Dear Members, Partners, Colleagues, and Friends:
Since 2003, the AGOA Civil Society Organization (CSO) Network Secretariat has coordinated, participated in and promoted the CSO Session of the US-Africa Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum (also commonly known as the AGOA Forum). This year, a new approach is being employed to organizing the upcoming CSO Session of the 2019 AGOA Forum - one of directive, rather liaison with civil society. From our vantage point, this new approach is limiting the voice of civil society, marginalizing their participation in the 2019 AGOA Forum and regressing US-Africa trade and economic cooperation.
Furthermore, the AGOA CSO Network Secretariat started discussions with the Côte d' Ivoire Technical Organization Committee in February of this year regarding providing technical assistance and planning for the CSO Session of the 18th AGOA Forum. In March, the AGOA CSO Secretariat was formally invited to, Côte d’Ivoire to begin the planning process. Using its own financial resources, the Secretariat dispatched two of its members to Abidjan in March to conduct the advance mission. While on the ground in Côte d’Ivoire, the AGOA CSO Secretariat and the Ivorian Technical Organization Committee agreed that the AGOA CSO Secretariat would coordinate registration for the CSO Session and that fees from the registration would be used to defray the cost of the advance mission and costs associated with the Secretariat providing coordination and technical support while on the ground during the 18th AGOA Forum. Additionally, the AGOA Secretariat would use the AGOA Spring Conference to start the planning for and promotion of the upcoming AGOA Forum in Côte d’Ivoire. The AGOA Spring Conference took place as scheduled at the Embassy of Côte d’ Ivoire in Washington, DC in April, and was highly successful. On June 19, 2019, it became apparent to Secretariat that the agreement was being reneged upon. The breaching of the agreement by the Ivorian Technical Organization Committee coupled with the “new approach” to organizing the Civil Society Session has led us to this decision.
Consequently, the AGOA CSO Network Secretariat is withdrawing the AGOA CSO Secretariat and Network’s participation in the CSO Session of the 2019 AGOA Forum, as of Sunday, July 14, 2019. Additionally, the Secretariat views the resulting structural changes to the CSO Session as hostile, and an attack on the rights and space of civil society. And we have requested that the following changes be reversed, immediately.
1. Cease direct interference in managing the agenda, list of speakers and coordination of CSO Session of the AGOA Forum with the exception of accrediting CSO delegates to the Ministerial/Official Forum
2. Recall the decision to start denying civil society members from non- AGOA eligible countries accreditation to the Official Ministerial Forum (as of the 2019 Forum)
3. Restore the read-out by civil society organizations on the agenda and during the Official Ministerial Forum on August 5, 2019, instead of "busing" a few delegates to the venue on August 4th, the day before the Official Ministerial Forum is scheduled to take place.
4. Stop denying Civil Society the right to assemble during the Forum, by restricting civil society organizations to a limited one-day event, the day relegated as the official CSO Session day.
5. Put an end to restricting the AGOA Civil Society Organization Network Secretariat’s ability to manage our member’s affairs during the CSO Session of the US-Sub-Saharan African Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum (aka AGOA Forum)
Stand with us in reversing the “BIG GOVERMENT” approach to managing Civil Society Organizations.
My heartfelt thanks to you for your commitment to the mission of our Network and your continued support.
Fred O. Oladeinde
Chairman, AGOA Civil Society Network Secretariat