HDR: Session 1 English (en) Deutsch (de) español (es) français (fr) português (pt)

From CiSocH
Jump to: navigation, search


Minutes of the meeting


Over 30 participants took part in this CSO consultation, representing the four categories of stakeholders involved in the Human rights and Democracy Support Initiative: civil society organisations (CSOs), the European Commission, European Union Member States, the European Parliament. CSOs were represented by 6 Brussels-based networks or platforms. (see: list of attendance).


Sari Suomalainen (Head of Unit, Europeaid/F2) recalled the context of this CSO consultation. With the Amman regional seminar to be held at the end of June 2010, it is one of the key steps of the Support Initiative on Democracy and Human Rights to the Structured Dialogue on Civil Society and Local Authorities’ involvement in EC External Cooperation (Palermo II Process). It is meant to improve understanding of the role of various stakeholders in EC external cooperation. The Support Initiative concentrates on gathering best practices in the implementation of the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) and other instruments in the neighbourhood region, as close to a quarter of EIDHR support goes to Civil society in this region. A Best Practice Guide will be published after the Amman seminar, where 50 CSOs from around 20 countries, a dozen international NGOs, CSOs networks and Platforms, EC headquarters representatives and 20 EU delegations, EU Member States, the European Parliament and other donors will gather from June 29 to July 1, 2010. They will exchange views and make recommendations on how to improve the implementation of instruments supporting Human rights and Democracy. See: agenda of the consultation.


The topic was introduced by Andrew Jacobs (Head of Unit, EuropeAid/A2) as the moderator of this discussion, and by Carlos Hernandez (representative of the European Partnership for Democracy – EPD), who gave a presentation. Mr Jacobs underlined that the discussion today and in Amman was timely as the EC is currently identifying the actions to be implemented under the new National Indicatives Programmes (NIPs) of the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Policy (ENPI), recalling EC willingness to foster activities targeting and/or involving CSOs and human rights issues.

There is a tendency, both within the European Commission and among CSOs, to think that democracy and human rights are circumscribed to the EIDHR, which enjoys visibility and is easier to apprehend from CSO perspective (specific focus on human rights defenders, open consultations on programming, etc.). However, the EC main support to democracy and human rights is channelled through its Geographical instruments, notably through the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENPI) Instrument for the region of focus for this support initiative. European Member States also support human rights and democracy through their own mechanisms, as does the European Parliament. Harmonisation of these efforts among development actors is one the main principles of the Paris Declaration of 2005.

The discussions made clear that there are different interpretations of key concepts, notably what “Democratisation” and democracy support means and implies as activities, or what complementarity of the instruments mean. For some, the added value of the EIDHR resides in its ability to act “off the radar” and should focus on what cannot be done under geographic cooperation programmes, while for other it should aim at accompanying via different means geographic programmes, notably supporting civil society to follow and monitor cooperation undertaken under these programmes.

As far as EU instruments are concerned, in order to increase the focus on geographic instruments, several proposals were made. These included:

  • a better association of CSOs to geographic programmes. The modalities of their participation, in particular in difficult contexts, remain to be identified.
  • Developing a real strategy for promoting democracy and human rights, by involving also other donors; mainstreaming the language of democracy and human rights is not enough;
  • Better explanation of geographic cooperation to CSOs and simplification of cooperation mechanisms;
  • Imbedding a governance approach in all sector approaches, underlining the need for systematic dialogue to set consensus on reforms; considering multi-actors and multi-level approaches, as project approach alone is unlikely to have impact.

Participants stressed the need for increased human rights mainstreaming, i.e. to bring democracy and human rights to the fore front of EC cooperation programmes, particularly in difficult environments. This implies to increasing the complementarity between all instruments and programmes, in particular by:

  • Strengthening the link between EIDHR and geographic programmes and using democracy and human rights as a leverage (e.g. for advanced status), while avoiding instrumentalisation and “trade-offs”;
  • Defining mechanisms in EIDHR Strategy Papers for ensuring policy complementarity in partner countries between EIDHR and other policy instruments;
  • Approaching the issue of complementarity between EC programmes and policy, but also between various donors and various cooperation programmes at programming level, at implementation level, and in a long-term perspective.
  • Facilitating CSOs access to democracy and human rights funding (language, procedures, etc.).

A recurrent and strong observation made by all participants was the need to enhance the resources of EU Delegations, especially in terms of staff. Participants pleaded for a “strategic empowerment of Delegations” and recalled that the conditions for efficient mainstreaming included sufficient trained staff in EU Delegations to monitor programmes and stronger capacity of the Delegations to contribute to tailoring the EIDHR niches from the point of view of complementarity.


