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EU Country Roadmaps for Engagement with Civil Society - introduction

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Thomas Nikolaj Hansen10 April 2014


An introduction

The policy framework

The September 2012 Communication from the European Commission “The Roots of democracy and sustainable development: Europe’s engagement with Civil Society in external relations” envisages the elaboration of Roadmaps at country level. Conceived as a joint initiative between the European Union and Member States, they aim to strengthen the strategic engagement with civil society.

The October 2012 Council Conclusions welcome this initiative, stressing that it shall be developed taking into account the views of local civil society and existing coordination structures.

The European Parliament has also expressed its support to the process in its October 2013 Resolution on local authorities and civil society, by welcoming the envisaged more ambitious partnership with civil society organisations.  

The objectives

The purpose of the Roadmaps is to develop a common strategic framework for the engagement of EU Delegations and Member States with civil society at country level, with a view to improving the impact, predictability and visibility of EU actions.

Roadmaps are also intended to improve the consistency of EU cooperation vis-à-vis civil society, across sectors and instruments, and to progressively promote better coordination within EU Delegations, Member States and other relevant actors.  They will target countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, Pacific and the Neighbourhood region.

The first generation of Roadmaps

The first generation of the Roadmaps, for which preparatory work is currently underway, will cover the period 2014-2017. It is planned that a first version of the Roadmap is available by the end of of July 2014, approved at country level. Roadmaps should be seen as a continuous process and they should be updated each year in January as well as when major changes in the context take place.  

A second generation of Roadmaps will then cover the period 2018-2020.

The contents

Roadmaps comprise of five interlinked sections. Sections 1 and 2 provide the analytical foundation by assessing the state of civil society (i.e. enabling environment, roles and capacity) as well as the current EU engagement with civil society (i.e. dialogue, mainstreaming, and coordination).

Sections 3 and 4 in turn set direction by defining EU priorities and actions for engagement with civil society in the period 2014-2017 – and beyond.

Finally, Section 5 provides a framework, in the form of a dashboard, for tracking the Roadmap process.  To this end a set of indicators, process and outcome oriented, will be used.

The process

The drafting of Roadmaps is very much a joint responsibility between EU Delegations and Member States. If warranted a Member State may even take the lead. Non-EU donors with substantial civil society engagement could also be involved where relevant and feasible.

To facilitate the process, EU Delegations have been provided with a template and guidance setting out a number ofpoints for consideration and inspiration. A key priority has been to develop a model that can be adapted to local context, as a specific approach may be called for including in fragile states or in countries with particularly restrictive environments. Other support measures are currently being developed, including a Roadmap Facility for country support.

When developing the Roadmaps, EU Delegations are strongly encouraged to build on existing analysis including the Concept Notes prepared for the future Thematic Programme Civil Society Organisations and Local Authorities, the EU Human Rights Country Strategies, mappings and other available studies etc.

Dialogue and consultation

Dialogue and consultation with local civil society is seen as a key aspect of developing and not least implementing the Roadmap. For consultations with local civil society, it will be necessary to embrace a wide range of actors with different roles and mandates. The basic principle is that each country is specific and approach to consultations and dialogue should respect that.

Where feasible, it is also strongly advisable to consult with national and local authorities not least in view of the important role they have in defining, respecting and facilitating the legal, regulatory and institutional framework for civil society. International NGOs with a strong presence in the country are also relevant partners to associate in the process.


Where appropriate and feasible, agreed priorities and actions will be published at country level in a brief version. EU Delegations are also encouraged to make use of press releases, websites etc. to promote predictability and visibility of EU actions


Dear Thomas, 

Could you provide more information about the current state of the Roadmaps and the methods that are being followed in the different countries where they are being launched? As you're well aware, when working with civil society the process is as important as the result that it might entail, and there are political contexts in which civil society itself is strongly polarised; in the worst case scenario we might find ourselves with domestic CSO's contesting the roadmaps and arguing that the consultations haven't been inclusive enough. 


Thank you for your comment and your interest in the Roadmap process. The process for consulting local civil society is indeed very important. Our main starting point has been that each country is unique and we have therefore taken an approach in which the EU Delegation and the Member States are in the driving seat as far as the organisation of these consultation processes is concerned. We are as a result seeing a lot of innovative practices and are also receiving feedback directly from various civil society platforms on how they are being involved. To give one example, several EU Delegations have distributed questionnaires amongst CSOs to get their feedback, and are organizing consultation sessions with a wide range of actors to consolidate the outcomes of the questionnaires and/or discuss the different components of the Roadmap.

The consultations will invariably bring out differences of opinion between different CSOs which is only natural and one of the reasons why we insist on these consultations. Still, the Roadmaps remain a strategic tool for the EU and the Member States to set priorities. There is no requirement that all other stakeholders should agree. We expect however that local civil society will be closely involved in the implementation of the Roadmaps post-July one way or the other. Again the process will be unique in each country – depending on the priorities set.

Regards and apologies for late reply.


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