Civil Society Forum

We are presently in the period of the 3rd ACP Civil Society Forum, which assembled in December 2009. This period will last for two years or until the next Forum is assembled.

Lawman Lynch

Study Shows ACPCSF Genuine and Representative

At the last meeting of the Forum in 2009, members of the Forum realised that they had to take matters into their own hands if the Forum was to survive. This after a long history of turn-arounds and dwindling attendance because the Secretariat became less and less effective at reaching members through their embassies.

Having taken on the challenge, the Forum moved to expel members planted by governments and came up with a clean list of NGO representative organisations and installed them as National Focal Points for the purposes of the Forum.

In 2012/2013, the ACP Secretariat commissioned a study of the ACPCSF. This was done by Welmoed Koekebakker. The study confirms the ability of CSOs to regulate and organise themselves. Further the study finds that the Forum members are bonafide CSOs and that they are representative. To quote the study, "This study did not find a single evidence of a member organisation that does not qualify as a genuine Civil Society organisation."

Here are some key extracts:

The ACP Civil Society Forum
Final Report
Welmoed E. Koekebakker
August, 2013
The ACP CSF and 'Cotonou'
The ACP Civil Society Forum reflects and embodies the spirit of the Cotonou Agreement. Cotonou, The Paris Declaration, the Accra Agenda and the Busan Declaration explicitly refer to Civil Society Organisations as independent development actors in their own right.
- The ACP established the ACP Civil Society Forum as the official platform of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Civil Society Organisations and NGO Networks for the ACP-EU Cooperation since 2001, confirming the formal status of the ACP CSF as an "all-ACP Civil Society Forum".
- The ACP Secretariat presented the Plan of Action, Declaration and the Report of the first Forum to the ACP Council of Ministers through the Committee of Ambassadors and these documents were endorsed by the 27th ACP-EU Council of Ministers Meeting in June, 2002.
- The ACP CSF is the legitimate network of Civil Society organisations in the ACP countries that gives effect to the principles of the Cotonou Agreement on the role of Civil Society.
- The ACP has taken charge of the ACP Civil Society Forum from the start. ACP Secretariat authorized, funded and (co-)organized the 3 Forum meetings that have taken place: 2001, 2006, 2009.
- This included inviting participants, issuing tickets, reporting, financial reports, deciding on the agenda of the meetings, hosting Forum meetings in the ACP premises; and the ACP Secretary General delivering the welcome address. The 3 ACP CS Forum meetings were funded through intra-ACP EDF funds.
ACP, EU and the ACP CSF
- EU has a long-standing partnership with Civil Society organisations; in 2012 EU issued new policy guidelines on strengthened support to Civil Society in partner countries.
- EU supports several Civil Society Forums.
- Support to the ACP CSF never included support for institutional infrastructure.
ACP Civil Society Forum
- The performance of the ACP CSF shows a mixed picture, with, in terms of performance indicators, strength and progress in some areas (organizational structure, realizing genuine Civil Society membership, representativeness, communication network) and stagnation under-utilized potential in other areas (activities in relation to objectives, implementation of Forum meetings).
Internal structure and management 
- The Forum has a 3-tier organizational structure - the Bureau, and Regional and National Focal Points.
- Its internal structure is appropriate to its identity as an international network and to its objectives.
- ACP Civil Society Forum member organisations are formally designated as the National Focal Points for the ACP CSF in their respective countries.
- Since 2001, the ACP CSF has gradually developed its governance structure. This included, apart from an effective management structure, transparent guidelines on decision-making and democratic procedures for election of the chairperson and regional focal points.
- The ACP CSF Bureau consists of a core team of highly qualified civil society leaders, knowledgeable in their particular sector of expertise, as confirmed by external stakeholders.
- ACP CSF does not have a formal mechanism for exercising accountability. Online consultations are seen as a major channel for informing and consulting members, and this functions well.
Lack of an enabling environment
- Though the ACP CSF was established with a clear mandate, right from the start the ACP CSF lacked a proper implementation mechanism.
- An obstacle in the first years was the fact that many representatives were appointed by governments; the ACP CSF did not yet represent genuine civil society.
- The ACP CSF has never been provided funds for secretarial support. In view of optimal effectiveness of the Forum a modest support structure is recommended. The lack of secretarial support and the lack of continuity of Forum meetings are key factors affecting performance of the ACP CSF.
- Crucial in understanding the internal governance of the ACP CSF is its relation to the ACP. The ACP Secretariat authorizes the organization and funding of Forum meetings and decides on modalities of the meetings, not the ACP CSF. This has right from the start created a structure of dependency, the pros and cons of which have never been validated in an open manner between ACP, ACP CSF and EU.
- Since 2011 the ACP CSF has requested the ACP Secretariat to organise the 4th Forum, so far without positive response. Related to this, the relation with ACP has been increasingly strenuous, and this has eroded the governance framework that resulted from the 3rd Forum.
- Key informants identify this situation as a major external disincentive for the ACP CSF and they regard the 'unbalanced ACP-ACP CSF relationship' as not conducive to a vibrant ACP CSF. "The two should be given the opportunity to function as two independent entities in their own right".
- They recommend the creation of a MoU outlining the commitments of the ACP and EU towards making the resources available for ACP CSF to effectively carry out its mandate.
