Photo credit: Plataforma de ONGD

NGO platforms of Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, Mozambique, Portugal, São Tomé and Príncipe, and East Timor met in Lisbon for the Platforms Unite project: Partnerships for Advocacy project, which aims to strengthen partnerships and networks. The meeting resulted in the joint creation of a Memorandum of Understanding and a Declaration of Principles for the Creation and Operation of the Network of Lusophone NGO Platforms (RePLONG).

From 27-31 May, Lisbon received visits from several Portuguese-speaking NGO platforms: the Brazilian Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (ABONG), the São Tomé and Príncipe NGO Federation (FONG-STP), the East Timor NGO Federation (FONGTIL), the Angolan NGO Forum (FONGA), the NGO League in Mozambique (JOINT) and the Cape Verde NGO Platform (PLATONG).

Organised by the Portuguese Platform of Non-Governmental Organisations for Development (NGOD), this visit was part of the Platforms Unite: Partnerships for Advocacy project, implemented by the Portuguese Platform of NGODs and the São Tomé and Príncipe NGO Federation (FONG STP). The project aims to strengthen partnerships and network connections between Portuguese-speaking NGO platforms in the area of Cooperation and Development, for advocacy actions and political influence, and is funded by the European Commission through Forus, with further financial support by the Camões Public Institute.

The visit of the Platforms resulted in the joint creation of a Memorandum of Understanding and a Declaration of Principles for the Creation and Operation of the Network of Lusophone NGO Platforms (RePLONG). These documents represent the Network's ideas and will allow advocacy work to be promoted between organisations while also enhancing the exchange of good practices and developing the institutional relationship between the Platforms. Among other commitments, the Network of Lusophone NGO Platforms (RePLONG) aims to create a space for sharing, learning and critical reflection on issues of interest to its member organisations, developing its stance and planning and implementing a joint Action Plan.

Civil Society, Human Rights and Democracy

The Network member organisations understand that a concerted action between the Platforms will strengthen the role of Civil Society in relation to the Human Rights framework and democratic principles in the Platform countries – the ultimate expression of civic and citizen participation by people in defence of the Common Good.

In light of the current context of democratic crises and increasing populist political movements that question the foundations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Network of Lusophone NGO Platforms reaffirms the need to build strategic partnerships and a common agenda among Civil Society Organisations (CSO), as well as between CSOs and other organisations, to affirm and consolidate democracy as a universal value. It also reiterates respect for popular sovereignty and people's right to self-determination.

Towards a holistic vision and joint construction

In its Memorandum of Understanding, the Network expresses its will to contribute to Sustainable and Equitable Development, questioning the current paradigm of Development and calling for a change towards "Living Well", a new philosophy with a holistic vision and the opportunity to build collectively, in the plural –  a new sense of life based on reciprocity and solidarity as means to people's wellbeing and happiness. Constructing this alternative model of development will require implementing a process in communion with respect for nature and interculturality with others in a community sense and not in a separate or exploratory way.

Recognising that Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are the baseline agenda for human rights, the Network understands that complying with these requires political will, mobilisation of the resources needed to fulfil these commitments, a collective, participatory effort and the coordination of all the entities' interventions, national and international.

Suitable, coherent policies for global development needs

During the five days of working together, the Network corroborated that the causes of inequality will only be overcome if there are guaranteed democratic conditions in the Platform member countries – preferably a type of participative democracy where CSOs independently and effectively participate in political decisions concerning community rights and the environment. Equally important will be the concerted effort of Civil Society Organisations to promote more global, responsible and supportive citizenship, and monitoring countries' actions to have more suitable, coherent public policies for global development needs.

These messages, transmitted to various decision-makers in Portugal during their visit in Lisbon – namely, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, the Executive Secretary of the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP), members of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Assembly of the Republic and Camões Public Institution – served to mark the political position of a Network of NGO Platforms that aims to be dynamic and will continue to work together so that Civil Society can participate more effectively in the implementation of public policies in the countries belonging to the Network.

This article was written by the Portuguese NGDOs Platform.