The European Confederation of Relief and Development NGOs – CONCORD, with the Romanian NGDO Platform – FOND and the Balkans Civil Society Development Network – BCSDN organised the CONCORD HUB3 Spring Meeting between the 13th and 15th of March, in Brussels.
The first two days of the meeting were organised as part of the CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness – CPDE 2017 Regional Work Plan and represented an effort of European civil society organizations to build a platform for discussions, exchanges and solutions of shared problems concerning civic space and development effectiveness in the 3 sub-regions comprising the European Region – EU, Black Sea & Balkans.
The first day of the event, 13th of March, was dedicated to promoting civil society space and started with an opening panel attended by Justin Kilcullen, CPDE European Regional Representative, Izabella Toth, CPDE EU Sub-regional Representative/ CONCORD HUB3 Steering Group member, Ștefan Cibian, FOND President and Biljana Spasovska, Focal point for Balkan Sub-region/ Balkan Civil Society Development Network.
The speakers in the opening panel highlighted the worrying trend of shrinking space for civil society in all three sub-regions – EU, Black Sea & Balkans, pointing also towards a sense of distrust between government and citizens and a disconnection between organised civil society and social movements. Given this situation, they challenged the audience to reflect upon these issues and on what all three sub-regions could do to address them together, for example by creating regional initiatives and facilitating partnerships.
The day continued with a series of two parallel thematic workshops organised by CSOs from all three sub-regions, specificallty:
From the Black Sea & the Balkans sub-regions: “Enabling Environment for Civil Society in Europe – Regional Challenges, Possible Synergies and Engagement at European Level” (FOND & BCSDN), “Challenges and opportunities of enabling environment in EaP countries”, (Protection of Rights without Borders, Armenia and Baku Academy of Human Rights Law, Azerbaijan), and “Transforming Accountability” (BCSDN);
From the EU sub-region: “Get ready for the Partnership Forum” (CONCORD), “Promoting positive civil society contribution in EU policy and programmes in an increasingly challenging environment” (CONCORD & Civil Society Europe), “Shrinking space by illiberal democracies” (CROSOL, Croatian National Platform), and “From the culture of protest rallies to civic engagement: Gains and Challenges (The Civic Resource Center, Romania).
In the second day, 14th of March, a special session dedicated CPDE European Region was jointly organised by CONCORD, FOND and BCSDN, part of the 2017 CPDE European Regional Work Plan. Bringing together CSO representatives from the EU, Black Sea and the Balkans, the session aimed at introducing CPDE and its policy priorities, presenting the involvement of European NGOs in this platform and initiating a brainstorming concerning the priorities that the European Region should bring forward for 2018. The day then continued with a session on the research “Digital4Development”, part of the 2017 Work Plan, in which the two consultants contracted for this research – Dagmar Bosanska and Katarina Sramkova – organised a world café to gather input on several aspects of digitalisation – impact on privacy, the way countries are run, mobilisation and democracy, labour market and social innovation.
The meetings gathered over 50 participants in total, out of which 11 were civil society representatives coming from the Black Sea Region (Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Republic of Moldova) and the Balkans (Albania, Serbia, Kosovo and the Republic of Macedonia).