Not-for-Profit Sector and the EU-Australia Relationship
30 March 2017 at 8:11 am
The EU-Australia relationship is not just about trade but the big issues impacting our world, and it’s crucial that a range of voices are heard, including those from the not-for-profit sector, writes international affairs expert Melissa Conley Tyler.
“The European Union? Isn’t that about trade? It doesn’t seem relevant to my work.” If this is your reaction when someone brings up the EU-Australia relationship, you’re not alone.
If the EU is mentioned in politics or the media, it is generally in terms of business or high foreign politics, not the bread and butter issues that matter to so many of us working in the not-for-profit sector.
Nonetheless, I believe there is room for a much deeper relationship. In many areas this is already happening. For example, the EU is the second biggest donor in the Pacific, after Australia. The Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade and EuropeAid currently manage or are planning joint programs in Sudan, Fiji and Laos. The EU and Australia work together in international organisations to bring about the abolition of the death penalty. We co-operate across a range of environmental issues such as whaling, trade in endangered species, and the reduction of ozone-depleting substances. More than 1,000 of our young people have participated in university exchanges. There are countless areas to collaborate more.
This is the goal of the EU-Australia Leadership Forum, a three-year project funded by the European Union to provide a forum for people from business, government, not for profits, academia and the media to come together to discuss what should be on the agenda of the future EU-Australia relationship. For example, just this week, we are bringing together experts from the EU and Australia to discuss the intersection of our digital world with the delivery of development assistance.
World Vision Australia, StartSomeGood and WhyDev will meet with European counterparts to share their learnings about how digital tools can be used to reach development goals and also how the digital age changes the way we think about and deliver development assistance.
Recommendations from that workshop will go forward to a Senior Leaders’ Forum in June, when distinguished invitees will come together to tackle the big issues that are shaking up our world such as cybersecurity, radicalisation, migration and increasing economic interdependence.
If these discussions, and others that take place over the life of the project, are to be relevant and actionable, it is crucial that a range of voices are heard, including those from the not-for-profit sector.
We are very lucky to have some key figures supporting the project, such as Tim Costello of World Vision Australia and Luis Alvarado Martinez, president of the European Youth Forum. We are determined to have a strong not-for-profit contingent at both the Senior Leaders’ Forum and the Emerging Leaders’ Forum which will proceed it.
Beyond June’s events, there will be other opportunities for those working in the not-for-profit sector to make your voices heard. If you want to be part of these discussions, I’d encourage you to sign up to our [the EU-Australia Leadership Forum] newsletter, and engage with us via our social media channels.
As Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop said at the launch of the EU-Australia Leadership Forum last September, the EU and Australia have much in common. We share common values, a liberal democratic heritage, a commitment to freedoms, and a commitment to the rule of law. We also have in common strong, opinionated and valued not-for-profit sectors.
Your depth of expertise can bring much-needed context to many of the political and economic discussions that will take place between now and the start of negotiations on the future relationship between the European Union and Australia.
So what can you do? Find out about the existing EU-Australia relationship and how it might already apply to your area of work. Engage with your European counterparts, to see what the major issues of activity are for them when it comes to EU issues and consider opportunities for collaboration. See whether there are funds available for not-for-profit organisations to help deliver programs, which could be available to you and your partners. The EU-Australia relationship is about more than trade.
About the author: Melissa Conley Tyler is the national executive director of the Australian Institute of International Affairs. She is team leader of the EU-Australia Leadership Forum project. Find out more here.