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A glance at EU - Latin America relations
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A glance at EU - Latin America relations

 

ACT ALLIANCE EU- CIFCA - GRUPO SUR

SPECIAL ISSUE: II EU-CELAC Civil Society Forum

Newsletter #4: April-June 2015

 

This newsletter has been written by ACT Alliance EU, CIFCA and GRUPO SUR, European networks based in Brussels with the aim of providing analysis and information on European Union-Latin America relations to all those organisations and individuals working on this subject.
 
This newsletter will be produced every three months. The next issue will be available in July.


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Analysis of EU - Latin America relations

 

The EU CELAC Civil Society Forum:  EU needs to rethink EU Latin America relations.
 


Credits: CONCORD

In a recent article commissioned by the EU-LAC foundation [1], the Spanish academic Jose Antonio Sanahuja, foresees the upcoming EU-CELAC Summit (Brussels June 2015) as an opportunity “for the launching of a reinvigorated political dialogue to strengthen the relationships between the regions” and underlines the “shared economic interests and wide arrangement of interdependencies.” [2]  

On the 19th and 20th of March 2015, the II EU CELAC civil society forum took place in Brussels where more than 120 civil society representatives from Latin America and Europe gathered to discuss the EU CELAC relationship and the need to promote greater cooperation and socioeconomic equality with a focus on human rights. For two days diverse actors such as peasant organizations, trade unions, women’s organizations and development organizations sat down to discuss with human rights organizations, cooperatives and environmental organizations from a total of 61 countries.  The fora allowed for a wide (and sometimes heated) discussion and resulted in a strong joint political declaration. All participants agreed that in order to achieve more just societies that promote socio-economic equality and a relationship between the two continents in which both sides promote rights and welfare, as well as guarantees for full citizen participation in democratic governance, some of the current priorities of the EU-CELAC relationship would have to be questioned and readjusted.

In contrast to Sanahuja, the civil society organizations declared that in order to promote socio- economic, equality, human rights and poverty reduction need to be prioritized over economic interests.  As Laura Sullivan, Vice-President of CONCORD stated, “Europe needs to have a fairer relationship with Latin America, ensuring that its policies on trade, energy and agriculture are coherent and do no harm.”

The joint declaration therefore called for the two regions to halt the Free Trade agreements
currently in place or being negotiated (TTIP, TISA) and to cease to promote large-scale investment in the extractive industry and move towards diversifying schemes that respect  the rights of nature, the grave impact on climate change and the right to prior, free and informed consent of the affected populations, in particular the indigenous peoples. More concretely, the declaration echoed its support for a binding treaty on businesses and human rights and that the EU should participate in a constructive manner in the established working group in the UN. The need to concretize the bi-regional dialogue on gender equality and translate the commitments into public policies and budgets that guarantee the right of women was also underlined. Finally, the declaration also called for concrete measures by the EU and CELAC authorities rejecting all violations of freedom of expression and violence against civil society (intimidation, prosecution, repression) and to ensure effective measures to protect human rights defenders.

The forum showed once again how active and important the bi-regional civil society dialogue is, not just between civil society but also between civil society and their respective institutions and governments. This was affirmed by Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs, in her opening speech who spoke of the importance of the promotion and respect for civil society participation in the formulation of public policies  and stated with concern that “we know that in some countries the dialogue is limited and the margin for commitment is still reduced and is being more reduced.”[3] However, as one participant stated, in order to avoid the bi-regional dialogue be just a formality that does not serve any purpose, it is necessary to ensure a budget, agenda, wide participation and monitoring. [4]

--------------------------------
 
[1] http://eulacfoundation.org/en/
[2] The EU and CELAC: Reinvigorating a Strategic Partnership"
[3] In some countries, dialogue with civil society organisations is limited and the space for engagement remains narrow or is even, in some cases, shrinking. Federica Mogherini, 19th of March 2015 
[4] “sin presupuesto, agenda, amplia participación y monitoreo, el diálogo birregional con la sociedad civil que los acuerdos promueven no será más que una formalidad, que a veces se cumple, pero que no sirve para nada”.
Gabriela Cáceres,  Action solidarité tiers-monde (ASTM) En “La sociedad civil exige apoyo y diálogo”, En DW. 21.03.2015 

Contextual information

 

The next steps for Civil Society ahead of the II EU-CELAC Summit 
 

Now that the EU-CELAC Civil Society Forum has taken place, the next question to consider is how civil society organisations can continue working together to make an impact during the second EU-CELAC Summit in June this year