- The ACP CSF management at present is not taking leadership. A major factor is that they are deprived of the resources and the environment enabling them to act. Other factors are: lack of a clear action plan that is endorsed by the ACP CSF constituency and on a more general level lack of a strategy on how to deal with the present impasse.
Overall performance 
- While no funding has been available right from the start, the Forum achieved to implement activities. Everything that has been achieved was achieved on a pro bono basis. Some members of the management spent considerable resources (time, money) on Forum activities.
- The ACP Civil Society Forum implemented 3 Forum meetings (2001, 2006, 2009) in collaboration with the ACP Secretariat. Discontinuity in Forum meetings is in the first place due to external factors - fundamentally lack of an operational mechanism enabling ACP CSF to act.
- Assessing the activities of the ACP CSF vis-à-vis planned activities has been problematic because a framework for planning and reporting is lacking. This affects effectiveness and impact of the ACP CSF and points to a substantial management and performance problem of the Forum.
- Management of meetings should be improved: proper preparations, technically and content-wise, with declarations and action plans, follow up planning, monitoring and reporting.
- The 3rd Forum did not complete an Action Plan, and follow-up to the 3rd Forum has been lacking.
- Plans of Action of Forum meetings do not include activities related to strengthening the institutional foundation of the ACP CSF, whereas that was, with hindsight, evidently the highest priority. It still is.
- An assessment of activities in view of objectives demonstrates that: the Forum has been able to deliver on about half of its 5 objectives. There are obvious performance gaps.
- The two main activities by 2013 are:
- participation in (ACP - EU) policy meetings and keeping the members informed on relevant ACP-EU activities through the online network.
- Communication on regional policies on trade, development and poverty alleviation from a civil society perspective capitalizing on civil society expertise, with ACP CSF providing inputs and facilitating sharing of expertise.
These activities are crucial to the ACP CSF and can be seen as part of its Core Identity.
- The 2009 Forum endorsed the ACP CSF as a Forum of genuine civil society representatives. This is a major step towards realization of a genuine ACP Civil Society Forum. This study did not find a single evidence of a member organisation that does not qualify as a genuine Civil Society organisation.
- Overall, how should the number, range and effectiveness of the activities implemented by the ACP CSF be qualified? In view of its lack of resources they are considerable. In view of ACP CSF's mandate and potential its performance is weak.
Modalities of communication and coordination
- The ACP CSF yahoo network is the major communication mechanism for the ACP CS; it meant a qualitative leap forward in internal communication in the Forum.
- The Legal Advisor and other Forum representatives participate in policy meetings and keep the members informed on relevant ACP-EU activities through the online network. Members regard this information as useful, and a majority has practically used it in their own activities.
- Representativeness is a major strength of the network- an important indicator being that a majority of the member organisations perceive the Forum as relevant for their own work.
- This study confirms the representativeness of the Forum, formally and substantially, in view of major indicators: 1. its support base, and 2. qualitative indicators.
- The Forum represents genuine Non-State Actors,
- The Forum is registered with the EC Register of Interests Representatives.
- The ACP CSF member organisations are networks encompassing ten to several hundreds of member organizations in their own respective country; they have appropriate mechanisms to ensure inclusiveness and representativeness among their constituencies; and their representativeness is confirmed by external informants and mapping studies;
- They cover a wide spectrum of target groups and beneficiaries, urban and rural, and mostly have national coverage;
- They are knowledgeable, have the ability to articulate development concerns from a civil society perspective, have authority to represent and act, and have access to expertise.
- The ACP Civil Society Forum is an important platform for its constituent organisations; its relevance is confirmed by the majority of its members, though some are critical and skeptical. The high level of response to the Survey and the Fact Sheets is a strong indicator for the level of motivation of the member organisations and the perceived relevance of the Forum for its members.
ACP CSF Member organisations
Key Findings from the Survey, the Inventory, field visits and interviews
- This Study produced an Inventory of on member organisations of the Forum. The Inventory provides detailed information on each member organization: Basic Information, Activities, Relations with the ACP CSF and with other organisations in the Forum, Relations with organisations outside the Forum, and case studies on Best Practices. This Inventory is a separate Annex to this report.
- An in-depth Survey was a significant tool for data collection on the member organisations.
- The Fact Sheets and the Survey resulted in a wealth of information on the ACP CSF member organisations.
The ACP CSF member organisations
- The constituencies of the Forum, the National Focal Points, play a pivotal role in strengthening civil society in their countries.
- Many of them are prominent organisations in their own field of expertise. A majority of the member organisations is engaged in both economic and social activities.
- Many of them are playing a crucial role in strengthening democracy or they have played a role in the transition to democracy.
- A strong feature of the national focal points is their representativeness and their diversity.
- They are all (except one) officially registered in their own country; they all (100%) have a constitution and bye-laws.
- The functioning of the member organizations depends to a large extent on the efforts of a group of highly committed persons. They are also the driving force behind the Forum. The strength of the Forum depends on these member organisations; as such, the strength of the Forum is beyond doubt.
