Dakar- Senegal (PANA) -- Despite their role as major players in civil society, consumer groups are not being involved in the implementation of the Cotonou Agreement nor do they benefit from its ensuing funding facilities, Consumer International Regional Office for Africa (CI-ROAF) laments in a survey.
"Two years after the Agreement was signed, only 33 percent of consumer organisations surveyed had been consulted by their governments on the planning of national indicative programmes and only one consumer organisation had been consulted on the negotiations for the economic partnership agreements," CI-ROAF said in a press release.
It said the survey, which was conducted in 2002 with 15 consumer organisations in 14 African countries, also indicates that "only 20 percent of consumer organisations had any information on the planned economic partnership agreements at all.
" One of the key innovations of the Cotonou Agreement signed 23 June 2000 in Cotonou, Benin is the principle of participation of Non State Actors (NSAs), that include local governments, trade unions, the private sector and civil society organisations amongst which is consumer groups, in the ACP-EU cooperation.
The Agreement mandates that civil society organisations be involved in consultations and the planning of national development strategies be provided with access to resources, be involved in the implementation of programmes, and be provided with capacity building support.
In addition, consumer organisations were to be specifically involved in programme implementation through Article 51 of the Cotonou Agreement on Consumer policy and protection of consumer health, which calls for the involvement of consumer organisations in market surveillance and monitoring.
Indeed, this is a major innovative shift with regard to civil society organisations, CI-ROAF said in a press release issued at its head office in Harare, Zimbabwe.
But two years after the Accord was signed, "most consumer organisations do not know how to access funding through the national indicative programme," the survey points out.
"Only four consumer organisations had attempted to access funding and in all four cases, no formal decisions or information on the status of the application have come back from their governments," it cites.
Therefore, CI-ROAF calls for greater interaction between the EU delegation and local civil society organisations so as to encourage governments to also develop relations with their independent civil society.
It also urges sub-regional integration institutions such as ECOWAS, SADC, and COMESA to work with CI-ROAF to ensure the integration of consumer views into economic partnership agreements.
Consumer organisations also suggest that funding for civil society should be accessed through an independent foundation or be made available to regional civil society groupings such as CI- ROAF to enable readily fund national consumer organisations.