Southern Neighbourhood Civil Society Forum: Brussels, 29 – 30 April, 2014
The EU has a longstanding history of support to civil society: over more than a decade, it has elaborated policies and established a number of instruments to help CSOs in building their capacities and implementing development projects. The Arab uprisings demanded a recalibration of EU relations with its Southern neighbours, a renewed balance of dialogue between Europe, the southern authorities and civil society actors. Policies were renewed, instruments reinforced, new ones created and programmes adjusted, with the objective of redirecting EU support to the emerging new governments and transition processes and to engage with and support civil society actors as key stakeholders.
More recently, a consultation process aimed at finding an appropriate format for tripartite regional dialogue – civil society, authorities, and the EU – has progressed via a number of meetings of varying sizes and composition for more than a year.
Artikel verschenen op de website van de ALS in het Engels:
“Now you are central to the Euro-Mediterranean relations and to the multi-faceted dialogues that underpin our joint efforts and ambitions.”, said Štefan Füle, EU Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy addressing the youth participating in The European Union’s first Southern Neighbourhood Civil Society Forum launched on 29th April 2014 with a special debate event organized by the Anna Lindh Foundation.
This first forum brought together representatives of more than 150 CSOs, media, governments and international organisations from the Euro-Mediterranean region. The event followed a yearlong consultation process involving the European Union (EU), Civil Society and Authorities launched by the EU last April at the Anna Lindh Mediterranean Forum. Building on existing platforms, the process will now continue with the announced pilot phase of regional and local actions.
In association with ‘Young Arab Voices’ (YAV), the opening panel debate revealed how youth of the region have not given up on their societies but they feel side lined after playing a major role in the 2010-11 uprisings across North Africa. It was emphasised in this regard that policy-makers should find practical and engaging ways of harnessing the best of what young people have to offer.
“We should focus on an action-orientated regional dialogue with youth and civil society from across the Mediterranean working on common projects, based on the principal of equal partnership. Specific approaches should be developed and adapted for each country.” said a YAV Egyptian debater in the Forum working session.
From a Euro-Mediterranean perspective, the panel underlined the common challenges faced by youth in the Mediterranean, from rising unemployment to disengagement with traditional formats of political participation. Policy-makers should also be aware of the emergence of new forms of social activism, and support the development of enterprising models of organisation and programmes.