November 2020 marked the 25th anniversary of the Barcelona Process, one of the most important partnerships of the countries of the Mediterranean. This anniversary came at a time of great disruption in the region, compounded by an unprecedented global health crisis with severe economic and social impacts.

On this special occasion, an online Civil Society Forum was organized by the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) from the 24th to the 25th of November aiming to discuss the pivotal role of civil society in addressing major challenges of our times, among which the high levels of socio-economic inequality and the pressing climate change emergency exacerbating vulnerabilities within and among UfM countries. The Forum also featured 25 successful projects that are being implemented with key contributions from civil society actors, such as the Plastic Busters MPAs where MIO-ECSDE has a leading role.

The Chairman of MIO-ECSDE, Prof. Michael Scoullos, was one of the speakers of the first working session held on the 24th of November. During the session, representatives of civil society identified the main issues for civil society organizations in the fields of environment and climate change and agreed on priorities for the years to come. Furthermore, they shared knowledge on tools and mechanisms that make civil society’s response on the ground more efficient and coordinated; and came up with key recommendations on how to enhance civil society action.

Among the take-home messages of the event were the following:

  • CSOs are providers of essential services, tangible impacts and concrete positive change for communities, at local level and at the regional level. CSOs produce and enhance the natural and human capital needed for the well-being of society and of the economy. This is done by providing and enhancing skills, expertise, valuable and highly-qualified human capital from within the communities.
  • There is a pressing need to revitalize the policy agenda on how to protect the environment and on how to tackle climate change by reshaping current governance models, by putting progressive and sustainable goals higher in the national and regional agendas and by involving civil society’s knowledge, expertise and support.
  • The political support of the UfM at regional level – through the labelling process – remains a strong legitimization of the work carried out by CSOs and facilitates the awareness of national governments about crucial environmental issues to be tackled jointly in the region.

The Civil Society Forum was held within the framework of the 5th UfM Regional Forum, which brought together the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the UfM Member States on the 27th of November 2020 to reaffirm their commitment to the principles of the Barcelona Process. One of the highlights of the 5th UfM Regional Forum was the launch of the ‘International Day of the Mediterranean’ aiming to foster a common Mediterranean identity and create a yearly unique momentum for enhanced cooperation and integration in the area. The International Day of the Mediterranean will be celebrated on the 28th of November, which is the date that the ministers of Foreign Affairs of the EU and 12 southern and eastern Mediterranean countries held the first Euro-Mediterranean Conference in Barcelona back in 1995 and signed an agreement to launch the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership Process.

Read in French here