For the first time, DG DEVCOEuropeAid has organized a big Civil Society Forum, gathering around 900 representatives from Europe and Third World countries. The CSO Forum 2016, which took place on March 17-18 in Brussels, brought together civil society organizations from around the world to discuss international development and human rights with representatives of European institutions and Member States.
In particular, in its more than 35 sessions, the CSO Forum focused on three interwoven threads: “Civil society's enabling environment,” “Working with CSOs at grass roots level,” and “EU instruments for Civil Society and Human Rights.”
The reality is that EU funding directly addressed to civil society organizations amounts to €2 billion per year, while CSOs are involved in programming and monitoring development aid.In our changing world, the identity and the role of civil society is a crucial issue: the concern about the constituency of big international groups (named the ‘usual suspects') which are very present at advocacy and lobby level, but sometimes are not really connected with the population they are supposed to give voice to; how to reach and really support the ones working in the field and their right of initiative; how to get simplification in order to conciliate procedures and reality; how to match the need of quick results and the long term support that a real social change requires.
The debate has been wide and deep, and many speakers from Third World countries have shown their desire for being protagonists. They have also made known to the EU their wish to speak about their countries, not only from the government's point of view, but also as a nation and as a people.
AVSI attended the Forum in force: Dania Tondini from Italy, Lucia Conti from Brussels, John Makoha from Uganda and Lorette Birara from Rwanda. “The conference was useful and important; it allowed me to have a better insight into the world of CSOs and development cooperation with the EU,” said Lorette. “I was also able to develop a better understanding about expectations, doubts, etc. (…) We are on track and sometimes ahead in terms of development practices, but we still need to improve our ability to capitalize and share our ideas in all forms.”