The EU4Health Civil Society Alliance has published a joint paper on the ways to build more meaningful engagement of public health civil society organisations in EU policy-making. The document stresses the key role played by health CSOs and provides elements on how their participation to EU policy-making could be enhanced.
The joint paper provides five key recommendations in that regard:
- We, call on the European Commission to develop, in cooperation with civil society, a dedicated and overarching Strategy for Civil Society as a proactive step towards meaningful civil society engagement.
- We advocate for the Strategy to promote and strengthen a civil and social dialogue and establish a dedicated civic space on health policy, strengthening and going beyond the EU Health Policy Platform, and avoiding the shrinking space for CSOs. The involvement of health CSOs should grow beyond their inclusion in consultations and expand to programme development, policy debates and agenda-setting for EU strategic priorities. On the model of the European Development Days, further engagement with CSOs could consist of European Health Days discussing and shaping the future of public health policy in the EU. Similarly, the EU could organise a European Year of Civil Society.
- The Strategy should recognise health CSOs for their crucial role in times of crisis, in building the European identity, and in democratic processes, being the intermediaries between citizens and policy makers. We call on the Commission to involve health CSOs in crisis management discussions and other debates, following the WHO model of engaging with CSOs. This could be done by more clearly defining the engagement of civil society in HERA activities within its Civil Society Advisory Forum.
- The Strategy should provide a clear framework for cooperation with civil society at the EU level, ensuring stability and long-term planning. Key commitments on the protection, financial support and level of independence of CSOs should address the aforementioned gaps in the protection of democracy. Providing accessible means and dedicated and flexible funding through different EU programmes will help CSOs have an equal role with other stakeholders in health policy processes and ensure the fair representation of citizens.
- Funding frameworks organised by the European Commission should be transparent, multiannual and aligned across the different DGs to avoid any discrepancies between sectors. Secure frameworks for the funding of CSOs would also relieve them from seeking other sources of funding that could compromise their independence. Additionnally, capacity building elements should be included in the Civil Society Strategy to support these organisations. In addition, and considering the persistent inequalities across EU countries and regions, due support should be provided to close existing gaps in the development of CSOs across the EU.
Finally, the paper concludes that the European Commission must maintain the momentum on (public) health as a priority within the political agenda over the coming years.