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Civil Society Forum - Neighbourhood South Brussels, 26-27 May 2016 - Background

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Roadmap Support Facility19 May 2016

This event is part of an ambitious initiative (started in 2013) of building a meaningful Multi-Stakeholders Bi-regional Dialogue with Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) between the two shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Two previous editions took place in 2014 & 2015 attended among other by political leaders as former Commissioner Füle, M. Shulz - President of the European Parliament, and the European High Level Representative for External Relations Ms Morgherini. This year Commissioner Hahn in charge of the European Neighbourhood policy will be attending the 2016-Forum. This activity in Brussels has been preceded by a regional seminar with CSOs-only, which took place in Jordan on 26 & 27 April 2016. The Forum in Brussels will be attended by a wide range of actors from European Union (EU) institutions, national & local Authorities, Academy, NGOs, Social Movements, Women and Youth Organisations, Journalists, etc.

Short overview of the current process aiming at establishing a sustainable Multi-Stakeholders Bi-Regional Dialogue between the EU and the South Mediterranean region
To respond to the Arab uprisings (2011), the EU institutions and member States acknowledged the need to engage in dialogues with a broader range of stakeholders in the South Mediterranean Region (beyond and in complementarity with the formal relations with States & governments). Therefore, since 2012, the political leadership of the EU, European services (mainly EEAS, Directorate General NEAR & DEVCO) and other EU institutions (such as the European Economic & Social Committee/EESC and the European Committee of Regions /CoR) have encouraged various stakeholders to engage in renewed conversations & dialogues with a wide range of actors mainly from Civil Society (2012-2014) while opening a consultation ahead of the recent review of the European Neighbourhood policy (2015).

These initiatives in the south Mediterranean region are also echoing the recent global strategy of the EU to reengage internationally with Civil Society in partners’ countries for example the EU COM(2012) 492 - The roots of democracy and sustainable development: Europe's engagement with Civil Society in external relations. It is also linked to the decision of the EU to develop CSO road maps at national level with EU Delegations. Those global, regional and national initiatives aim at strengthening the role of CSOs in building peace, democracy and defending human rights, while responding to the shrinking space Civil Society is facing everywhere.

Objectives and issues at stake for the 2016 - Civil Society Forum of the European South Neighbourhood

The outputs and propositions elaborated in the framework of this 2016-Forum will be linked to the following official processes: Implementation and next priorities of the renewed European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), ongoing discussions between Headquarters of the European Union Institutions and their European Embassies (EU Delegations) in country, especially regarding the role of Civil Society in national and regional frameworks (i.e. CSO road maps exercise), contribution to the Euro-Mediterranean Ministerial dialogue in the framework of the Union for the Mediterranean (following since 2008, the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership known as the Barcelona process initiated in 1995), specific inputs into ongoing initiatives for peace and conflicts resolution in the region, etc.

The key issues at stake for the discussions in 2016 turn around the following 3 building blocks (identified in Tunis-2014): Migration and mobility: Update on recent EU Negotiations with countries of the region / Assessment of the new Regional decisions on Migrants & Refugees (including new ENP) / Role of CSOs within it / Propositions of few benchmarks to monitoring EU agreements against international Treaties and engagements / initial discussions on possible advocacy strategies to influence the terms of the debate in Europe and in the South Region

Inequality and Sustainable Development: Based on previous policy papers and reports issued by CSOs, discussion on possible advocacy strategies to influence the terms of the debate in Europe and in the South Region regarding: current economic paradigm, current Free Trade Agreements, Investments Policies, etc. / Propositions of few benchmarks to monitoring Bi-regional Economic frameworks / Which CSO actors to involve in those discussions? (Trade Unions, Social Economy actors, Business organisations, Women organisations, etc.) / Link with the new international agreement on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs Agenda 2030), etc.

Shrinking space for Civil Society (including issues of Human Rights and democratisation): Assessment of the recent ENP review and the way it integrates CSOs / Update on the ‘CSO Road maps’ in the region & links with EU Delegations / New Human Rights EU programs impact in the region / initial discussions on possible advocacy strategies to influence the terms of the debate at EU level and in the South region.

In addition, the Brussels Civil Society Forum on the European South Neighbourhood will give specific attention to other priorities: The participation & voices of Youth and Women, the opportunities of meaningful dialogues for Civil Society at national and regional levels, the link between this regional dialogue & global initiatives such as ‘agenda 2030’, as well as new issues arising from recent developments between the two regions such as ‘radicalisation’, refugees, Human Rights Defenders, Peace Building, etc. 

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