EU committed to an empowered and resilient civil society: Council adopts conclusions on engagement with civil society in external relations

On 19 June, the Council adopted conclusions on EU engagement with civil society in external relations.

The Council recognises the many different  roles that Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) play as promoters of democracy, and as defenders of rights holders, the rule of law, social justice and human rights.

The conclusions underline the crucial importance of CSOs for the successful implementation of the EU Global Strategy and the 2030 Agenda, including in the realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

At a time when the space for civil society is shrinking in a increasing number of countries, the Council reaffirms the EU’s opposition to any unjustified restrictions to freedom of association, expression and peaceful assembly that hinder the work of CSOs. The conclusions underline the EU’s commitment to play an important role in promoting stronger positions on civic freedoms and against any reduction in the space for civil society to act.

The Council welcomes the progress achieved in the EU’s engagement with civil society in external relations since its most recent conclusions of 2012. It also welcomes the increase of EU financial resources since 2012 in support of CSOs, noting that the EU has become the leading donor for local CSOs, including those active in humanitarian assistance and in protecting and promoting human rights and democracy.

The Council calls on the Commission to continue and strengthen its engagement with civil society and invites it to reflect further and report on the challenges encountered in partner countries where engagement with civil society is or has been difficult.