The topic was introduced by Andrea Ostheimer (Konrad Adenauer Foundation, ENoP), moderator, and by Sandrine Grenier (Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network – EMHRN, member of the Human Rights and Democracy Network – HRDN), who gave a presentation on the laws restricting the work of human rights defenders, as an example of difficult situations experienced in the ENP region. Her presentation referred to EMHRN 2010 report on Freedom of Association in the Euro-Mediterranean Region and highlighted the importance of freedom of association to create an enabling environment for civil society to operate. She underlined that it is that the lack of respect of freedom of association, both in the law and in practices, is the key challenge in the Mediterranean countries for human rights CSOs. Ms Ostheimer and different participants underlined the double challenge in the region posed by hurdles imposed by governments on human rights organizations and weak or failing states themselves, notably as professional and independent judiciary is often lacking and corruption ranks very high.

CSOs presented various “entry points” that can enable civil society’s work on democracy and human rights projects without branding them explicitly as such: economic and social rights, gender, education, cultural events, etc. They discussed about the added-value of EC, which implies a good civil society mapping, and clear strategy, i.e. a harmonised approach to difficult situations. They stressed the necessity to dissociate the EU long-term political perspective from its short-term actions to provide support to human rights and democracy. While the horizon for changes and reforms is rather elusive and requires long term commitments, many human rights projects supported under the EIDHR aim at providing immediate support, which sends an immediate message to the authorities, mostly under EIDHR Objective 1 and under projects supporting human rights defenders.

Participants discussed some of the tools that can be used to address difficult situations. In particular, they reflected on:

  • The possibility of working with “governmental NGOs” (GONGOs), for example to address non-critical issues where they can deliver concrete outputs, or to promote progressive elements within GONGOs, or to build confidence and promote openness of authorities in donor’s programs. The need for involving GONGOs in certain situations needs to be communicated well though to independent actors and ways of supporting the latter through EU CSOs needs to be highlighted in this context.
  • Responses to blockages and restrictive legislations and the need for discrete or alternative ways for cooperation and channelling funds – for example through human rights defenders projects. However, in some cases, alternative ways to channel funds could put extra risk on the recipients.
  • How to encourage more proposals targeting very difficult countries under the Objective 1 of the EIDHR: “Enhancing respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in countries and regions where they are most at risk”. EU CSOs and EU representatives agreed that in many cases they face the same obstacles to implement activities in very difficult environments, notably in countries where there is absolutely no avenue for civil society life (e.g. Libya), and that they need to think collectively as partners in their double role as donors and implementers;
  • How to assess the risk on beneficiaries. Should the assessment be done by the EC or should the EC assume that the beneficiary has done it? References were made to Human rights defenders jailed because of this financial assistance. In other cases, EC support could bring along protection to human rights defenders.
  • The need to develop South-South support in order to avoid difficulties linked to Northern involvement.
  • the added value of regional projects, that can help exchanging experiences between neighbours – and the fact that the EU does not use enough its own experience in terms of democracy promotion;
  • The need to develop capacity-building through EIDHR technical flexibility tools such as Re-granting, emergency support, or informal partners. Most EU CSOs explain that these tools do not correspond to their usual methods of action and therefore feature poorly in projects submitted for support to the EC.
  • The EC should not assume that financial support is the main preoccupation of CSOs, but also make sure that political support is given to CSOs;
  • the need to get democracy and human rights priorities higher on the agenda of EU Member States, which will have a more important role to play under the new European External Action Service.


This discussion was introduced by Nicolas Rougy (Club of Madrid, member of HRDN) as moderator and by Eva Maaten (Friedrich-Naumann-Stiftung für die Freiheit, ENoP) and Simon Derry (BBC World Service Trust) giving short presentations on the role of their organisations in reinforcing local civil society.

Discussions mainly focused on the following aspects of the role of European CSOs:

  • European CSOs’ role to increase local capacities, tailoring this role to each specific environment and to the local needs. In some cases, re-granting can be a tool to enhance capacity by “coaching” local partners on the use of funds. The lack of evaluation of capacity-building activities was pointed out. As a CSO representative put it, “EU organisations have the capacity and the content expertise, but not the knowledge of the country situation and needs”.
  • Ensuring the autonomy of the local partner. Partnership activities need to be designed so as to help local actors develop their own autonomy. In this respect, some participants warned on the risk that some projects may imply that the local partner may lose its autonomy in accepting to work on a topic which is not among its priorities. This is all the more important since European stakeholders may be accused of spreading Western values.
  • Partnerhip. Local CSOs should not systematically be positioned as partners as the direct management of a grant can be a good capacity-building exercise for them. If conditions were met, responsibilities could be transferred and European CSOs should not remain in a position of direct beneficiary. Several participants insisted on the need for a long-term approach to capacity-building (to ensure follow-up, sustainability, ownership).
  • European CSOs’ support to networking and coordination activities: they could help local actors to work together and streamline their Advocacy for change. Examples were given on how to bring actors together around issues or how to bridge divisions of CSOs communities through regional projects.
  • European CSOs’ role to break isolation of local CSOs, to voice their concerns to regional and international organisations, and to enable independent CSOs to gather in spaces free of intimidation. European CSOs can also act as intermediaries with national authorities, stimulating activities which will raise the credibility and legitimacy of local civil society. But also as intermediaries between institutional donors and local authorities by providing for alternative means of channelling aid.


