The roots of democracy and sustainable development: Europe’s engagement with Civil Society in external relations

A new day, a new post. But, first I want to thank everyone for all the support they have shown after yesterday’s post. A lot of you wrote me to connect and it really meant a lot. Thanks.

Now, back to business!

The Commission to the European Parliament, the Council and the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions have issues a new communication on Europe’s engagement with civil society in external relations.

You can read the document here: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=COM:2012:0492:FIN:EN:PDF

The document highlights the importance of an active civil society for democracy.

It defines “CSOs” as follows:

The EU considers CSOs to include all non-State, not-for-profit structures, non-partisan  and non –violent, through which people organise to pursue shared objectives and ideals, whether political, cultural, social or economic. Operating from the local to the national, regional and international levels, they comprise urban and rural, formal and informal organisations.

I found the use of the word “structure” interesting. There is a foot note in the document explaining:

They include membership-based, cause-based and service-oriented CSOs. Among them, community-based organisations, non-governmental organisations, faith-based organisations, foundations, research institutions, Gender and LGBT organisations, cooperatives, professional and business associations, and the not-for-profit media.Trade unions and employers’ organisations, the so-called social partners, constitute a specific category of CSOs.

Another point of note is the recognition of the changing (changed) role of CSOs: “CSOs  are now widely recognised as development actors in their own right” and this warrants a new strategy of engagement.

Three three priorities for EU support for CSOs are forwarded:

  • To enhance efforts to promote a conducive environment for CSOs in partner countries.
  • To promote a meaningful and structured participation of CSOs in domestic  policies of partner countries, in the EU programming cycle and in international processes.
  • To increase local CSOs’ capacity to perform their roles as independent development actors more effectively.

I was surprised that  it starts with partner countries and then moves towards the capacity of local CSOs, but perhaps this is because it was framed by a development approach from the start. The policy was developed in line with the  “Structured Dialogue on the involvement of CSOs and Local Authorities in EU development cooperation” (2010 – 2011).

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