- They are networks, umbrellas, and often membership organisations; representing ten to several hundreds of civil society organisations in their countries.
- They value accountability and confirm that accountability is practiced in their organization.
- Some organisations work with limited funding, and many have a broad range of funders.
Priority areas, activities, impact
- ACP CSF member organisations generally have a social-economic focus. The outcome of the Survey highlights three clusters (sectors) of priority activities of member organisations: Poverty Alleviation, Rights, and Peace Building. Members are also engaged in capacity building of civil society organizations and they provide various sorts of technical support to the civil society sector.
- There are dozens of 'Good Practices', success stories, case studies of impact of social and economic interventions. All members have been, to varying extent, involved in such successful activities. This study created an inventory of Best Practices of ACP CSF member organisations. See Annex.
- Moreover, this study identified 6 'Dimensions of Impact' and documented examples of the ACP Civil Society platforms having a powerful track record on these impact dimensions. It produced an inventory of these as well. See Annex.
- There is synergy between the priorities addressed by the National Focal Points, their local member organisations, the regional networks and those addressed by the Forum on a global level.
- Impact is realised at the level of the National Focal Points and their thousands of constituent members. However, this impact can neither be ascribed to nor claimed as an impact of the ACP CSF though the ACP CSF is certainly 'carried' by it, and vice versa.
- Nearly all Forum members are cooperating with Regional level networks and institutions.
- They confirm the added value of the ACP CSF for their work. Being the platform of these national level organisations the ACP Civil Society Forum brings together a huge potential of actors on development issues from a Civil Society perspective.
Analysis of relations with key national and external stakeholders
- ACP CSF national platforms have a diverse support base, often with formal membership: between ten and hundreds of CSOs, with which they interact in meetings and through e-mail;
- They forward information to their members on development activities and ACP-EU cooperation, function as an information hub (besides coordinate activities and providing capacity building).
- They provide information or referral for third parties, e.g. for the EU and the government.
- E-mail is the predominant mode of communication with other ACP CSF partner organisations, with 'Meetings in a Regional context' as a second best option.
Collaboration on development interventions
- Most Forum members have 'some kind of collaboration' with other Forum members.
- All members maintain strong relations with national stakeholders. This study consulted national stakeholders (government representatives, external NGOs) and representatives of EU Delegations. They report that cooperation with Forum partners has been effective and appreciated. The report provides a selection of quotations.
- National platforms are actively collaborating with Regional organisations in strengthening civil society at a Regional level. For a list of Regional networks see Annex.
Mechanisms of coordination
- 25 member organisations are actively engaged in coordination mechanisms between EU, national government and civil society organisation on development issues.
- The region with the strongest coordination mechanism is the Caribbean, with several countries having a well-functioning Non State Actors Panel under a MoU between Civil Society, Government and EU.
ACP CSF: 3 Core identities
From the research data on the ACP Civil Society Forum, 3 'Core Identities' are derived.
1. Core identity 1: The ACP Civil Society Forum is the legitimate network of Civil Society organisations in the ACP countries that gives effect to the principles of the Cotonou Agreement on the role of Civil Society.
2. Core identity 2: ACP CSF keeps the members informed on ACP-EU activities through the online network. Most member organisations regard this information as useful; they use it in their own activities, and they see this as a key activity of the Forum.
3. Core Identity 3: Communication and collaboration on regional policies on trade, development and poverty alleviation from a civil society perspective capitalizing on civil society expertise and experience.
Challenges and future potential
 - The ACP Forum members are Civil Society platforms of thousands of organisations in ACP countries representing an invaluable source of expertise and experience, as has been documented in this study.
- As such, the ACP CSF Forum is in a unique position, or 'best placed' to coordinate exchange of experiences and create joint positions or strategies, both in view of pressing development issues, as well as in view of joint internal Civil Society sector concerns.
- With the yahoo network one main condition for a coordinating role is in place. The ACP Civil Society Forum has a huge potential, that is presently under-utilized, but the potential is still there.
- ACP CSF member organisations see the fact that meetings are not taking place as prescribed as a major challenge for the ACP CSF that need to be solved. They also see "lack of a clear mandate" and "lack of funding" as major challenges.
- A far majority of the immediate constituency of the Forum has confidence in the future potential of the ACP CSF. According to them, to realize this potential in order for the Forum to be able to play its role to the fullest in the spirit of 'Cotonou, Paris, Accra and Busan', as an independent development actor in its own right, a concerted effort of internal and external stakeholders is required. "ACP CSF has to be revived" 112. The Forum needs to catch the momentum and take ownership. It needs to reconsider its core identity, objectives and deliverables. Appropriate planning and accountability structures must be in place.
- It is recommended that a clear and transparent mechanism be worked out by the main stakeholders - the ACP Civil Society Forum, the ACP and EU - for a realistic operational structure conducive to the optimal functioning of the ACP Civil Society Forum, with due attention for accountability, efficiency and effectiveness. Without this, it is not anticipated that the ACP CSF will overcome its present impasse.

