A look at what a new EU strategy to strengthen support to civil society means for their partners countries.
In a communication titled The roots of democracy and sustainable development: Europe’s engagement with Civil Society in external relations the European Commission (EC) acknowledges the vital work of CSOs in partner countries in giving marginalised groups a voice and access to services as well as empowering them to take part in the political processes which affect them.
This new strategy, endorsed by the EU governments on 15 October, comes at a crucial moment for the future of the EU AIDS response, as the EU is in the process of reviewing its overall development policy as laid out in the Agenda for Change (2011) and of adopting its budget for 2014-2020, the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF).
Under the MFF, the EC has notably proposed a new thematic programme on Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and Local Authorities worth € 2 billion, the implementation of which will be guided by the communication on CSOs. Therefore, the new strategy which focusses strongly on human rights based approaches and service provision to marginalised groups through CSOs, should have important implications on EU financial support to the AIDS response the country and global levels. It should be noted that AIDS is a cross-cutting issue to be mainstreamed across the whole programme for CSOs.
When it comes to service provision through CSOs – including health, education and social protection, the EU will increase its support to issues that do not receive adequate consideration within national policies but are key to social progress and reflect human rights concerns. Providing services to populations that are socially excluded or out of reach will particularly be supported, thus opening the way for projects targeting key populations who are at higher risk of HIV.
Practically, the EU will focus its projects on capacity building through partnerships between local and European CSOs and; combining social and economic approaches, including focus on income-generating activities. Acknowledging the specific needs of local CSOs and community based organisations (CBOs), the EU will revise its funding opportunities and make use of a mix of funding opportunities to make it easier for local CSOs to apply for grants.
In partner countries, the EU will develop roadmaps for engagement with CSOs, to guide a more strategic engagement of the EU. The roadmaps will identify long term objectives of EU cooperation with CSOs and will identify appropriate working and funding modalities.
More details on the EU Communication on CSOs can be found on the webpage of the EU Commissioner for Development.
Arben Fetai is Senior EU Policy Advisor at Stop AIDS Alliance, a joint initiative by the International HIV/AIDS Alliance and STOP AIDS NOW! He is based in Brussels.