-looking ideas for enhanced civil society participation in the partnership;
d) Provide a platform of dialogue between civil society and the AU, EU and AU Member States regarding the enabling and blocking factors shaping CSO engagement in AU-EU processes.
4) The meeting commended the high rate of participation, which included representatives from ECOSOCC, OXFAM, and other departments of the African Union Commission, Regional Economic Communities, Regional, National, and grassroots Civil Society Organizations, networks, and coalitions representing various sectors, countries, and sub-regions across Africa.
5) The meeting acknowledged key areas of focus in Africa-EU partnerships relevant to sustainable development; Africa and the Migration Problem, Climate Justice, Peace, Security, and Governance, civic space, Investing in People – Education, Science, Technology, and Skills Development, Women, and Youth Inclusion.
6) The meeting recounted the challenges faced by CSOs and called on the AU and other relevant bodies to consider mainstreaming CSOs at all levels of policy making and implementation under the Africa-EU Partnership, including the implementation of previously agreed protocols and proposed projects under the partnership, as well as the proposal and promotion of people-centered initiatives.
7) The meeting demanded that CSOs take a more proactive role in order to achieve a more people-centered and long-term approach to addressing the numerous challenges confronting CSOs and Africa as a whole.
8) The meeting acknowledged that the Africa-EU partnership is a multi-level arrangement and that despite the emergence of new and less traditional groups and CSOs with a huge youth base, some underrepresented youth groups remained.
9) The meeting reaffirmed that to enhance youth engagement, all categories of youth and youth-based CSOs must be involved, particularly from the African continent, and especially in the area of policy formulation, due to the fact that the EU has previously drafted policy documents for partnership, enforcing it as a one-way dialogue.
10) The meeting underscored that meaningful participation of African CSOs in Africa-EU partnership processes would be largely dependent on their ability to engage in decision-making both at the Member States and the Regional Economic Communities’ levels.
11) The meeting stressed the need to revive existing civil society engagement mechanisms in the Africa-EU partnership including the African Civil Society Steering Group, and called for the institutionalized participation of civil society in the decision making structures of the partnership.
12) The meeting noted two main issues that required immediate attention, namely immigration and climate change. The webinar further reiterated the need to rethink and renew deepened partnerships that prioritize youth-friendly environments.
13) The meeting proposed that the upcoming AU-EU Summit should address issues such as climate justice, erosion, biodiversity, given that Africa bears the brunt of climate change. The webinar also suggested that policies be based on the aforementioned issues, with African Heads of State and Government negotiating and pushing for inclusive immigration policies.
14) The meeting called for domestic resource mobilization to enable Africa and the EU form a genuine people-centered partnership. This entails taking bold steps to curb illicit financial flows by supporting the Global Tax regulatory framework and working together to reduce Africa’s public debt burden.
15) The meeting appealed to the AU and EU to support Member States in recovering faster and justly from the impact of COVID-19 by taking actions such as supporting equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines and vaccines manufacturing capacity.
16) The meeting emphasized the critical role of CSOs in the partnership, contributing to knowledge generation (research), capacity building, lobbying members of parliament, raising awareness, and holding African leaders accountable.
17) The meeting reiterated the importance of ethnic and gender minorities being represented equally in foreign and domestic policy processes, as well as within the EU-AU partnership. This aids in demystifying policies and the policy making processes, especially policies that drive and address inequalities.
18) The meeting applauded the Gender Action Plan for serving as a credible model for gender policies as it is focused on country-level implementation, and called for its widespread implementation across the continent.
19) The meeting urged relevant stakeholders to:
i) Place youth inclusion and participation at the heart of the Africa-EU partnership;
ii) Ensure that the partnership is founded on a clear understanding of colonial history, and the inherent inequalities that undermine partnership, recognize their mutual interests and responsibilities and capitalize on the diversity, knowledge and skills that exist on both continents;
iii) Increase commitment towards a people-centered partnership;
iv) Support Africa in taking ownership of the partnership’s processes and outcomes;
v) Create clear governance mechanisms for resetting the partnership which should encompass a broad multi-actor approach and joint decision-making. This can be accomplished through establishing transparent and participatory processes that are timely and accessible, as well as ensuring that information on its implementation, monitoring, and accountability is readily available;
vi) Give CSOs lead roles in the formulation and implementation of policies under the new partnership;
vii) Organize more capacity building and awareness-raising events around the issues raised during the webinar and ensure that the conversation continues even after the Summit;
viii) Reactivate and regroup ECOSOCC steering groups to be more inclusive and establish a more structured calendar for CSO engagement through the Africa-EU partnership;
ix) Work together to facilitate meaningful engagement and interconnectedness of indigenous African civil society with EU civil society so that together they are seen as constructive partners in supporting the partners’ agreed-upon commitments.

                                                                      Done 10th February 2022