Download a copy of the Study here: ACPCSF Study

Can Trade Policy Improve Human Rights?

Joyce van Generen-Naar

On 13 October 2010 the Conference 'Can Trade Policy Improve Human Rights' was organized by the Socialists & Democrats in the European Parliament in Brussels.

Presentations were made by representatives from the WTO, ILO, George Washington University, Avocats sans Frontiéres France.

EU Commissioner De Gucht also adressed the audience, explaining his pro free trade policy.

In his conclusions the President of the S&G Group, Mr. Martin Schultz, said that he is not supporting the opinion of Members in the European Parliament who say 'First Trade and than Human Rights'. He also does not support views that say 'no human rights no trade'. There has to be a good balance.

Another concern is that the European Parliament does not have the tools (capacity) yet for its new co-decision competency and responsability with regard to the Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) Negotiations, provided for in the Lisbon Treaty. That is why they are organizing these conferences and hearings, to listen to the opinions of the experts and to learn.

So it is a kind of capacity building of the European Parliament and its members. But will it be efficient to deal with these complex global trade issues?

Now the focus is on human rights and social and environmental rights and standards of the FTAs, but there are other trade policy issues to address.

Recommendations were made to establish a binding complaint management system for human rights violations in FTAs.

Dispute settlement should be applied to all chapters, also to the sustainable chapter, which is not the case in the FTA Korea (and in the CF-EC-EPA and probably other FTAs).

