Alliance2015’s views from the European Citizens’ Summit

On the 21st-22nd of March, the Alliance2015 Hub had the privilege of participating in a major event held at the magnificent Royal Flemish Theatre in Brussels. Organized by CNCD-11.11.11 and European networks of civil society organizations, the European Citizens’ Summit provided a valuable space for various European Civil Society groups to engage in discussions on pressing international solidarity issues affecting both the European continent and the global community. It served as an opportunity to cultivate collaborations and synergies among participants. Alliance2015 had the opportunity to co-organize three workshops and share its expertise on themes touching upon every one of its three Impact Goals, enriching the event with valuable insights.  

The timing of the European Citizens’ Summit was strategically chosen, occurring during the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, around two months before the European elections and alongside the EU Summit. The opening plenary session, featuring prominent leaders from European and international civil society, emphasized the urgent need to break silos and foster collaboration among diverse organizations. Participants emphasized the collective effort needed to address critical issues such as climate change, international cooperation and financing, workers’ rights, corporate justice, and human rights.  

A large number of workshops were held on Thursday afternoon and Friday morning, delving into various themes. Their program can be found here

The Alliance2015 workshops  

The workshop Global Gateway: Supporting Development or Promoting European Interests? organized by Alliance2015, Counter Balance and Eurodad, discussed the highlights and downsides of the EU Global Gateway Strategy for International Partnerships. Adopted on 1 December 2021, the Global Gateway (GG) is the EU plan for investment in infrastructure development around the world, purporting to satisfy third countries’ aspiration to build the infrastructure needed to create prosperity, jobs and services, tackle climate change and environmental degradation, and to strengthen their health and education systems. The GG aims at de-risking European commercial interests in the Global South with development budgets; the workshop discussed examples of projects and financing promoted under this approach, key risks and concerns, impacts on the attainment of the SDGs, and opportunities for civil society engagement. 

For some speakers, by promoting EU investments the GG opens many marketing opportunities for EU-based companies in the Global South, attracting the business sector as a major partner; many of its projects are accompanied by reform agendas in partner countries, thus carrying conditionality approaches; the GG lacks clarity on how democratic ownership of development strategies will be ensured in partner countries; and it takes funding away from development goals to pursue commercial competitiveness and geopolitical objectives. For Alliance2015, the GG is still unknown among country teams and local partners in our countries of operation. The fruitful practice of the European Development Days – offering an open dialogue space among different stakeholders – was abandoned in 2022, and the GG was rolled out very rapidly with scarce consultations with CSOs. In this very rapid expansion of projects, what is the place for human development? Examples of this failure are the lack of consultation with local civil society to assess projects against local community needs, the inadequacy to deliver truly transformative social impacts, and the fact that most investments will never be done in fragile settings (ex. conflict-affected countries). The GG agenda, therefore, is clearly not driven by the SDGs.

In its second workshop, Upholding HDP Nexus Approaches and Civil Society Action as key to Peace, Human Rights and Human Security in the Sahel, co-organized together with CNCD and Search for Common Ground, Alliance2015 reflected on the current state of play, the role of humanitarian aid and development cooperation, and on the added value of the ‘peace’ pillar of the triple nexus, exploring possible solutions to feed into EU discussion at a time where the Sahel is a priority for the Belgian Presidency of the EU Council. The Alliance2015 intervention – through its Niger-based member Concern – presented the advancements already made in delivering HDP nexus approaches to address local needs. Niger has in fact been chronically vulnerable to food insecurity and high levels of malnutrition, and has frequently faced shocks and disasters related to conflict, climate change and natural disasters. Innovative solutions to structural challenges, such as the Fonds communs (education/health), the s.c. ‘3N initiative’ (Nigeriens Nourishing Nigeriens), the collective efforts to develop the National Sustainable Food Systems Pathway in 2021 had realized tangible progress for the local population. All actors were effectively engaged to promote the operationalization of the Nexus and Niger was recognized as a virtuous example of collaboration between donors, CSOs and the government.   

Yet, following the recent political instability in July 2023, Niger has been hit by a set of economic and financial sanctions, combined with the suspension of development aid, the restriction of humanitarian aid and the halt of bi-lateral support. Development and humanitarian actors had to suddenly face the challenge of delivering lifesaving assistance in a new context of a different administration, different interlocutors and a different funding landscape. This makes response efforts much more difficult and is eroding the progress achieved around the HDP Nexus. In a country highly depending on foreign aid, a drastic suspension of aid will deepen the humanitarian crisis, with further deterioration of food security and nutrition rates, putting at significant risk the already crisis-affected communities in Niger. 

The workshop EU Actions towards Realizing the Right to Food in Partner Countries: What International Finance and Governance are Needed? (co-organized by ActionAid International, Action Against Hunger, Alliance2015, CIDSE, Humundi as part of the CONCORD Food Security Task Force) analyzed why, despite a commitment to support sustainable agriculture and food security in its development action, the EU has failed to adopt a coherent and comprehensive set of financing instruments for partner countries and conclusive influence strategies over international governance mechanisms. Organizing CSOs shared their perspectives and proposals around the need for the EU to shift its development funding away from intensive industrial agriculture in favor of agroecological approaches to food systems, and act in international governance spaces accordingly.  

Discussions mainly focused on Africa, who is attracting many foreign investments to satisfy Northern countries’ need for energy, raw materials, food, with severe impacts on local diets, ecosystems and biodiversity, and the displacement of local populations. CIDSE presented the findings of a report published about the EU’s funding flows for agroecology, recognized by many international institutions as an important way of transforming food systems. Yet, the EU’s financial support to FAO, IFAD and WFP towards agriculture over 2016-2018 did not contribute at all to agroecological transformation.

The discussion went on analyzing how finance can be an instrument of change and the various ways CSOs can engage in this area, concluding that funding for agroecology is low, while ODA is overall shrinking; this requires to stop funding detrimental industrial agriculture, especially in the Global South. Participants also commented the 40 country Compacts resulting from the Dakar II initiative, promoted by the African Development Bank to industrialize African food systems in the next 10 years, mobilizing about 70 billion USD from donors around the world, including 3 million from the EU and 14 million from Germany. This initiative raises serious concerns about the marginalization of small-scale farmers, threats to land rights and risk of displacements, threats to the environment and biodiversity.  

The UN Committee on Food Security was also discussed as the main body for global food systems governance, which the EU is member of, providing a multi-stakeholder platform adopting policy recommendations anchored in the human right to food through inclusive processes where concerned civil society actors fully participate.   


As the European Citizens’ Summit concluded, there was a call to sign the Brussels Declaration, a text collecting the different aspirations of European CSOs. This declaration calls upon the EU to embody its founding values through robust international solidarity. It highlights the urgent need for the EU to lead global inequality reduction and advocate for multilateral cooperation and international solidarity. Central to the declaration is the imperative for the EU to drive ecological and social transformation at both the European and global levels. Additionally, it stresses the vital importance of safeguarding democracy and civic space within Europe and beyond. It concludes that, with determination and solidarity, Europe can navigate the challenges ahead and pave the way toward a brighter tomorrow, not only for its own citizens but for the entire global community. By the end of the Summit, the declaration had already been signed by over 100 organizations.  

The Summit concluded on a note of hope, building on the positive energy of those two fruitful days, and with a vigorous call upon the EU to live up to its values embedded in its founding Treaty, as well as to its promises to deliver on finance, cooperation and support for a more just, resilient and sustainable future.    

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