Enhancing regular dialogue and consultations with Civil Society (CS) is one of the principles stated in the Lisbon Treaty, with a view to ensuring consistency and transparency of EU policies. In the development field, the European Union has, over the last decade, promoted the comprehensive and progressive participation of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and, more recently, of Local Authorities (LAs) in countries' development processes and in broader political, social and economic dialogues at all levels.
In this context, an intensive consultation process, the Structured Dialogue (SD) for an efficient partnership in development took place bringing together, in 2010-2011, more than 700 CSOs and LAs from all over the world, as well as participants from the EU Member States, the European Parliament and the European Commission. During regional seminars and meetings in Brussels, participants reflected upon and defined ways to improve the effectiveness of all actors involved in EU development cooperation. The Final Statement of the SD, known as the Budapest Declaration, recommended the EC to enhance dialogue at all levels and to establish a regular space for dialogue with Civil Society Organisations and Local Authorities.
The Communication on CS issued by the EC (COM 2012/492), “The roots of democracy and sustainable development: Europe’s engagement with Civil Society in external relations”, covering developing, neighbourhood and enlargement countries, gives particular attention to CSOs dialogue with European Institutions. It envisions the setting up of a consultative multi-stakeholder group (the Policy Forum on Development) allowing CSOs to dialogue with EU institutions on EU development policies, as well as on the provisions proposed in the Communication.
On the LA side, the Communication on “Empowering Local Authorities in partner countries for enhanced governance and more effective development outcomes” (COM 2013/280, also echoes the importance of dialogue at all levels, starting from the local, to the national, (sub) regional and global levels.
The need of a high level policy dialogue was repeatedly confirmed by stakeholders during an intense consultation process that ran from November 2011 to November 2012. The set-up of the Policy Forum on Development is the result of these consultations.