By Gina Wharton, Advocacy Advisor at IPPF European Network
Civil Society Organisations must be seen as integral partners in decision-making processes was the resounding message at the Third Africa-EU Civil Society Organisation Forum, in Tunis, Tunisia (11-13 July 2017).
I was amongst 80 African and European representatives of civil society organisations gathered at the Forum. It was an exciting and unique opportunity for civil society as it was a space that we claimed as ours to brainstorm on what kind of relations we would like to see in EU-Africa future cooperation.
Civil Society Organisations are recognized as key actors in EU-Africa relations but still suffer from a shrinking space within this partnership, and others such as the EU and Africa-Caribbean-Pacific (ACP) partnership. Tunisia, renowned for its symbolism with regards to civil society’s rising voice, once again was put to the forefront, as African and European civil society organisations, after a vibrant three-day forum, approved a Declaration with key recommendations addressed to African and European Heads of State and Government.
Overall, Civil Society Organisations called on decision-makers to increase their support for the timely, transparent and inclusive involvement of civil society organisations at all levels of decision-making, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.
Recommendations also called for the prioritization of Women’s rights in general, including Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights. Women’s rights were central to the Declaration and were strongly highlighted under the Human Development thematic area as key to EU and Africa relations.
These included, promoting investments and policies that ensure Universal Health Coverage and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights focusing on women, girls, marginalised populations, people with disabilities and youth, as well as promoting gender equality as a standalone and cross-cutting priority mainstreamed throughout human development.
The Declaration and its recommendations will be used as a key advocacy document for civil society in Africa and in Europe, while awaiting a meaningful space for Civil Society Organisations to openly address the Heads of State and Government at the Fifth Africa-EU Summit to be held in Abidjan, Ivory Coast on 28 and 29 November, 2017.
The Declaration is available in English, French, Spanish and Arabic: http://www.africa-eu-partnership.org/en/newsroom/all-news/africa-eu-civil-society-forum-takes-place-tunis
Photo: Samn Netlamo, Head of the IPPF African Union Liaison Office (Addis Ababa/Ethiopia) and Gina Wharton