The Africa-EU Civil Society Forum is an integral part of the Joint Africa-EU Strategy (JAES). It gathers together representatives of African and European civil society organisations (CSOs) to share views with European and African leaders on critical issues pertaining to both continents. The forum takes ahead of the AU-EU Summits of Heads of State and Government. It is facilitated by two steering committees from Africa and the EU, and is supported by the African Union and the European Commission.
Ahead of the Africa-EU 2007 Summit in Lisbon, CSOs in Europe gathered to express and share their most pressing interests and concerns. This led to CSOs from both continents being invited to participate in the implementation of the first two action plans between 2007 and 2013. People were nominated for the joint expert groups of each thematic partnership and attended joint task force meetings as observers; their findings were put forward at the Heads of States Summits.
In 2008, a European CSO Steering Group was formed to coordinate and formalise the input and work of civil society, in particular with respect to monitoring the implementation of JAES. The membership of the steering group reflects the diverse themes covered by the JAES, on the one hand, and the representativeness of each member on the other. It is based on a terms of reference and a list of members (contact the EU CSOs Steering Group: firstname.lastname@example.org).
The African CSO Steering Group was established in 2009 within the framework of the Economic, Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC), which acts as an advisory organ to the African Union, and comprises civil society organisations. Like its European counterpart, it follows and monitors the implementation of JAES.
ROLE & OBJECTIVES
The main purpose of the steering group is to monitor and influence the implementation of the Joint Africa-EU Strategy. It pursues that objective in two ways: by, for example, proactively requesting updates from institutions regarding the Partnership) and/or; reactively - for example, by responding to consultations and invitations coming from institutions. In all these undertakings, the steering group acts as a focal point of European civil society for institutional actors. In addition, it works closely with its African counterpart to exchange information, points of view and so on, between the CSOs of both continents, and seeks joint positions to the process and implementation of the joint partnership.
As the role of the steering group moves into the next phase, the forms of engagement and the level of participation in civil society remains in constant evolution, and depends on reshaping the Partnership and its priorities. Ensuring that civil society remains central to the Partnership is, therefore, one of the primary tasks of the steering groups from both continents.
ACTIVITIES & ACHIEVEMENTS
- The European and African civil society steering groups, with the support of the European Commission, organised two intercontinental Africa-EU civil society fora (Cairo 2010 and Brussels 2013);
- At key moments of the Partnership, assessments of the progress were made. e.g. assessing the implementation of the 2007-2010 action plan, and the outcome of the 2014 Africa-EU Summit;
- Representing the point of view of European civil society at official meetings. e.g. presenting the CSO declaration at the 2014 summit as well as the parliamentary pre-summit, attendance at joint taskforce meetings, discussing civil society assessments with EU and Member States officials etc.;
- Contributing to consultation processes. e.g. input into the 2014-2020 Pan-African Programme;
- Providing expertise and input to Africa-EU events, e.g. joint annual forum of stakeholders.