At the beginning of May 2012, CIDSE organised a panel discussion as part of a two-day development forum in Brussels, on the EU’s relationship with civil society. The panel was made up of Kristian Schmidt, the director of the human and security development directorate in the European Commissions’ Directorate General for Development and Cooperation; Chris Bain, the president of CIDSE and Director of CAFOD; Safia Abdi Dima, from Cordaid in Kenya and Thijs Berman, a member of the European Parliament.
The panel was expertly moderated and covered the current relationship between the EU and Civil Society; how it has changed and continues to change; and where it is headed, with recommendations from each panellist. It was agreed that the relationship does, and should, go far beyond simply funding, with Kristian Schmidt talking about the ‘maturity’ of the relationship where processes has evolved to ensure CSO voices are heard and can influence EC development policy. The panel had an interesting discussion centered around the role of parliaments in a democratic country with Thijs Berman pushing for more capacity building for elected representatives as well as CSOs, where questions sometimes still centre around their legitimacy. This was countered by examples from Southern countries where CSOs provide a powerful force for keeping elected representatives in check. The role of the private sector was also debated, with the view that business’ first interest, to make profit, would always be a strong consideration when assessing the private sector’s contribution to development efforts.
The audience was made up of CSO representatives and partners from all over the world, and several audience members spoke up to give their experiences from the field, as well as posing questions to the panel.
Information provided by Rebecca Steel-Jasińska, TRIALOG