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European Union – Central Asia Civil Society Forum 2021: Building Forward Better: engaging for a sustainable post-COVID recovery

08/10/2021 - 13:15
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On 6 October, the third EU – Central Asia Civil Society Forum took place in Almaty, Kazakhstan. The Civil Society Forum organised by the EU Special Representative for Central Asia and hosted by the Akimat of the Almaty city convened over 300 civil society representatives, government experts and the representatives of the European Union and international organisations. The in-person and online discussions, opinion exchanges and debates on the topic of sustainable post-Covid recovery and how to build forward better.

In her opening remarks, the EU Special Representative for Central Asia Terhi Hakala stressed the importance of engaging the civil society in finding solutions to challenges that our societies face, in particular two current big challenges: dealing with the COVID pandemic and climate change.

Erzhan Kazykhan, Special Representative of the President of Kazakhstan for International Cooperation, underlined the on-going reforms in Kazakhstan and stressed the importance of dialogue with the European Union to support the efforts, including through a platform such as the EU – Central Asia Civil Society Forum.
EU Special Representative for Human Rights Eamon Gilmore in his opening remarks highlighted the crucial role played by civil society organizations across the region, despite challenges, and stressed that they are indispensable partners for the EU.

Four sessions of the Forum focused on the implementation of the EU – Central Asia strategy and on its three main topics: resilience, prosperity and regional cooperation with a focus on environmental issues. The participants shared dozens of examples where civil society has been instrumental in addressing the fallout of the pandemic such as domestic violence, shrinking space for civil society, green economy and environmental challenges. A dynamic exchange of opinions and views with both government and parliament representatives and the civil society representatives from Central Asian countries took place on a long list of challenges that the Central Asian faces and how the EU could best help address them.

The Forum was established following the adoption of the EU Strategy on Central Asia: The EU and Central Asia: New Opportunities for a Stronger Partnership in 2019. It is envisaged as a platform to amplify their voices within the EU and the EU member states, as well as high-level government representatives from Central Asia. By organising this Forum, the EU also seeks to promote the role of civil society in addressing the challenges that our partner countries are facing. The ideas and recommendations will inform the discussions at the 17th EU – CA Ministerial meeting as well as our future work.

In addition to attending the Forum, EUSR for Human Rights Eamon Gilmore and EUSR for Central Asia Terhi Hakala conducted bilateral meetings with the President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, and Heads of Ministries of Interior, Information and Social Development, as well as the Prosecutor General, the Commissioner for Human Rights, civil society representatives, and others in order to discuss the situation with human rights, rule of law and other topics relevant for their mandate.