Civil society representatives unites for joint recommendations to the EU

News - 2019-11-07
Good Governance, media freedom, gender equality and donor policies. The topics were many and the discussions engaging when Forum Syd gathered around 90 representatives from civil society, journalists, think-tanks, institutions and business sector to discuss the future of the Eastern Partnership region (EaP).
Attendees are watching the recommendations
Forum Syd, in cooperation with the International Council of Swedish Industry and Swedish Institute for International Affairs, arranged the two-day event.

While the EU is preparing for the never-ending Brexit saga are some of its neighbors in the east doing their best to do the opposite – joining the union. 

As hard as it is to leave, even harder can it be for countries still lacking fundamental freedoms and human rights to join. While the financial opportunities are enticing the demands for democracy and human rights are less thrilling for some leaders to accept.   

That’s why Forum Syd brings organisations, media experts and think-tanks from all countries in the EaP region and the EU to reach common solutions and joint approaches on what efforts that are needed to strengthen the civil society, now and in the future.

Portrait of Teona in a gray shirt. Behind her are empty chairs while other participants are on coffee break.
You can't achieve sustainable change without the civil society, we can’t be excluded, says Teona Lebanidze.

- It is crucial to have conferences like this where civil society organisations like us can raise our voices towards the EU on what is really needed, says Teona Lebabidze from the UN Association of Georgia.

The conference also took a meta approach questioning if the EU really has the monopoly to call human rights and freedom of speech to be European values rather than universal values. Especially in times of shrinking space and backlash against civil society in countries like Hungaria and Poland.

- We must make sure that lawmakers also walk the talk and live up to their promises of change, says Teona Lebanidze

Lilia Carasciuc is standing up among the audience speaking into the microphone.
Corruption in EaP countries seriously affect security across all of Europe. Civil society from EU and EaP need to join efforts in collective anti-corruption actions, says Lilia Carasciuc Executive Director at Transparency International Moldova.

The demands are many, reforms are necessary and the current situation for the civil society in the EaP region varies a lot depending on where you look, but many of the challenges of especially media freedom, good governance and gender equality is similar throughout the whole region. Among the participants, businesses and SMEs were also present to share their views of challenges and possibilities that exist. 

The ten year anniversary for EaP took place at several places in Stockholm. There were also events hosted by the Swedish Ministry of Foriegn Affairs, Sida and the Swedish parliament. 

Portrait of Mikayel Hovhannisyan  in front of a curtain.
We live in new times of the post-truth era. We must prepare that liberal values are being more questioned than ever, says Mikayel Hovhannisyan.

- It’s very interesting to have such a diverse group gathered to reflect on our future and topics like gender mainstreaming. It’s important that conferences like this don’t end up to homogenous, says Mikayel Hovhannisyan from Eurasia Partnership Foundation. 

Collaboations with a result

The event resulted in conclusions on what efforts that are needed for a fair and sustainable development for the civil society, and how the cooperation between the six countries in the EaP and the EU can be stronger, more inclusive and effective.

- The EU has an important role to play. The democratization of Armenia was a much smoother process thanks to their support, says Mikayel Hovhannisyan

Portrait of Per Olsson Fridh speaking with his hand raised.
"Sweden is currently in designing a new strategy for its development cooperation in the region. The input from local actors in the EaP is essential to ensure that the cooperation is based on the needs of the civil society and that no one is left behind", says state secretary Per Olsson Fridh in his speech.

During the final day, the participants produced a common list of recommendations to be presented to the European Commission as a joint input from the civil society in the region on what must happen to strengthen the region, in terms of rights and freedoms, rule of law, media literacy and anti-corruption. 

This event was part of the Swedish effort to highlighted and celebrated that it is 10 years since the establishment of the EaP as a region, and that it is now timely to discuss what  focus areas that are needed in the EaP and the EU for the future of the cooperation for 2020 and beyond. 

In front of the audience
"It is vital to increase funding and support to media freedom and media literacy projects". One of the conclusions presented during the last day.

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