Cotonou Partnership Agreement
 ACP-EU Relations in a Changing World


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Broadening the partnership to non-state actors and local governments

A background paper by Jean Bossuyt for the ECDPM seminar on the ACP-EU Partnership Agreement looks at the participation of non-state actors in the Partnership Agreement over the past five years. A companion piece by Zakaria Ould Amar shares some 'real-life' experiences from the Program in Support of Civil Society and Good Governance (PASOC)in Mauritania.

The Cotonou Agreement makes it clear that participation [of non-state actors] is not simply a question of 'sharing out the aid pie'. It is about overcoming a harmful 'public-private divide' by building a new partnership between state (central/local) and non-state actors for the delivery of development goods and services.

"We are in a state respecting the rule of law, so I forbid you to meet illegal organizations", Senior government official at the launching of the identification mission of PASOC.

"We, local governments, are elected by the people and NGOs don't have any legitimacy; so tell me, in whose name are they talking: members of the association of mayors in Adrar (North of Mauritania)?"

"For the first time ever in Mauritania, the operational management of a program financed under the EDF has not passed through the administration."

"The exposure of the administration to the PASOC process has somehow reduced fears that the civil society programme would work ‘against’ the state."


According to Bossuyt:

"The broadening of partnership has helped to reinforce democratic and participatory trends (where they existed) or to reduce barriers against the involvement of non-state actors (in rather closed political systems)."

"For the non-state actors and local governments, the whole process has often been pretty much a 'pedagogic exercise'. They discovered the potential and complexity of ACP-EC cooperation and also came to realise the "homework" that awaits them if they want to be credible players in the cooperation process."

"Preliminary assessments made by the EC suggest that in a majority of ACP countries things are moving in the right direction in terms of consulting non-state actors; mainstreaming of participation across sectors; access to funding; capacity support, etc. Similar surveys, produced by non-state actors, tend to be more critical on issues such as the overall quality of NSA participation, the institutional set-up (including for follow-up consultations) the access to funding or the procedural complexities."

"The political and institutional conditions for effective participation of non-state actors are not always in place at country and regional level. Non-state actors are often part of the problem, as in many ACP countries they tend to suffer severe weaknesses, including fragmentation, competition, the lack of solid representative structures, and governance problems."

"There is also no shortage of confusion. The end of the 'single-actor' approach means that the development stage is now occupied by a large number of actors...not surprisingly, there is some confusion among these actors about 'who should do what', compounded by territorial fights, jockeying for position and competition for funding."

"Engaging with civil society should not be done in a rushed way, as 'quick fixes' generally mean moving away from participatory to instrumental approaches to civil society engagement.

"It makes no sense to deliver civil society support programmes in a vacuum, as a self-standing action, isolated from mainstream development processes."

"The rapid increase in donor funding (from all sides) has often had perverse effects, such as an artificial explosion of civil society, including 'fake' organisations interested in tapping aid resources for private interests."

"Some ACP countries still display strong control-oriented attitudes towards civil society, using restrictive registration procedures as a selection mechanism."

"The new aid paradigm calls for a redefinition of the specific role played by European development actors (particularly NGOs and local government associations) in an increasingly complex, politicised, multi-actor and decentralised cooperation system."

Read the background papers by Jean Bossuyt and Zakaria Ould Amar; see the Euforic civil society dossier.

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