More than 120 representatives from economic and social councils and a large number of other civil society organisations from 14 Mediterranean countries and the EU gathered at the Palau Pedralbes, the headquarters of the Secretariat of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) in Barcelona, on 11 and 12 November for discussions on the future role of civil society in the UfM.
There can be no successful union between the north and south of the Mediterranean without the involvement of civil society and in particular of economic and social stakeholders such as employers’ organisations, trade unions, and other professional organisations, as well as relevant NGOs.´ This was the key message delivered by the representatives who called on the UfM to seek out structured partnerships with stakeholders and to involve them in the UfM´s projects on a regular basis in order to give legitimacy to the decisions made by UfM governments.
Mr Pedro Narro, for the European Economic and Social Committee, emphasised that “such involvement should start with input to the UfM ministerial conferences themselves but should extend in particular also to the conception, implementation and monitoring of UfM projects resulting from ministerial decisions.” Various participants also highlighted the need for more information on UfM activities.
The Secretariat of the UfM - its Secretary-General Mr Fathallah Sijilmassi and Deputy Secretary-General for social and civil affairs Ms Delphine Borione – responded positively to civil society’s call and expressed their willingness to foster the structured involvement of civil society stakeholders in the UfM´s work, in line with the UfM’s mandate.
Besides questions relating to civil society´s involvement in the UfM´s work, the participants, in the presence of the relevant UfM deputy secretaries-general, discussed several subjects of acute importance for the region, in particular youth unemployment and the economic challenge, the situation of women, the challenge of mobility and migration, and the need to improve the management of limited water resources.
In accordance with the decision taken at the Euro-Mediterranean Ministerial Conference in Barcelona in November 1995, the Economic and Social Councils and Similar Institutions of the European Union and the Euromed partner countries have regularly held Summits since 1995. The aim of these meetings is to promote greater understanding of the main issues affecting organised civil society in the Euromed region and to enhance mutual awareness of economic and social realities.
Union for the Mediterranean members are: Albania, Algeria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Monaco, Montenegro, Morocco, the Palestinian Territories, Syria, Turkey, and the European Union Member States.