25 Sept 2014

EU-Africa cooperation: where is civil society?

by Isabelle Brachet

At the beginning of April, more than 60 EU and African leaders met in Brussels to discuss the future of EU-Africa relations. The summit confirmed the commitment of both continents to the objectives set out in the 2007 Joint Africa-EU Strategy. However, leaders agreed that the implementation of the Joint Strategy should be further improved and that cooperation should be guided by a result-oriented approach. The summit adopted a roadmap to frame EU-Africa relations for 2014-2017.

The only reference to civil society in the Summit declaration is that the leaders “take note of the Africa-EU civil society organisatons’ forum meeting of October 2013 and of the youth forum of April 2014”. The Roadmap specifies that “It was agreed to (…) promote contributions from the private sector and civil society”. It further reads “We will ensure the full and active participation of civil society in our dialogue and our cooperation”. But how will this happen in practice, especially in view of the limited connections between the Summit and the EU-Africa Civil Society Forum?

The leaders of both continents opted for a more flexible institutional architecture for their cooperation, with Summits every three years, ministerial meetings when needed, and an annual forum to review progress in the implementation of the roadmap. Ad hoc expert working groups may also be established but, when possible, implementation will be driven by existing bodies. This is the case for example on agriculture, where cooperation will take place within the Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Partnership (CAADP) partnership.

CAADP is the main African development programme to eliminate hunger and reduce poverty through agriculture. It notably requires African countries to commit at least ten per cent of their national budgets to agricultural development and seeks to raise agricultural productivity in Africa. The CAADP Partnership Platform is an annual meeting bringing together key stakeholders such as African governments, policy makers, civil society organisations and farmers’ organisations to assess progress made in implementing the CAADP goals.

It is a welcome move that this body will be the one to review progress in EU-Africa cooperation on agriculture because it is the most legitimate African institution to coordinate efforts on agriculture on the continent. However, CSOs’ participation should definitely be strengthened in the CAADP so that smallholder producers can participate in shaping their future. Smallholder farmers represent the main providers of food for Africans and are the biggest private investors in African agriculture.

So, what comes next? If the CAADP Partnership is to contribute to the implementation of EU-Africa cooperation on agriculture, it is one more reason for the European Union to support current efforts in Africa to ensure a stronger participation of civil society in the CAADP process. And ActionAid will certainly keep pushing in that direction, in Addis and in Brussels.

Isabelle Brachet is EU Policy Advisor at ActionAid’s EU Office

This article was originally published by ActionAid EU

The views expressed here are those of the authors, and not necessarily those of ECDPM

Photo Courtesy of Travis Lupick

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