A Place for Inclusion, the 3rd Africa-EU Civil Society Forum

From the 11-13 July 2017, CBM was part of an IDDC delegation and participated in the third Africa – EU Civil Society Forum which took place in Tunis (Tunisia) and gathered approximately 80 representatives from African and European civil society. The main goal of the Forum was to develop a joint declaration with key recommendations at a crucial time: five months ahead of the Africa-EU summit of Heads of States and Governments. The 5th Africa-EU Summit will take place from the 28-29 November 2017 in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire in a context of developing the new roadmap of the Joint Africa-EU Strategy (JAES).

What is the Africa-EU Partnership?

In 2007 in Lisbon, Heads of State and Governments adopted the Joint Africa-EU Strategy (JAES) at the second EU-Africa Summit. This overarching long-term framework strives to bring Africa and Europe closer together through the strengthening of economic cooperation and the promotion of sustainable development. The strategy is based on principles of ownership, partnership and solidarity and claimed to be a people-centred partnership. Regarding the topic of disability, the JAES states that, ‘particular attention will be given to the inclusion of hard –to reach children and children and youth with disabilities’ and ‘efforts to scale up towards universal access to basic health services, HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis Malaria prevention, treatment, care and support by 2010, and cooperation on other pandemics as well as on issues relating to meningitis, will be intensified, with special focus on women, children and adolescents, older and disabled persons as well as members of vulnerable groups.’

Furthermore to implement the JAES, a roadmap is developed every three years based on jointly identified, mutual and complementary interests. The current Roadmap 2014-2017 sets out concrete targets within 5 priority areas of cooperation agreed at the 4th EU-Africa Summit in 2014:

  • Peace and security;
  • Democracy, good governance and human rights;
  • Human development;
  • Sustainable and inclusive development and growth and continental integration;
  • Global and emerging issues.

The current roadmap states that: ‘We shall pay particular attention to gender equality, the rights of the most vulnerable groups, including people with disabilities, the elderly and refugees, as well as to women, youth and children rights.’

Outcomes of the Africa-EU CSO Forum in Tunis

Harnessing its demographic dividend by promoting jobs and growth is this year’s priority for Africa. Therefore to align the CSO Forum with the current political discussions, participants have been discussing the five priorities identified in the current roadmap while introducing the topics of youth, migration and gender equality as cross-cutting priorities. The declaration has also a preamble on the role of CSO in the JAES.

The active participation of CBM in the working groups to advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities has been clearly successful. The joint declaration highlights in its recommendations the need to enhance dialogue between governments and CSOs including organisations from persons with disabilities, the need for universal health coverage and sexual and reproductive health and rights for persons with disabilities, inclusive education and access to the labour market for persons with disabilities and the need to increase capacity for vulnerable groups to build their resilience against natural disaster.

With this joint declaration we aim now to advocate towards Heads of States and governments for clear references to the rights of persons with disabilities and the promotion of inclusion services in the next roadmap.

During the Africa-EU CSO Forum, CBM has also been asked by the European Commission to present our project on the pan African program.  This presentation was the opportunity to present CBM and the work we are doing on the field while highlighting the response we are providing on certain human development issues. In this case, the presentation of the pan African project is a response to the necessity to include DPOs democratically in all political processes in order to allow everybody including persons with disabilities to benefit from their civil and political rights. Showcasing our work with DPOs in this specific project was also a good example on a possible way to respond to the recommendations made by the Joint declaration.

Why is it so important for CBM?

As shown in this article, the work on the JAES and the participation in such a CSO Forum is really important for CBM.

Our involvement in advocacy opportunities is crucial to make sure that the rights of persons with disabilities are included in each critical discussions amongst CSOs but also amongst decision makers. Therefore if the JAES clearly states that there is a need to promote the rights of persons with disabilities and inclusive services, the EU and its member states such as the African Union and its member states are accountable for their commitments. Those commitments are of course at international level but have to be reflected at regional, national and local level which is interesting for our country offices but also for the DPOs. In addition, it is fundamental to remind that the EU is one of the main donor in development aid and international cooperation, therefore the funding they are allocating to projects is clearly determined by the priorities they are identifying in political frameworks such as the JAES.

You can find more information about the Africa-EU CSO Forum on Euronews in English and in French