African-European CSOs issue statement to all Heads of States and government dignitaries attending the 6th EU-AU Summit
Ahead of the 6th European Union - African Union Summit, a coalition of African and European civil society organisations issued a declaration to urge governments and institutions to build a new AU-EU partnership based on equality, inclusivity, mutual accountability, shared values and prosperity.
Today’s efforts by the AU and EU to create an equal and fair partnership are entrenched in past colonial and postcolonial cooperation. They are challenged by structural and systemic inequalities between the two parties. The success of today’s efforts will depend upon a recognition of the past, an awareness of the present and a commitment to a mutually beneficial transformation towards the future. Building a transformed partnership will necessitate a continent-to-continent approach as well as a meaningful engagement with key actors such as civil society in all its diversity, with priority voice for the people’s organisations mandated to represent major sectors of the population.
It is highly regrettable that in the framework of their partnership, the EU and AU have failed to reach out to civil society organisations until the very last moment, underscoring the lack of inclusivity and transparency of this process. In so doing, you have excluded the voices of the millions of people who will be directly affected by the decisions you take. On the other hand you will likely prioritise the interests of the few over the well-being of the majority and you risk leaving millions even further behind.
We, African, European and diaspora CSOs, take this opportunity to express our concern that such a flawed process can but reinforce current imbalances of power and privilege. CSO participation is crucial to ensure that cooperation between the AU and EU promotes joint priorities, that flagship initiatives resonate with local realities and possible existing solutions, and that no one is left behind. As it is, the EU continues to disregard African Union priorities as set out in the Agenda 2063, cherry-picking those elements which suit it. The EU, despite its commitment to forge a people-centred partnership, does not appear to be putting people first. For its part, the AU’s policy decision-making could benefit from more inclusive and transparent dialogue with civil society and people’s organisations.
As a result of such an imbalanced partnership and of shutting out civil society, the Summit’s long-awaited outcome has insufficient emphasis on the key, systemic issues for African countries such as widespread unemployment and especially of the young people, imbalanced trade relationship, debt cancellation, food sovereignty, land- and resource-grabbing, human rights violations - including economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights - the climate crisis, biodiversity loss, and vaccine and medicine inequity.
Civil society exclusion is symptomatic of the past and the present, but there is still time to use the EU-AU Summit as a moment of transformation toward the future.
Civil Society’s key asks
The AU-EU partnership should be based on equality, inclusivity, mutual accountability, shared values and prosperity. A partnership reset is urgently needed. To this end:
- The EU and AU should work to transcend the traditional colonial and post-colonial, North-South, donor-recipient framework within which relations have thus far been established. This must entail a thorough review of systemic and structural issues which underpin the currently imbalanced AU-EU relationship - in areas such as trade relations, debt, illicit financial flows - and which exacerbate rather than improving equity of international governance. Rules governing world order must be established fairly and democratically. Respect and promotion of universal human rights must be at the heart of the EU-AU strategic partnership. The review should also address recovery post-COVID19 and joint priorities such as promoting equitable access to COVID19 vaccines, enhancing human development, promoting gender equality, tackling the climate crisis and reducing Africa’s dependency on food imports.
- The EU and AU should establish clear governance mechanisms within which to reset the partnership, encompassing a broad multi-actor approach, joint decision-making via transparent and participatory processes, timely, accessible and available information, implementation, monitoring and accountability structures. This should include a meaningful, long-term engagement with African, European and Diaspora CSOs. The voices of people most affected by decisions, must be at the core of an effective and transformational AU-EU partnership. The partnership should reinforce the role of public policies and effectively regulate corporate sector influence and investment. The establishment of such governance mechanisms should start with agreement on an inclusive monitoring and accountability system regarding the outcomes of this Summit.
- The AU-EU partnership should recognise and build on the diversity, knowledge and skills within the African and European continents. To this end, the AU and EU, in dialogue with civil society organisations, regional economic communities and local authorities, should draw up a clear roadmap to respect and deliver on the localisation agenda, ensuring a transfer of power and resources to local actors who are directly involved in ensuring the political, social and economic progress of a nation, while respecting the planetary boundaries. In all decisions and actions, the EU and AU must recognise and promote human rights, a people-centred approach and territorially embedded social and solidarity economies.