HRDs being interviewed by journalists


No Decision About Us Without Us!

15 February 2022

Joint African-European Civil Society Statement

to All Heads of State and Government Dignitaries attending the 6th EU-AU Summit

February 2022

Today’s efforts by the AU and EU to create an equal and fair partnership are entrenched in past colonial and postcolonial cooperation. They are challenged by structural and systemic inequalities between the two parties. The success of today’s efforts will depend upon a recognition of the past, an awareness of the present, and a commitment to a mutually beneficial transformation towards the future. Building a transformed partnership will necessitate a continent-to-continent approach, as well as a meaningful engagement with key actors such as civil society in all its diversity, with a priority voice for the people’s organizations, mandated to represent major sectors of the population.

It is highly regrettable that in the framework of their partnership, the EU and AU have failed to reach out to civil society organizations until the very last moment, underscoring the lack of inclusivity and transparency in this process. In so doing, you have excluded the voices of the millions of people who will be directly affected by the decisions you make. On the other hand, you will likely prioritize the interests of the few over the well-being of the majority and you risk leaving millions even further behind.

We, African, European, and diaspora CSOs, take this opportunity to express our concern that such a flawed process can reinforce current imbalances of power and privilege. CSO participation is crucial to ensure that cooperation between the AU and EU promotes joint priorities, that flagship initiatives resonate with local realities and possible existing solutions, and that no one is left behind. As it is, the EU continues to disregard African Union priorities as set out in the Agenda 2063, cherry-picking those elements that suit it. The EU, despite its commitment to forge a people-centered partnership, does not appear to be putting people first. For its part, the AU’s policy decision-making could benefit from more inclusive and transparent dialogue with civil society and people’s organizations.

As a result of such an imbalanced partnership and of shutting out civil society, the Summit’s long-awaited outcome has insufficient emphasis on the key, systemic issues for African countries such as widespread unemployment and especially of the young people, imbalanced trade relationship, debt cancellation, food sovereignty, land- and resource-grabbing, human rights violations – including economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights – the climate crisis, biodiversity loss, and vaccine and medicine inequity.

Civil society exclusion is symptomatic of the past and the present, but there is still time to use the EU-AU Summit as a moment of transformation toward the future.


The AU-EU partnership should be based on equality, inclusivity, mutual accountability, shared values and prosperity. A partnership reset is urgently needed. To this end:

  1. The EU and AU should work to transcend the traditional colonial and post-colonial, North-South, donor-recipient framework within which relations have thus far been established. This must entail a thorough review of systemic and structural issues that underpin the currently imbalanced AU-EU relationship – in areas such as trade relations, debt, and illicit financial flows – and which exacerbate rather than improve equity of international governance. Rules governing world order must be established fairly and democratically. Respect and promotion of universal human rights must be at the heart of the EU-AU strategic partnership. The review should also address recovery post-COVID-19 and joint priorities such as promoting equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, enhancing human development, promoting gender equality, tackling the climate crisis, and reducing Africa’s dependency on food imports.
  2. The EU and AU should establish clear governance mechanisms within which to reset the partnership, encompassing a broad multi-actor approach, joint decision-making via transparent and participatory processes, timely, accessible, and available information, implementation, monitoring, and accountability structures. This should include a meaningful, long-term engagement with African, European, and Diaspora CSOs. The voices of people most affected by decisions must be at the core of an effective and transformational AU-EU partnership. The partnership should reinforce the role of public policies and effectively regulate corporate sector influence and investment. The establishment of such governance mechanisms should start with agreement on an inclusive monitoring and accountability system regarding the outcomes of this Summit.
  3. The AU-EU partnership should recognize and build on the diversity, knowledge, and skills within the African and European continents. To this end, the AU and EU, in dialogue with civil society organizations, regional economic communities, and local authorities, should draw up a clear roadmap to respect and deliver on the localization agenda, ensuring a transfer of power and resources to local actors who are directly involved in ensuring the political, social and economic progress of a nation, while respecting the planetary boundaries. In all decisions and actions, the EU and AU must recognize and promote human rights, a people-centered approach, and territorially embedded social and solidarity economies.

List of signatory organisations