In March 2020, the European Commission (EC) and the European External Action Service (EEAS) issued a joint communication outlining its proposal for a new comprehensive strategy with Africa. The communication and the Sub-Saharan regional pillar of the new EU–African-Caribbean-Pacific (ACP) partnership agreement, still under negotiation, will define the priorities for the relations between the African continent and the European Union (EU) for the next years.
The EU and its Member States have committed to focusing on those furthest behind, to anchoring decisions in human rights obligations and to promoting policy coherence for (sustainable) development. Nevertheless, these commitments have so far remained largely symbolic.
In the new strategy, once again, the EU puts emphasis on economic growth, private sector finance and technology at the expense of human development, human rights and a truly just green transition. This indicates that the EU continues to fall short on the social dimensions of its engagement in Africa. Caritas stresses that a change in course is urgently needed, especially considering the anticipated global consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Caritas Africa and Caritas Europa believe that the EU-Africa partnership should be primarily about eradicating poverty, fostering sustainable and human development and pursuing social justice. The future EU-Africa relation should recognise that our current economic systems, based on a notion of unlimited economic growth, as measured by GDP, are no longer viable and sustainable, and that a new approach grounded in the concept of ‘care for the common good’ is urgently needed. All of these would contribute to achieving the aspirations of the African Agenda 2063, the transformative principles of the UN’s 2030 Agenda, and respect for human dignity.
This is all more relevant today as Covid-19 reveals the flaws of a short-term and interest-driven approach to international cooperation, and of austerity policies and public-private partnerships that weaken public services and systems.
In this position paper, Caritas Africa and Caritas Europa put forward specific recommendations for a revamped EU-Africa partnership as a tool for integral human development, especially for the people most in need. We believe that the Covid-19 pandemic should be a turning point after which priority is given to the provision of social protection and quality public services for all.