The initial design of the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA) III for the period 2021-2027 has been presented at the Western Balkans and Turkey Regional Civil Society Forum which took place between 21-23 January, 2020 and served to launch general on-line consultation on IPA III design facilitated by EU TACSO 3 project. The consultation was addressed to civil society in the Western Balkans and Turkey and aimed to provide space for civil society to have its’ say in the development of the new IPA III instrument. During the consultation, which ended on 9 March, 2020, 54 contributions were received from regional networks, organisations and individuals from IPA Beneficiaries representing at least 4689 of their individual members or organisations. A full-fledged Consultation Feedback Report has been prepared to take stock of the overall contributions as well as responses under the 4 specific questions addressed within the consultation. The Report is being reviewed by Commission services and will together with contributions from other stakeholders shape the final IPA III framework.
Below is the summary of main points raised in the Civil Society consultation:
– Certain thematic issues need to be added or need to be better reflected in terms of their prioritization and approach. The key themes to be prioritized are: gender equality and mainstreaming; children’s rights and youth support; support to human-rights based approaches in reform processes, including disabilities rights and anti-discrimination; migration (both refugees and brain-drain related); environment; social service delivery; education; employment and social economy; resilience and sustainability as well as inclusion of local authorities; issues of civil society and shrinking civic space as well as media freedom. Beneficiary-specific topics, reflecting the particularities of the context, point to the need for IPA III to be more sensitive to local needs;
– Civil society involvement in IPA III is crucial and important in all phases, including in further IPA III Regulation and framework design and IPA III programming, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. The inclusion needs to be meaningful, with inclusion of civil society and other stakeholders in all steps of the IPA III process, clear structures and process for their involvement need to be defined and feedback loops in place to ensure suggestions are taken on board in the preparation and implementation of future IPA III funds. Moreover, there is the expectation that funding support to civil society is not part of Strategic response process, which is understood as a mechanism whereby IPA modalities are negotiated and defined between the Commission and IPA Beneficiaries, or when it pertains to civil society involvement, it is at least separated from government involvement and driven by civil society and its needs;
– While continuing to support civil society activities through a separate facility – such as the current Civil Society Facility – respondents also propose funding re-allocation from government to civil society in cases of democratic backsliding and shrinking civic space. Similarly, centralized management of such support through Commission services should be continued. Civil society involvement and support should be mainstreamed in all Strategic responses and consequent projects funded by IPA III. Further adjustments in funding modalities are needed in order to respond to civil society capacities, especially those working with service-provision, while for gender and women organizations a separate allocation should be earmarked. CSF should continue to support local, grass-root and rural civil society, for which both institutional grants and simplified financial and administrative modalities are crucial. Civil society support should not be conditioned on Beneficiary country performance. The use of data gathered by CSOs through EU-funded projects, especially for maturity assessment of Strategic response could be beneficial. Improved indicators in EU Civil Society Guidelines, to which the civil society support under IPA III should be linked, are needed for an effective monitoring and capacity building of CSOs;
– Other issues raised for further IPA III design include: the importance of flexibility in the approach to IPA III implementation; concerns about the public institutions capacities and accountability when managing EU funds; the need to further clarify the link between negotiations frameworks and IPA III framework; and the need for continued involvement and consultations with local stakeholders on final IPA III design. Finally, further consultations should build on and include issues raised during the current on-line consultation process.