Sari Suomalainen (Head of Unit, Europeaid/F2) moderated this discussion, and it was introduced by Leonor Rebassa (Frontline, member of HRDN), who presented some issues raised by human rights defenders and local human rights CSOs, in particular:

  • the importance of EU funding in supporting their work, but most importantly, in increasing their visibility and protection (examples: Dr. Soraya Sobhrang – Afghanistan – on the "independence" of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission resulting from international funding; Jackeline Rojas – Colombia – on the security provided to her and her colleagues because her project was funded by the EU, etc.);
  • Frustration when facing EU's complicated processes and high competition for limited funding;
  • EU funded projects not adapted to the reality, lack of coherence, lack of long term support and of sustainability of the projects;
  • Lack of knowledge about available funding, etc.

The EU Delegations have an important role to play in responding to these concerns, by:

  • increasing awareness of EU funding options and procedures;
  • improving consultation processes and local participation;
  • supporting genuine HRDs, etc.

In order to fulfil this role, they must have enough resources and staff devoted to developing proper contacts with local CSOs.

Participants discussed the use of calls for proposal as a selection procedure. Although calls for proposal sometimes create some of the frustrations pointed out above, the EIDHR Calls for Proposal to support human rights defenders was put forward as an example of good practices:

  • A system of coordination between different beneficiaries in order to increase efficiency and avoid duplication when supporting human rights defenders worldwide has been developed with the support of the EC. All projects were asked to include coordination activities in their budgets, and specific coordination meetings are convened by the EC every year. It is still work in progress, and needs to be improved. One key aspect is that such coordination needs to benefit from the use of new technologies, e.g. database to share information, secure e-mail communications, etc.
  • A flexible approach: In order to better support human rights defenders in difficult contexts and in emergency cases, the EU has adopted a very flexible approach, e.g. the call foresees different but still complementary ways of providing direct financial or material assistance to human rights defenders (direct support, reimbursement of expenses to local partners, sub-granting...). Some participants asked for these flexibility tools to be increased, notably to allow for a higher share of the budget to be used in re-granting and lumpsums; and for core funding of small CSOs to be allowed;
  • Mandatory partnerships with local CSOs as a way of sharing experience and building capacities. It is important to highlight that mandatory partnerships are formulated in a very flexible manner to avoid that such partnership becomes a burden for local CSOs.
  • Promotion of the inclusion of activities aimed at reinforcing capacities of HRDs

Participants discussed ways to improve selection procedures and management requirements, pointing out in particular: the difficulty for local CSOs to apply for local calls, the challenge of choosing the right partner (from CSOs’ point of view) and to assess the efficiency of the partnership (from EC’s point of view), the difficulty for some partners to report back on the project, the limits of the re-granting procedure (small lump sum; it cannot involve core funding), the role of the EC in fostering coordination between beneficiaries working on similar issues. EC representatives and CSOs working on freedom of association shared their experience of commissioning an horizontal ROM monitoring report assessing similar activities under different Freedom of association projects, which led to a better understanding of each project’s added value, areas of potential duplication or synergies, and ultimately a higher degree of cross-project information and coordination and better outputs. CSOs nonetheless questioned the impact of projects’ evaluations and the extent to which such evaluations are taken into account.

ITUC raised the specific case of trade unions, which are not usual players in the field of fund-raising and direct implementation of projects/grants. They generally do not have a mandate to implement projects, nor the capacities to manage funds. Furthermore, they do not necessarily need financial support as they receive financial support through membership affiliations.


The Consultation ended with a presentation on the preparation of the Amman seminar and a round table on CSOs’ expectations. This exchange of view highlighted the following points:

  • The need to ensure that the discussions in Amman will feed into the main Structured Dialogue;
  • The need for a precise methodology during the working group discussions in Amman;
  • The need to increase the time devoted to discussing projects supporting economic, social and cultural rights, as well as projects on gender issues.

Based on this discussion, a revised agenda will be prepared and the methodology for the Amman seminar will be finalised.


This the end of the consultation minutes about the seminar of 27 May 2010

It comes from the Structured dialogue