The newly published report by Hrant Kostanyan, an Associate Research Fellow at Centre for European Policy Studies, is the first attempt to conduct an in-depth assessment of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum after four years of its operation.
The report singles out the institutionalisation and socialisation inculcated among its members as the Forum’s greatest accomplishment. In contrast to Forum’s internal developments, the report argues that the external policy successes of the Forum remain modest.
Ten actionable recommendations are put forward aimed at improving the Civil Society Forum’s standing and performance.
- The CSF has become a platform for the EU’s and its Eastern partner countries’ civil society organisations to engage in socialisation, resulting in a high degree of internalisation of European norms and values. This characteristic of the Forum needs to be maintained in the future since there are new participants attending the CSF every year.
- The CSF has succeeded in creating a highly sophisticated and functional institutional architecture. Therefore, at this stage, the members of the Forum should stop spending time in engaging in long processes that amount to navel-gazing but should direct their efforts toward achieving results externally.
- The Steering Committee should consider changing the term of the civil society delegates participating in the Forum from one to two years and use the time and energy that is currently spent in the selection process every year to produce more substantive output.
- Some EU officials acknowledge that in specific policy areas the recommendations of the CSF have been useful. The Forum has to continue to improve the quality of its reports and recommendations in the rest of the areas covered by its Working Groups.
- Participation in the EaP inter-governmental platforms by the members of the CSF has proved valuable. However, its effectiveness could be maximised if organisational issues were improved (e.g., invitations sent by EU officials at an earlier stage, better preparedness of the CSF delegates to offer civil society’s own contributions).
- For the newly created Secretariat of the Steering Committee to realise its potential, it needs to have a mid-term institutional budget line and more than two staff members. In order to make the Forum more effective, the members of the Steering Committee should allow the Secretariat to develop into a real executive body that has power to harmonise procedures and lead on more strategic issues.
- Attending the annual Assembly is not the end goal of joining the CSF but the beginning of (at least) one year of collaborative effort. Toward this end, the Working Groups of the Forum ought to live up to their name.
- The National Platforms’ composition should mirror that of the CSF as much as possible. The leadership of some National Platforms have to work toward making the Platforms more inclusive rather than dominated by specific groups of NGOs. The selection criteria and membership of the EU CSOs in the CSF require urgent clarification.
- The CSOs’ monitoring of the implementation of the EaP countries’ commitments as well as awareness-raising activities have to be more clearly geared toward influencing official decision-making in those states.
- The CSF mirrors the major weakness of the wider civil society participants, that is, their detachment from the broader populace in the EaP countries. Every activity within the framework of the Forum should include the component of (re)connecting the CSOs with the society at large. There can be no civil society activism detached from the people they presume to represent.
Download Full report (ENG)