On April 28, 2009, foreign ministers from the European Union and African Union will meet in Brussels to assess progress on the Joint Africa EU Strategy adopted in Lisbon in 2007. A week earlier, on April 20, a session of the EU-AU Human Rights Dialogue will be held in Brussels. European and African leaders have committed to civil society participation in these processes but, to date, these commitments remain largely unfulfilled, with information hard to come by and access still disputed.
Nevertheless, civil society in Africa and Europe should be gearing up to engage in these debates—important issues will be on the table for discussion. This article by Open Society Institute-Brussels senior policy officer Carmen Silvestre sets out some background for the Joint Africa EU Strategy and Human Rights Dialogue, the potential role of civil society in their implementation, and recommendations for action.