On 29-30 November 2017, the fifth AU-EU Summit was held in Abidjan. The meeting, whose theme was ‘Investing in youth’, was an occasion for European and African leaders to redefine and give new impetus to the AU-EU Partnership. Ahead of the summit, EPLO published a statement on ‘Supporting Youth, Peace and Security in the renewed AU-EU Partnership’. In it, we stated that an increased participation of civil society, including young men and women  and youth-led organisations from Africa and Europe, in both policy formulation and the implementation of activities related to peacebuilding and conflict prevention, can make a significant contribution to the achievement of the Joint Africa-EU Strategy’s (JAES) objective of strengthening and promoting peace and security.
The political declaration that resulted from the Summit strongly emphasised the importance of creating decent employment opportunities for young women and men. In this light, and given how the summit unfolded, some key points from our statement seem particularly pertinent:
- Firstly, it is crucial that EU efforts (and partnerships with the private sector) to support the creation of decent employment opportunities, in particular for young men and women, are implemented in a conflict- and gender-sensitive manner, and are sensitive to youth needs.
- Secondly, the EU’s support to the youth, peace and security (YPS) agenda in the framework of the AU-EU Partnership should be based on the principle of ownership and on the needs of young women and men as identified and defined by them. Based on their relevant expertise, young men and women from Africa and Europe should participate in defining EU priorities and in the development of EU actions on YPS.
- Thirdly, through its support to the operationalisation of the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) and the African Governance Architecture (AGA), the EU should strongly promote the participation of young women and men, and of civil society in general, in their decision-making processes.
- Fourthly, the EU should provide more extensive and long-term support (notably through actions involving capacity building and direct financing) to peacebuilding initiatives in Africa engaging young men and women, youth-led organisations and civil society organisations in general. In doing so, the EU should be flexible and adapt its support to their needs and their initiatives as they design, manage and implement them.
In addition, in order to achieve the JAES’ objective of promoting a ‘people-centred partnership’ and in a global context of shrinking space for civil society, it is essential that the structures of the AU-EU Partnership themselves provide space for the participation of civil society actors, including of young women and men and youth-led organisations. It was therefore extremely disappointing that civil society representatives were prevented from addressing the AU-EU Summit despite being scheduled to present the declaration agreed at the 3rd Africa-EU Civil Society Forum in July.  Although several EU officials and European leaders expressed their support for civil society during and after the Summit , it is crucial to further defend and institutionnalise civil society participation in the AU-EU Partnership. Civil society representatives, including young men and women and youth-led organisations, should be able to provide the relevant AU-EU bodies with regular reports and briefings on the implementation of the JAES and of the Partnership’s strategic priorities. They should also be involved in shaping these priorities.
Overall, the EU should continue to enhance and strengthen its support to young women and men and youth-led organisations, and to civil society in general, in the framework of the AU-EU Partnership. Young men and women should be provided with opportunities (and the means) to participate in an inclusive, systematic and meaningful manner in political processes, and particular attention should be paid to their different needs and aspirations.
Lorenzo Angelini is the Policy Officer responsible for EPLO’s work in pursuit of its Policy Objective 3 (To integrate peacebuilding into EU development policy, programmes and approaches).
 This also includes non-binary people.
 Despite initially facing similar opposition, youth representatives from the European Youth Forum and the Pan-African Youth Forum were eventually able to address the plenary, thanks in particular to the support of the EU’s High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, and of various EU Member States. Civil society representatives, however, remained barred from addressing the event.