17 October 2012

Mauritania: EU Supports Mauritania Civil Society

Nouakchott — Mauritania and the European Union inked a multi-million euro deal to promote development and good governance.

The European Union last week pledged to back Mauritania's civil society and strengthen co-operation in the fields of culture, sport and youth as well as security.

EU Ambassador to Mauritania Hans-Georg Gerstenlauer on Wednesday (October 10th) met with Mauritanian Foreign Minister Hamadi Ould Hamadi and Youth, Culture and Sports Minister Cissé Mint Cheikh Ould Boidé, AMI reported.

The meeting came one week after the 27-member bloc provided 2.8 billion ouguiyas (7.2 million euros) to support development efforts in Mauritania and promote civil society, culture and traditional industry in the country.

"Signing this agreement represents another brick added to the edifice of the existing fruitful partnership between Mauritania and the EU," Mauritanian Economy and Development Minister Sidi Ould Tah said after signing the deal. "It also embodies the EU's sincere desire to support national development programmes and complements the civil society and good governance programme which is funded as part of the 9th edition of the European Development Fund."

The grant aims to develop government policies in combating poverty, promoting good governance and supporting the capabilities of culture and traditional industry actors in designing, implementing and assessing local policies.

"It adopts a gradual, decentralised approach based on the level of the targeted civil society organisations to follow up on grassroots organisations regarding implementation on the ground and creation of a component to support culture and traditional industry," Ould Tah said.

For his part, Gerstenlauer commented that "civil society's access to means of work is the main element in every democratic system because civil society is the main factor in promoting peace and solving conflicts, and it can contribute to effective and sustainable development".

"The EU insists on promoting civil society in Mauritania and believes in the importance of establishing fruitful relations between the state and civil society organisations," he added. "This time, this support is characterised by its inclusion of culture and traditional industry among the supported areas."

Supporting those sectors would "help create permanent jobs, especially for young people in different provinces", according to the EU official.

While civil society actors believe it is important to support their work, some fear that the allocated funds may go off course.

"We don't have any resources to enable us to do all that we aspire to," said Amna Mint al-Moukhtar, President of Association of Women Heads of Families. "However, our fears are stronger than our optimism due to several factors that usually prevent us from benefiting from such support."

"Civil society in Mauritania has a governing law, but it has never been activated by the Mauritanian state," she added. "Therefore, there are no fixed criteria for dealing with civil society organisations, which opened the door for chaos and clientelism in dealing with them."

She added that some associations benefit from assistance "based on personal relations and clientelism with the people in charge". Al-Moukhtar said that the state needs to develop "mechanisms for field oversight and follow-up to evaluate the performance of active organisations".

"Although we appreciate the EU's support of culture, I think that the absence of specialists and technicians and failure to involve cultural actors in establishing strategies for the future of culture will make any amounts whatsoever ineffective in developing culture in Mauritania," Union of Fine Artists in Mauritania chief Khalid Moulay Idriss said.

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