Press release 30 September 2021
MAJALAT, an EU-funded initiative supporting the EU - Civil Society Dialogue in the Southern Mediterranean region closed this week.
Since its start in 2018, MAJALAT organized dozens of debates, including three national round tables in June in Lebanon, Tunisia and Morocco, bringing together civil society organisations, trade-unions, policy makers, experts and grassroot organisations from across the Mediterranean. It also held three annual Civil Society Forums, developed six in-depth thematic studies, a platform offering a wide range of online resources and an e-learning tool, and a registry of over 600 civil society organisations.
A series of meetings this month looked back on four years of work and dialogue promoting reform in a region that has witnessed continued and renewed forms of authoritarianism, the erosion of fundamental freedoms and the devastating effects of corruption and economic breakdown.
The Covid-19 pandemic which erupted almost two years ago added immense loss of human life and exposed millions in the Southern Mediterranean to extreme poverty. Strictly circumscribed emergency powers introduced to control it were prolonged and expanded, leading to unprecedented curbs on freedoms. In this period, unrest and climate change have forced an ever-increasing number of people to seek refuge in Europe.
Lebanon, and Tunisia are the latest countries in turmoil, but all in the region are facing crises. There is growing awareness that political, economic and social change in the Southern Mediterranean is a long term process, but to what extent has the EU-Civil Society structured Dialogue improved prospects and influenced EU policy towards the region?
These questions were raised in recent meetings with Members of the European Parliament, during which MAJALAT representatives conveyed demands made by CSOs throughout the project and during the last Civil Society Forum, held in July. They were also discussed on 14 September in a meeting held in Paris at the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs, with France set to take over the rotating presidency of the EU Council in January next year.
Key demands included conditionality of aid to concrete and measurable efforts by countries in the region to tackle corruption, respect human rights and the rule of law, and adopt and commit to climate targets and social justice policies. There is broader consensus today that protecting human rights and sustainable development are tightly interwoven goals, and that the fight to protect freedoms, justice, equality, climate and health are all part of a single battle for human rights.
Calls directed at the EU included the establishment of a special framework for dialogue on trade and investments involving South-based CSOs, bolder plans for climate transition and climate justice, and renewed action to support youth and end violence against women and girls. Civil society organisations also demanded greater role in policy-making towards the region, in line with recent resolutions by the European Parliament.
“MAJALAT built a constructive and lasting dialogue on issues of common interest to stakeholders in the Euromed region, MAJALAT partners said. “It offered a much needed space of solidarity for human rights’ defenders and people advocating for change in the region. People feel isolated and endangered, never has their need for togetherness been stronger. The challenge is great, but the EU’s Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy and New Agenda for the Mediterranean demonstrate its resolve to act decisively to counter the erosion of human rights and increase support to civil society in the Southern Mediterranean. This gives us hope for the future”.
As the project draws to an end, MAJALAT partners thank all actors in the region and beyond, who contributed to robust dialogue in the past few years supporting of Civil Society in the Southern Mediterranean.
An EU-supported initiative, MAJALAT was implemented by a consortium of six partners led by EuroMed Rights and including the Forum des Alternatives Maroc (FMAS), REF - Réseau Euromed France, the Arab Trade Union Confederation (ATUC), the Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND) and SOLIDAR.