It is important to remember that the EU-CELAC Summits are the highest level bi-regional events in existence. During the summits, heads of State and Government from Latin America, the Caribbean and the European Union establish the framework that will guide bi-regional relations for the following years. These guidelines are set out in a bi-regional action plan, which includes agreements and specific actions on different topics of mutual interest to the States of the European Union and Latin America and the Caribbean. At the end of the next EU-CELAC Summit in June, it is expected that three new chapters related to public safety, food security and secondary education, will be added to the existing Action Plan. Civil society’s aim is therefore to influence as much as possible the forthcoming EU-CELAC Summit, so that critical issues for the two regions are taken into account, such as increased inequalities, the impact of trade agreements and the decrease in civil society fora in Europe and Latin America and within the European Union institutions. [1]

The first step in this advocacy process was the Civil Society Forum held on 19 and 20 March. This was a meeting of different sectors leading up to the Summit. The Trade Union Meeting, the Meeting of Organized Civil Society, and the Academic Forum and Business Summit were also held. In these forums, each sector tries to position its issues and messages for the upcoming Summit.

The latest EU-CELAC Civil Society Forum represented an important step for civil society on the road to refining its advocacy for the Summit. More than 100 participating organisations from Latin America and the Caribbean and Europe discussed the most important issues facing both regions and worked on a policy statement to include positions and proposals related to these issues. Currently, the organisers are in the process of incorporating the latest comments into the declaration which will be sent very soon to all participating organisations, as well as to others that did not participate in the Forum, for their signatures. It is expected that a large number of organisations will sign the declaration, which will make it a legitimate tool which consolidates the messages that civil society wishes to convey to the authorities in both regions.

The question of who to target in our advocacy work is complex for a process of this magnitude due to the number and diversity of the actors involved. The bi-regional nature of this process means that advocacy must be undertaken in both the European Union and Latin America and the Caribbean. Thus, civil society organisations need to coordinate efforts to achieve maximum impact on both sides of the Atlantic. On the one hand, in the EU, mainly via European organisations and networks, advocacy 

Credits: CONCORD

is being undertaken with the Permanent Representations of the European Union countries in Brussels, the Embassies of Member States, the European External Action Service, the European Commission and with national governments in the capitals of the EU member states.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, mainly local organisations are carrying out advocacy work with the aim of making an impact on the governments of Latin American and the Caribbean, and in particular with the pro-tempore presidency of CELAC.

It is also worth mentioning that civil society will have a voice in the EU-CELAC Summit itself. On behalf of the organisations who are signatories to the declaration, one representative from Latin American and Caribbean civil society and one European representative will present the concerns and proposals of civil society contained in the policy statement to leaders from both regions. This space represents an excellent opportunity to express the voice of civil society with leaders of the highest level from both regions

Finally, a few days before the Summit, civil society organisations will hold the People's Summit in Brussels, comprising a series of actions and mobilisations intended to share the concerns and proposals of civil society with decision makers and the media. The actions will revolve around issues such as growing inequality, investment policies and the role of transnational corporations, the impact of global and EU policies on access to land, food sovereignty and climate change.

Despite the complexity of this advocacy process, there is clearly a significant joint effort being made by civil society to send messages to governments and supranational institutions so that they are taken into account during the next EU-CELAC Summit and in the future. Hopefully the process will be a great success.
 

[1] See declaration, soon to be published 

For further information, see:
- Article in Newsletter 3: The CELAC-EU Summit; what is at stake?
Madrid 2010 Action Plan
Action Plan: New Chapters added in Chile 2013
Preparation in 2015 for the Summit

Interviews

 

Jorge Coronado, member of the Comisión Nacional de Enlace Costa Rica, part of the Central Observatory to monitor Free Trade Agreements 


Credits: Ticovisión

Currently some Central American countries have entered into trade agreements with the United States and the European Union. These agreements have been created in the belief that free trade is the way to promote economic and social development in the signatory countries.
 
However, several criticisms have been voiced regarding the real impact of these agreements on the Central American population. In order to visualise the negative effects of these treaties and their real impact on improving the living standards of the region’s inhabitants, Central American civil society has launched the Observatory on Free Trade Agreements, a project to document and report the social, environmental, cultural and economic impacts and the effects on human rights, caused since the implementation of these agreements.
 
In the EU-CELAC Civil Society Forum held in Brussels on 19 and 20 March, the European networks ACT ALLIANCE EU (formerly APRODEV), GRUPO SUR and CIFCA had the opportunity to interview Jorge Coronado and get to know a little more about the work done by the Observatory.
 
Q. Can you describe to us the importance of the Observatory in the present context of relations between the EU and Central America?

