|EU-ACP Negotiations on Post Lomé IV Convention - The Stand of Uganda Civil Society (DENIVA, 1999, 55 p.)|
Although conditions vary among ACP members, it is generally true that governments have been reluctant to involve NGOs and other civil society organs in development planning and programme implementation. At times NGOs and community organs have succeeded in getting their governments to agree to the principle of consultation in planning or accessing development resources. In practice, however, various obstacles still deny effective implementation of these resolutions. Among them is withholding of recognition of NGOs or failure to deal with them as representative organisations of the civil society.
In some cases governments have involved NGOs and community organisations as contractors in implementing specific projects or segments of programmes. These have usually been social and community projects, where NGOs and CBOs were felt to have an operational advantage through their proximity to and close association with the communities they serve. Where this has happened, the participating civil society organizations often felt themselves converted into mere executing agents of predetermined policies rather than as active participants in helping to share in defining policy and determining priorities in a broader change process.
Civil Society and the Post Lomé Negotiations
The Experience relating to relations between ACP governments/negotiators and ACP civil society received scant mention in documents prepared for the negotiations of the follow-up to Lomé IV. The Libreville Declaration, proclaimed at the first ACP Summit of Heads of State and Government is virtually silent on civil society.
A comparison with parallel documents of the European Union is revealing: In its guidelines on future EU-ACP relations it has numerous references to the place of civil society in formulating EU positions on the future negotiations. The EU's intention is to make CSOs an integral part of its co-operation policy:
The Post Lomé Negotiations: Considerations for Civil Society Action
For civil society to participate, development conditions that facilitate it include:
· an enabling political environment, with appropriate all inclusive institutional frameworks
· the existence of democratic information systems and in particular implementation of Article 41 in the 1995 Uganda Constitution on the Right to Information
· an informed population, offering alternative researched positions that can be examined in public consensus-building and policy formulation.
Strengthening civil society should not be conceived as an option for ACP countries.
Some of the principal areas for actions include the following:
Actions by ACP-EU Governments
· Agreement for and commitment to defining a role for civil society in the negotiations and final Convention between ACP-EU partners
· Contribute to an enabling context for the growth and effective participation of civil society through removal of obstacles as well as policy and institutional support for it. Decentralization of political and administrative authority can help foster closer understanding and cooperation between civil society and public sector
· Attention to building human capacity to promote and manage civil society participation in development
· Provide financing for development programmes by civil society organizations.
Action for ACP and European Civil Society organizations
· Expand the debate with their own constituents around the issue of civil society co-operation policy in the context of the negotiations
· Build their capacity to operate programmes with high standards of efficiency, transparency and accountability.
As NGOs and civil society organisations at large, we demand to participate in current and future decision making processes to the Lomé Convention. This is such an important relationship that it cannot be left to governments alone. We want to be involved in drawing priorities and resources allocation in the context of the national indicative programme. Civil society has a crucial role to play in the negotiations itself given the information in their possession and it is civil society to popularise the Lomé Convention if benefits and impact from this relationship is to reach the majority poor. In the area of research on particular aspects so as to reinforce positions of national delegations, it is again civil society that ought to spearhead such.
In conclusion, the civil society organisations should be part of national delegations at all times and government should facilitate this process. Regular mechanism of dialogue and feedback should be formalised and put in place.