On 29th October 2015, the EC (European Commission) services, the EEAS (European External Action Service) and the AU representation to the EU organized a dialogue and exchanges meeting that brought together the African and European JAES CSO Steering Committees with the EU institutions – EEAS and EC, the AUC (the African Union Commission), and the AU ECOSOCC (the Economic, Social and Cultural Council of the African Union). The meeting was organized with the financial and technical support of the EU through the JAES-Support Mechanism and was hosted in the premises of the AU Mission to the EU.
The meeting's opening sessions discussed the JAES process to date and a framework for a more structured civil society engagement. There were a number of related presentations including on reporting progress under the JAES since 2014, and on JAES Roadmap Working Groups – the consultation mechanism between CSO and Institutions. CSOs led a discussion on the role of the CSO Forum within the JAES and in preparation of the Joint Annual Forum.
Subsequent sessions of the meeting were dedicated to debriefings by representatives of EU institutions on key areas of the JAES Roadmap. The first of these sessions was on Governance and Human Rights - an update on Human Rights programming under the Pan-African programme and other HR programming exercises and briefing on the preparation of the next AU-EU Human Rights Dialogue. An update was also given on the Pan-African programme to support civil society. A second discussion focused on the JAES and Migration including preparations for the Valletta Summit.
The meeting's conclusions and next steps included a set of recommendations to overcome challenges arising from the JAES dialogue structure (agreed in April 2014 during the IV Africa-EU Summit) and its impact on CSO inclusion and engagement.
Both sides acknowledged that finding the right balance between an institution and State-led process and a “people centered partnership” was challenging and required joint engagement.
There was consensus on the diagnosis on the challenges of a people centered partnership in terms of civil society involvement and acknowledgment that the coming months will be crucial to get the process right. Identifying the “entry points” for CSOs and areas where joint work could be mutually beneficial and represent real added value will be a priority. The starting point to consider CSO engagement (both on a thematic basis and in the overall JAES process) was to review, based on the existing JAES group structure, potential openings and consider where civil society could be better engaged. In particular, civil society stressed their view that the JAF (Joint Annual Forum) was an important opportunity for dialogue involving them.
The meeting's conclusions and next steps are set out in the final agreed joint report attached.