The conclusion is that Trade Policy can improve the economic development of a country, but economic growth does not mean that human rights, labour rights and social and environmental rights are improved. In some countries they are (for example Mauritius), but in many countries in the South social-, environmental and labour conditions are worsened because of FTAs (longer working hours, no job security, no healthy circumstances, no more access to cheap medicines etc.).

That has also been said by Asian and European representatives during the 8th ASIA-Europe's People's Forum, organised from 2 - 5 October 2010 in Brussels, parallel to the 8th Asia-Europe ASEM Summit in Brussels, and in the Recommendations on www.aepf.info

Joyce van Genderen-NAAR, Lawyer
Advisor ACP Civil Society Forum: http://acpcsforum.igloocommunities.com
email: vangenderen@unicall.be

The Kelsey Report: Services and Investment in the CARIFORUM-EC EPA

By Norman Girvan

Dr Jane Kelsey, Professor of Law at the University of Auckland and a leading international authority on trade in services agreements, has conducted an exhaustive study of Legal Provisions on Services and Investment in the CARIFORUM-EC EPA. The eleven-chapter, 111-page study, now published by the South Centre, indentifies five principal categories of legal risk in the EPA: (i) asymmetry in favour of the EU; (ii) the unpredictable and unlimited multiplier effect of most-favoured nation and 'regional preference' obligations; (iii) an externally imposed regional integration model; (iv) closure of policy space; (v) complexity, uncertainty and a heightened risk of errors with no structured opportunity to correct them.

The main recommendation for Cariforum States is to utilise the Joint Declaration of the Parties on the Signing of the Economic Partnership Agreement, to be conducted pursuant to Article 5 of the EPA, which the author states is 'the only formal opportunity to address the concerns raised in the report'. For Non-Cariforum States, especially in the ACP grouping, the main recommendation is they 'should assert their right not to negotiate an agreement with the EU on services and investment'.

The publication of the Kelsey Report provides an opportunity to broaden current exchanges over the EPA in the Caribbean beyond the issue of implementation of the agreement. Given the scope and extent of the legal risks identified, it would be appropriate for the legal and other academic community, trade officials, the private sector, NGOs and other stakeholders to examine the EPA text critically with a view to assessing the implications and detemining the modifications necessary to make the Agreement more in line with Cariforum/Caricom circumstances and interests. This is all the more important, in that services and investment form part of the CARICOM/Canada FTA and negotiations on these subjects are due to commence soon. Further, we are nearly two years into the period allowed for the mandatory review, and adequate preparation in support of the Caricom/Cariforum case needs to be made.

Read the Kelsey/South Centre Report

ACP Press Statement: Ouagadougou 22 June 2010

The African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group with its principal development partner, the European Union, today signed the second five-yearly review of the Cotonou Agreement in a historic event in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

After more than a year of negotiations with the EU, both parties signed the revised agreement in a colourful event - witnessed by ministers, ambassadors and officials from the ACP and the EU countries at the close of the 35th Session of the ACP-EU Council of Ministers.

At the 91st Session of the ACP Council of Ministers that took place a few days earlier in Ouagadougou, ACP ministers gave their approval on the revised agreement and commended the ACP Committee of Ambassadors for successfully negotiating with the Europeans.

The President of the ACP Council of Ministers, His Excellency Mr. Paul Bunduku-Latha, the Gabonese Deputy Minister to the Ministry of Economic Planning, Trade, Industry and Tourism said the signing of the Second Revised Cotonou Agreement in Ouagadougou signified a rewarding relationship that has grown from strength to strength and spans over 30 years.

Mr Bunduku-Latha and H.E Ms. Soraya Rodriguez, Secretary of State for International Cooperation of Spain (EU Presidency), presided over the signing ceremony. Ministers and government representatives from the ACP and the European Community signed the revised agreement.

Mr Bunduku-Latha said that for the past year - both sides had looked and scrutinized in fine detail, the Cotonou Agreement in the revision process to meet the difficult challenges and cope with shifting trends in a fast challenging world.

