Relations with Civil Society
A fruitful and constructive dialogue with Civil Society
The EU is committed to strengthening the role of civil society in development - this is set out in the European consensus for development and its development agreements with individual countries and groups of countries, e.g. the Cotonou agreement.
Development policy and programmes are generally more effective when the priorities of the different development actors are consistent with those of civil society, as this giveslocal populations a sense of ownership of national development policy.
EU development policy encourages non-state actors to play an active role. Recent EU emphasis onparticipatory approaches has resulted in many innovations, such as more decentralised management and empowering and involving a broad range of civil society bodies, e.g. NGOs, trade unions, political foundations, private companies, universities and the media.
The challenge lies in practically applying the agreed principles. The main tools for this (and for incorporating the priorities and concerns of the different actors into development strategies and programmes) are dialogue and financialsupport.
Commission dialogue with civil society
The Commission regularly consults civil society, both in Europe (general policy issues) and in each beneficiary country (programming and defining national policy priorities).
In 2007, it set up a stakeholder advisory group to better structure its dialogue with European civil society bodies.
At country level, EU delegations seek to facilitate / encourage dialogue between state and non state actors. However, it is the national governments who are mainly responsible for creating a favourable political, economic and social environment for the growth of civil society.
Civil society involvement in ACP countries has recently been found to be patchy, with significant country to country variation. In response the EU has made a number of recommendations that could help improve participation.
EU financial support for civil society
The main source of EU funding for civil society bodies are the geographic aid programmes.
There is also a range of specific complementary programmes - especially the one for non state actors and local authorities in development , which has global coverage.
More effective aid
Civil society will also be participating in the international discussions on making aid more effective. It is generally considered that civil society was the "missing element" in the Paris declaration on aid effectiveness.
As watchdog, implementer, donor and recipient, civil society is a development actor in its own right, distinct from governments and donors. If aid is to have the optimum impact, all 3 groups must examine how their policies and activities complement and/or undermine each other, and work together for best effect.