On 11 July 2014 the CONCORD Working Group on Enlargement, Pre-accession and Neighbourhood (EPAN) held an information session in Brussels on the ENP Civil Society Facility for the Southern Neighbourhood and on the ENP South Civil Society Forum. Participants included representatives of the European Commission’s DG DEVCO, the European Economic and Social Committee and various European civil society organisations and platforms active in the fields of development cooperation, good governance, human rights and environment in the EU’s Southern Neighbourhood.
ENP South Civil Society Facility: The Civil Society Facility South is an EU-funded regional programme that supports CSOs as actors of democratisation and aims to strengthen the links between the EU and its Southern Mediterranean partners. The facility was established as a response to the Arab Spring as a tool to provide CSOs with the necessary skills and capacities to become relevant interlocutors vis-à-vis their national governments and other stakeholders. Since 2011, 11 million euro has been available under this facility for Southern Mediterranean CSOs supporting 11 regional projects covering different topics such as gender equality, youth, water management and rural development.
Participants suggested improvements for the future operations of the Civil Society Facility, including stronger coordination from Brussels to mainstream the facility and achieve its aims rather than EU delegations using the facility to top up other calls; an underlining of the flexibility of the facility as its added value; the need to build links between EU African processes (ACP) and Neighbourhood processes; a focus on CSOs not only as a target group but as stakeholders that can be involved through consultations; and the need for risk analyses to be undertaken when designing the calls, particularly for the NGOs who operate on the ground.
Civil Society Forum South: The EEAS, EC and EESC launched the initiative to create a structured regional dialogue between civil society from the Southern Neighbourhood, national authorities and the EU. Over the last 12 months an advisory group has been established and consultation meetings organised, to develop advice on how to build this forum and to ensure the participation of various stakeholders. In the beginning of July, the European Institutions developed a joint proposal.
Six main challenges still remain as to how to organise the structured regional dialogue: 1. Bringing EU delegations to a regional way of thinking; 2. Deciding on which elements the forum should discuss (bottom-up approach where discussions focus on democracy, human rights and gender OR structured regional dialogue on information, trade, migration, investment and energy flows); 3. Making links between this initiative and all the dialogues already taking place in the region (in-country dialogue, EU and African Union CSO dialogue, the Policy Forum for Development, the European Endowment for Democracy (EED), EIDHR mechanisms and tools, and the European Info Centre based in Malta); 4. Ensuring participation of new actors, such the media, local authorities and social movements, including non-registered CSOs; 5. Recognising the need for and promoting a structure that improves coordination; and 6. Avoiding a heavy structure such as the Civil Society Forum East, and ensuring it is facilitated by someone with a strong CSO background.
It has been agreed that a consultation process with the Commission/EEAS will be organised in autumn 2014 with a possibility to use CONCORD webinars to reach out to CSOs outside Brussels. The topics of discussion will be the design of the New Civil Society Facility, articulation of the Policy Forum for Development and the set-up of the Civil Society Forum South.
Information provided by Rebecca Steel-Jasińska, TRIALOG