The International Conference ?Building the Africa-Europe Partnership: What Next?? debated some of the major issues under discussion at the next Africa-EU Summit, which will take place in 2014 and the Post-2015 Development Agenda which includes, amongst others, the reanalysis of the Millennium Development Goals.

Organised by Marquês de Valle Flôr Institute (Instituto Marquês de Valle Flôr, IMVF), the Institute for Strategic and International Studies (Instituto de Estudos Estratégicos e Internacionais, IEEI) and the Centre for African Studies of ISCTE-IUL, in partnership with the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM), the conference took place on December the 13th and 14th at Auditorium 2 of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.

The issues discussed by more than twenty European and African speakers were the impact of the partnership on the global crisis, demographic trends, security problems in Northern Africa and the Sahel, the appearance of new partners and funding for development. The key issues discussed in the several sessions were the following:

Crisis: Africa and Europe are living different moments; Africa has been experiencing high growth rates for the last ten years and Europe is plunged into a stagnation and institutional and political crisis relating to its integration model. These opposite realities have led to the questioning of aid paradigms, with political issues assuming a backstage position in light of shared economic interests. The entry of new emerging partners, namely China, accelerated streamlining, thus resulting in progressive change in agendas from the partnership component to issues such as business and development aid.

Demography: there are different priorities concerning demographic challenges of the partners. For Europe the priorities are the aging population, which brings with it a social security model sustainability crisis, aggravated by the anti-immigration policies in force. Confronted with political and economic short-term problems, with decreasing growth rates and the rise of unemployment, European countries have avoided tackling the policies needed in respect to birth rates and migration to counteract the impact of an aging population. In Africa, demographic growth rates have been above generation renewal (2,1% per year), originating problems in urban planning rhythms and in employment offers (as growth is higher than the offers), especially for young people, leading to increased marginalisation and social pressure. Thus, issues such as the control and planning of population growth are priority issues, contrarily to Europe. In this backdrop the investment in heath care systems and women empowerment are crucial, not only for family planning policies but for sexual and reproductive health in general, which is also reflected in terms of indicators such as maternal and child mortality rates. Under debate was also the lack of relevance attributed to demographic issues in terms of governmental policies despite its importance in the medium and long-term, as well as the lack of knowledge and ability to implement comprehensive and innovative programmes, namely on youth and employment.

[On this issue please view the following documents:

– O resumo das intervenções

– A Apresentação de Ana Pires de Carvalho, demógrafa

– A Apresentação de Gregory de Paepe, Centro de Desenvolvimento da OCDE]

Security: security issues in vast regions of the Sahel and neighbouring areas were considered a priority in the sessions, as well as the need to invest more in gathering knowledge on the ongoing issues, thus avoiding sound-bites from media and political forces interested in showing their partial view of reality. In this respect the need to leave to regional African organisations possible decisions on military interventions, avoiding unilateral interventions of international and European forces, was considered especially important. The case of Libya was used as a reference to the inconsideration of the opposition of the African Union to NATO?s intervention in the country; also under focus was the fragility of Mali?s regime to deal with the consequences of the disappearance of the Libyan regime, in opposition to Niger?s response, despite the fact that Mali has been represented more recently as an example of stability and democracy in Africa. The existence of double standards of the European Union concerning these countries was also mentioned and how that undermines the rising of this block as an effective political actor at a global level.

[On this issue please view the following documents:

– A apresentação de Morten Boas, sobre a crise no norte do Mali

– A apresentação de Alexandra Dias sobre o radicalismo armado no Norte de África]

Funding: the impact on Africa of the increase in international demand for raw materials since the beginning of the previous decade, the appearance of ?new? partners, especially China (but not only China) and the return of private investment were the key issues debated. The increase of funding without political conditioning for infrastructural constructions opened a window of opportunity for most of the African countries and enhanced the business environment attracting again international and national private investment. This created a better negotiation standpoint for these countries which now have space to implement their own development strategies. Also mentioned in the sessions was the fact that contrarily to Europe, where a significant share of EU member states are struggling in their macroeconomic indicators, especially concerning debt and budget deficits regarding their GDP, the majority of African countries, because of structural adjustments and debt pardoning, have better indicators. However, we know today that poverty reduction cannot take place without economic growth but there can be high rates of economic growth without poverty reduction leading to increased domestic inequalities, thus the challenge is in building sustainable and inclusive growth. Other issues debated included the re-evaluation of criteria for Official Development Assistance, and how this intertwines with other external fluxes and policies (in terms of coherence), and how to evaluate the global effort of each country towards development.

[On this issue please view the following documents:

– O resumo das intervenções dos oradores

– A apresentação de Diogo Gomes Araújo, Presidente Executivo da SOFID]

Future of the partnership: Transversal to all the debates, was the idea that relationships are still stamped by handouts policies and historical pre-concepts that affect mutual trust between parties, and also that the partnerships lack ?political traction?, i.e., there is a still long way to go to create real continental political partnerships between the two parties. The need to re-launch the partnership by progressively advancing from a practice and discourse centred almost exclusively on aid to an effective political dialogue and the creation of an environment that favours investment and commercial relations, with the accountability of both parties, was considered key. Therefore, it is time for both continents to rethink their interests in terms of this relationship, the added values of the partnership and the mutual images/ perceptions that still encompass this relationship, investing in a more franc and open dialogue about their real interests.

[On this issue please view the following documents:

– O paper do Embaixador J.K. Shinkaiye, antigo chefe de Gabinete do Presidente da Comissão da União Africana, sobre o futuro da parceria UE-África

– O paper de Thomas Lawo, sobre a agenda de desenvolvimento pós-2015]

The summaries and conclusions of the debates will be published soon.

View some of the documents distributed at the Conference:

[- Programa (Folheto)

– Enquadramento dos Debates (Português)

– Enquadramento dos Debates (Inglês)

– Bios dos oradores

– Lista dos participantes]

With the support of Camões ? Institute for Cooperation and Language, Portugal Africa Foundation and Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation

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