About the CSFM

Envisioning enhanced Civil Society engagement on EU public policy: The Civil Society Facility for the Mediterranean (CSFM)

Bridging Dialogue Across the Mediterranean: The Civil Society Facility for the Mediterranean (CSFM) materialises the European Union’s commitment to fostering an inclusive, vibrant, and participatory democracy across the Southern Neighbourhood, creating a structure for open and sustained dialogue between Civil Society Organisations in the Southern Mediterranean and the European Union. This journey started in 2013 and has been revitalised in 2023. Given the geopolitical developments in the region, this dialogue is now more than ever needed.

Structured Dialogue as a cornerstone: At its core, the CSFM aims to support the EU and Civil Society in their collaborative dialogue efforts. By providing coordination and facilitating synergies among mediterranean stakeholders while also contributing to policy discussion, the CSFM shows the willingness of the European Union institutions to engage in a constructive process towards discussing more widely and deeply with formal and informal civil society actors around issues of common interest in the Mediterranean. This willingness is rooted into the belief that policy dialogue is key in addressing the complex challenges faced by societies across the Mediterranean.

The Essence of Structured Dialogue: The Structured Dialogue, as conceptualised by the EU, is a comprehensive approach to engaging with stakeholders in a planned, regular, and transparent manner. It goes beyond mere consultations to establish a platform for civil society actors to influence policies and programs, leveraging the diverse range of voices from local to national levels. This dialogue fosters a two-way communication, building on mutual interests and ensuring a follow-up with continued feedback. At a global level, the Structured dialogue began in 2009 as a part of the EU’s commitment to enhance its engagement with civil society organizations and local authorities in development cooperation. It was intended to create a more systematic and inclusive approach to involving civil society and local authorities in shaping development policies and programs. This process involved a series of consultations and meetings across different regions, culminating in more effective frameworks for cooperation, including the formal establishment of the Policy Forum on Development in 2013. Also in 2013, a specific Structured Dialogue was launched for the Southern Neighbourhood.

The Value of Engagement: The CSFM underscores the civil society’s pivotal role in echoing citizens’ concerns and promoting democratic values, bringing the voice of communities to public policy fora. This process offers civil society a unique opportunity to enhance their capacity for action and engagement, connect with counterparts across the region, and foster collaborative governance. Moreover, it serves as a powerful medium to advocate for civic space and fundamental freedoms vis-à-vis EU institutions, aligning with the core values upheld by the EU.

Who is Involved in the Dialogue? This collaborative venture involves key EU actors, including the European Commission Headquarters in Brussels (DG NEAR) alongside with EU representatives in the partner countries (through the EU Delegations in the 10 partner countries of the Southern Neighbourhood) and, whenever feasible and relevant, representatives of the European External Action Service (EEAS). From the Civil Society side, the EU has also established Agreements with six consortia of key Civil Society Organisations active in the Mediterranean. The participation of these CSOs in the Structured Dialogue process ensures broad and inclusive representation in the dialogue process as well as enhanced outreach.

Objectives and Implementation: The CSFM sets clear objectives to identify entry points for civil society to influence EU policies and programs, foster open relationships between EU institutions and civil society, and create a network of actors with relevant expertise. The implementation revolves around annual cycles featuring thematic webinars, roundtables, multilateral meetings, national engagements and civil society forums, each designed to progressively build a cohesive community of practice involving civil society actors and key EU representatives.