In response to the Arab Spring the EU has promised to shift away from business as usual to ensure that support for human rights and democracy are central to its cooperation policy with the Arab neighbourhood. Enabling civil society to function and advocate for citizen’s priorities and rights and hold governments and donors to account is pivotal. To date regional consultation on EU policies towards the region has been either insufficient, without impact, or too late. Furthermore, double standards of the past have undermined the EU’s credibility in the Arab world and created a distrust of its intentions.
While supporting necessary reform in the region, the EU must take care to not to occupy the driving seat, which would risk delegitimizing transitions led by the people. The EU needs to ensure that civil society representatives, especially women organisations and youth groups, have a statutory, meaningful, and timely role in EU-Government dialogue in its current and future cooperation, and must press for such civil society consultation in the transition processes themselves. Without genuine dialogue between civil society and a legitimate government, its concept of More for More (more aid for more reform) will not succeed.
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