On February 17 and 18, the 6th European Union (EU) – Africa Union (AU) Summit took place in Brussels in an event that gathered the heads of the states and governments from the Members States of both regions. One of the outcomes of this Summit was the final declaration “A Joint Vision for 2030”. Ahead of this Summit, three Forums were organised to promote dialogue among key AU – EU stakeholders: a Youth Forum on February 14, a Civil Society Organisations’ (CSO) Forum on February 15 and a Business Forum on February 16. SOLIDAR, through its collaboration with CONCORD, contributed to the organisation of two sessions during the CSO Forum and it also represented CSOs in the “Meet the Leaders” session, an event with the objective of raising the key priorities and outcomes from the three Forums with AU – EU leaders.
After the postponement of the Summit the previous two years due to the limits of the pandemic, this event was a long-waited opportunity for CSOs from both regions to establish a comprehensive and active dialogue towards the priorities for a renew partnership between Africa and Europe. Climate change, Peacebuilding, Migration, Food security Decent Work and Digitalisation were some of the key topics discussed during the CSO Forum. SOLIDAR facilitated the participation of Joel Odigie, from the Africa Regional Office of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), in the session “Transforming Africa’s Informal Economy for Decent Work”. In addition, SOLIDAR also ensured the participation of Lorraine Sibanda, President of StreetNet International; Michael Akuupa, Director of the Labour Resource and Research Institute and Eric Manzi, Deputy General Secretary of the Africa Regional Office of ITUC in the session “Sustainable development of African borderlands through the formalization of informal cross-border trade”.
Another opportunity for SOLIDAR to raise the voice of CSO from both regions was the participation in the “Meet the Leaders” session, highlighting the main ideas from the previous sessions above mentioned. Some of the main messages were the need for the AU-EU partnership to tackle the factors that drive and sustain informality and to promote decent work opportunities for all as in the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Recommendation N204. In addition, access to social protection for all – including floors - is key to formalize jobs and to break the cycle of poverty and its feminization.
The CSO Forum concluded with the adoption of the outcome document “No decision about us without us”, developed by CONCORD members and those CSOs who contributed to the organisation of the Forum. This document raises the main concerns that civil society identified during the organisation of the AU-EU Summit, mainly the lack of consultation and participation of CSOs ahead of the Summit as well as the lack a systematic approach for CSOs to engage in political dialogue with AU – EU leaders. Despite the organisation of the CSO Forum ahead of the Summit, no CSO representative participated in the meetings on February 17 and 18. In this sense, SOLIDAR joins the voices of civil society asking for a more structured and meaningful participation of CSOs in the AU – EU partnership.