The revised Agreement, amongst other things, addressed a number of important issues between the two parties. One of them is the need to expedite progress towards the attainment of MDGs as well as aid effectiveness and global challenges such financial market shocks. It also emphasizes the link between peace and security and poverty reduction and peace and security. The provisions on humanitarian assistance have been improved to emphasis not only responses to emergency situations, but also support for ACP States' efforts in disaster risk reduction and post conflict reconstruction and rehabilitation.

"Our believe is that the revised agreement will help to fight against poverty and assist in our efforts to achieve sustainable development and help to mobilize the international community to attain the MDGs," the ACP President, Mr. Bunduku-Latha said.

The Secretary-General of the ACP Group, Dr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas, said that the signing marked an important development of the ACP-EU relationship - reiterating that the revision was not simply about changing words in a document. Rather, it was about improving an agreement whose implementation would grant better opportunities and positive outcomes in the lives of the ACP people.

The Cotonou Agreement is a treaty between the European Union and the ACP states. It was signed in June 2000 in Cotonou, Benin, by 79 ACP countries and the then fifteen Member States of the European Union. It entered into force in 2003 and is the most recent agreement in the history of ACP-EU Development Cooperation. It is reviewed every five years.

Meanwhile, the birth of the ACP Group was signified by the signature of the Georgetown Agreement on the 6th of June 1975 in Georgetown, Guyana. The ACP cooperation with the EU has been anchored around the First Lomé Convention in 1975 - and was followed by Lomé II, III and then Lomé IV which was signed in 1990. It was succeeded by the Cotonou Agreement in 2000, and was revised in 2005 and earlier this year for the second time, which has just been signed in Ouagadougou.

Also present at the Ouagadougou signing were representatives from the African Union (AU), Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) and Economic Community of Central African States (CEEAC).

Note: The Cotonou Agreement provides for a review every five years as stipulated under Article 95 (3). The ACP States on the one hand, and the European Community and its Member States on the other, shall notify the other Party not later than 12 months before the expiry of each five year period of any review of the provisions they desire to make with a view to possible amendments.

Regarding the current revision process, notification to the EU took place before 28 February 2009. After notification, the Parties had a period of two months up to 30 April 2009 in which to request the extension of the review to other provisions related to those which were the subject of the initial request. On the 1 May 2009, ten months before the expiry of the current five year period, the ACP + EU entered into negotiations and was concluded and initialed on the 19 March 2010.

La deuxieme Revision de l'accord de Cotonou: [View]  [Download]

2nd Revision of the Cotonou Agreement:  [Download]


19th Session of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly
Tenerife, Spain

29 March - 1 April 2010

Presentation on "How the Social Economy Can Contribute to Africa's Development - The Consumer Perspective" By Mr. Kimera Henry Richard, Chief Executive, Consumer Education Trust (CONSENT) and Consumers International (CI) Africa Representative on the ACP-EU Follow-up Committee of the European Economic and Social Committee.
31 March 2010


Your Excellencies, Co-presidents and Members of the Joint Parliamentary Assembly, Ladies and Gentlemen, It is with great honor that I join Mr. Luca JAHIER the President of ACP-EU Follow-up Committee of the European Economic and Social Committee to compliment his speech on a topic "How the Social Economy Can Contribute to Africa's Development - The Consumer Perspective".

The social economy and its numerous institutions like formal and informal cooperatives, social community group arrangements among others exist in Africa and contribute to the welfare of the citizens and development on a big scale irrespective of not being formally documented.

Social economy is understood and appreciated in Africa and other regions in many forms and delivers goods and services irrespective of societal and national challenges. Majority of us are beneficiaries of respective social economy arrangements directly and/or indirectly as we consume a number of its products.

Social economy has been around and will be around long enough to contribute to human, societal and national development globally. Examples are seen in challenging times within society. It played a role in absorbing effects of food and financial crisis where beneficiaries of the social economy were not greatly impacted due to collective social inclusiveness actions and solutions in society that enabled consumers sharing the limited resources available and accommodating those in need... read more

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The ACP Civil Society Forum reflects and embodies the spirit of the Cotonou Agreement. Cotonou, The Paris Declaration, the Accra Agenda and the Busan Declaration explicitly refer to Civil Society Organisations as independent development actors in their own right.

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