ABOUT THIS SECTOR
An empowered civil society is a crucial component of any democratic system and is an asset in itself. It represents and fosters pluralism and can contribute to more effective policies, equitable and sustainable development and inclusive growth. It is an important player in fostering peace and in conflict resolution. By articulating citizens' concerns, civil society organisations (CSOs) are active in the public arena, engaging in initiatives to further participatory democracy and governance.
The EU considers Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to include all non-State, not-for-profit structures, non-partisan and non-violent, through which people organise to pursue shared objectives and ideals, whether political, cultural, social or economic. Operating from the local to the national, regional and international levels, they comprise urban and rural, formal and informal organisations.
The European Commission Communication Increasing the impact of EU Development Policy: an Agenda for Change (COM 2011) 637 provides the policy direction for EU development cooperation by proposing a concentration of development cooperation around two main pillars:
- Human rights, democracy and good governance;
- Inclusive and sustainable growth for human development.
The Communication calls for strengthened "links with civil society organisations, social partners and local authorities, through regular dialogue and use of best practices", in particular to “support the emergence of a local civil society which can effectively contribute to dialogue with public authorities and to oversee public authorities' work".
Recognising the importance of constructive relations between states and CSOs, the policy orientations propose an enhanced and more strategic EU engagement with CSOs in developing, enlargement and neighbourhood countries, with a particular focus on local civil society organisations.
In its Communication 'The roots of democracy and sustainable development: Europe's engagement with Civil Society in external relations', the European Commission puts forward three priorities for the EU:
- Enhance efforts to promote a conducive environment for CSOs in partner countries.
- Promote meaningful and structured participation in programming and policy processes to build stronger governance and accountability at all levels.
- Increase local CSOs' capacity to perform their roles as independent development actors more effectively.
Under these premises, the EU sets a new approach to support CSOs with regards to the promotion of inclusive and sustainable growth as well as in service delivery.
In order to strengthen CSOs at local level, the Roadmaps for engagement with civil society in partner countries have been created. These Roadmaps aim to develop a more strategic and structured dialogue with civil society at country level, on the one hand, and with EU Member States on the other to strengthen coherence, homogeneity and impact of EU actions.