Why work together with civil society?
While developing country governments are implementing their own strategies to reduce poverty, there is a recognised need to empower citizens to hold their governments to account.
Civil society organisations have four main characteristics:
- they are established voluntarily by citizens seeking to promote their concerns, values or identities;
- they are organised around the promotion of an issue or the interests of a particular section of society;
- they are autonomous from the state and public authorities; and
- they do not aim at optimising profits.
The EU-Africa Strategic Partnership is a “people-centred partnership”, where civil society organisations and other non-state actors from both continents are invited to play a key role in the implementation and monitoring of the Africa-EU strategy and its first action plan, including by taking part in the joint expert groups, set up for the eight thematic areas of focus of the action plan, on the basis of their expertise and commitment.
Civil society has:
- a crucial role to play in empowering and representing the poor in policy formulation at a local and national level;
- a role to play in improving state services through monitoring, demanding transparency and accountability, and ensuring inclusive access to services;
- a voice for communities and to help ensure that they, as well as governments, are accountable. The positioning of civil society contributes in resolving conflict and awareness-raising;
- a role in global advocacy. The successful campaigns on landmines and the growing strength of the coalition around trade issues illustrate this.
Acting locally for global success
Civil society organisations are closer to the ground and have direct impact on th daily lives of ordinary people. For instance, with its 45 partners in Africa, SOS Faim supports the actions of its partners in the developing world, including many farmers’ organisations. In Eritrea, through the Ministry of Agriculture, support is provided to small farmers’ associations for irrigation projects that exploit the flood waters. In Burkina Faso, the National Federation of NAAM Groups (FNGN) is working to establish a major food security programme through the installation of food granaries in villages.
The European Union has introduced a new development programme (Non state actors and local authorities) in development encouraging non-state actors and local authorities to get more involved in development issues. Between 2007 and 2013, it will have a budget of €1.6 million per year.
The AU programme for mainstreaming civil society engagement in all sphere of activities including its various partnerships is more broad based. It is based on the commitment of the Constitutive Act of the Union to establish a Union based on partnership between governments and all segments of civil society. Accordingly, the AU has created an elected civil society parliament, the Economic, Social and Cultural Council, an important advisory organ of the Union. Since the inception of the AU-EU partnership, the African Union through its Citizenship and Diaspora Directorate CIDO, has convened several AU-CSO consultations to develop the agenda and programme of implementation. The consultation has also elected a Steering Committee that will work with ECOSOCC to sustain the African agenda and responsibility within the framework of the partnership.