Jorge Coronado: The idea arose after the entry into force of the Association Agreement between the EU and Central America. We organisations that were already monitoring various FTAs joined together, and began to form working relationships with European organisations and to see the transcendental importance of civil society assessing the impacts of the trade pillar of the AA which is the only pillar which is in force. The other two pillars, which are cooperation and political 
dialogue, are still awaiting approval by all 27 parliaments of the 27 EU Member States, and this could take several years. We want to assess technically whether the trade pillar is having more negative than positive effects.

Q. In what way was this Forum, this civil society meeting space, important to the Observatory?

.      Jorge Coronado: For now the Observatory is concentrating on the trade pillar, and so relations between Europe and Latin America are important for several reasons:

1. To share our initiative with organisations from the two regions.
2. To strengthen the relationship between Central American and European organisations.
3. To include our positions on a number of issues, particularly FTAs, ​​within the general agenda of bi-regional civil society so that these positions can be taken to the Presidential Summit.

Q. One of the objectives of the Forum was to reach a consensus on messages to present to the heads of State who will meet in Brussels in the EU-CELAC Summit. Can you tell us what the Observatory’s expectations are in relation to the Summit?

Jorge Coronado: These summits are always contradictory. You arrive with high expectations and then these expectations diminish. We believe there is now a different context, the European crisis means there are forces at play in certain European governments that may be susceptible to support speeches and proposals from Latin American governments who are proposing changes in the type of relationship between Europe and Latin America.
 
We see this firstly as an opportunity, and secondly, we believe that as civil society we are better organised and that we are in a better position to counteract the strong voice of the private business sector in these spaces. Finally, and most importantly, this is no longer an EU-summit, it is now a CELAC summit, and that means a new Latin American organisational space, with Ecuador as president, with whom we have a very good relationship, which means that we can position some sensitive issues which in the past we have not been able to position in the official agenda.
 

Events

  • 27 and 28 April: CIFCA General Assembly, Brussels
  • 5 May: Launch of the office of the ACT Alliance EU
  • 6 - 7 May: Meeting of members of the ACT Alliance EU (formerly APRODEV)
  • 27 - 28 May: Meeting of Association Agreement Advisory Groups, Brussels
  • 29 May: Bi-regional Civil Society Forum on the Association Agreement
  • 4 June: Event on Femicide in the European Parliament, Brussels
  • 3-5 June: EUROLAT Plenary Session, Brussels
  • 8-10 May: Peoples’ Summit, Brussels
  • 10-11 June: EU-CELAC Summit, Brussels
  • 2 - 3 July: Grupo Sur Assembly. Paris
 
Here we can see the activities of Cifca, ACT Alliance EU and Grupo Sur for the period of April and July of 2015. If you click in the image it will redirect you to a pdf document, in this document you will find in the first page the timeline in Spanish and in the second one in English
.

Resources


-Press Release of the European networks ACT Alliance EU, CIDSE, CIFCA, Grupo Sur and OIDHACO after the Second EU-CELAC Civil Society Forum, held in Brussels on 10 and 11 March. European networks consider the Forum as a strategic moment to highlight the importance of symmetrical relations between the two regions that promote human rights, gender equality, that promote sustainable alternatives to the current economic model and contribute to the creation of more just and inclusive societies.
-Letter from civil society to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, on the opening of an Office of the High Commissioner in Honduras. In the letter, the signatory organisations offer a set of suggestions to be considered by the High Commissioner, so that the new Office in Honduras can help strengthen national institutions for the protection and enjoyment of human rights in the country.   
-Letter from international and Guatemalan organisations urging the renewal of the mandate of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (Comisión Internacional contra la Impunidad en Guatemala - CICIG) to continue its work investigating and participating in criminal proceedings and to work on strengthening the structure of public policy and on strengthening the justice sector institutions in the country.
Alternative Civil Society Report on the CICIG (Spanish)
-Launch of the Campaign “Defender la Vida es un Derecho” (Defending Life is a Right) in Guatemala. On 26 January this campaign was launched, with the objective of demonstrating and dignifying the work of Human Rights defenders in Guatemala and raising awareness with the general population and the State. The campaign, launched by organisations including Oxfam and FONGI (International NGO Forum in Guatemala) and supported the EU, will run throughout 2015. From Europe, the Act Alliance EU (formerly APRODEV) and CIFCA are supporting the campaign.  
 
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More info: www.aprodev.eu / www.cifca.org / www.gruposur.org

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This newsletter has been produced with support from the European Union. Its contents are the authors’ responsibility and do not reflect the views of the European Union.