Mexican and European Civil Society gain Democratic Space

17 November 2005

Mexican and European Civil Society gain Democratic Space
TNI Press Statement on the first Civil Society-Government Social Dialogue Forum on the EU-Mexico Global Agreement
Brid Brennan, 1 December 2002

We have succeeded in opening some democratic space as civil society interlocutors in social dialogue with the European Union and the Mexican government" commented Maria Atilano, Director of RMALC on the Social Dialogue Forum held on November 26th in Brussels. The call for a Social Dialogue Forum with the EU and Mexican government had been jointly initiated by RMALC (Alliance of Mexican social movements and NGOs) and the European network CIFCA (Copenhagen Initiative for Central America and Mexico) as one of the mechanisms to democratise the EU-Mexico Global Accord which entered into force in 2000.

The Global Accord is one of the most comprehensive Agreements made by the European Union with a government of the South and has far reaching implications not only for trade and investment relations between Europe and Mexico but also as a precedent of a new generation of Agreements which Europe is pursuing with the South. The most serious critique of the Global Accord is the privileged access it gives to European Transnational Corporations and the accelerated privitisation and liberalisation which it demands from Mexico.

At the opening of the Forum, the RMALC-CIFCA delegation sought clarification that the Forum was a "civil society to government social dialogue and not simply a debate among civil society actors". After assurance from both Co-Chairs, the EC representative, Mr. Da Camara and Mexican Ambassador, Porfidio Munoz, the Plenary Panels opened to hear the civil society proposals.

RMALC and CIFCA presented for debate joint proposals on key aspects of the Global Accord:

Panel 1- Political aspects: Towards a positive dimension of the Democratic Clause was presented by Maureen Meyer (Centro Miguel Agustin Pro de derechos Humanos-Mexico) and Brid Brennan (Transnational Institute, Amsterdam, The Netherlands). Mechanisms for Civil society participation in the Political Dialogue arising from the Global Agreement between Europe and Mexico was presented by Laura Becerra (Equipo Pueblo-Mexico) and Roos de Witte (FOS-Belgium).

Panel 2 - Co-operation aspects: The democratic Clause in the context of Cooperation was presented by Maria Atilano, Directress of RMALC (Mexico) and Luis Guilermo Perez, representative of the CFICA Secretariat (Belgium).

Panel 3 - Economic and Commercial aspects: Towards a Social & Environmental Observatory on the impact of the Global Agreement was presented by Antonio Villalba of the Frente Autentico del trabajo (FAT-Mexico) and Gerard Karlshausen del Centro Nacional du Coperacion al Desarrollo (CNCD & CICA Mexico Working group, Belgium).

Additional specific proposals included the setting up of a Joint Consultative Committee and a Social Observatory - which would function as venues for autonomous civil society interaction with and for monitoring the implementation of the Global Agreement which would guarantee a substantive application of the democratic clause.

During the Workshops broad support was expressed by the range of organisations among the 200 participants, including trade unions and human rights organisations, for the proposals. In concluding the Forum, the Co-Chairs made the following commitments: that a second Social Forum Dialogue will be held in Mexico in 2003 and that the preparation of this will include consultation with civil society and that the proposal for a Social Observatory and Joint Civil Society Consultative Committee will be studied.

Besides the Social Dialogue Forum, members of the RMALC-CIFCA delegation also presented their proposals to members of the European Parliament, to a NGO Forum and to the media. These have been the first significant steps in opening up these arenas as spaces for dialogue asserting that civil society actors in Mexico and in Europe are key stakeholders in the future implementation of the Global Agreement.