The Practitioners’ Network Annual Members General Assembly goes virtual

100 online participants for COVID-19 response and international partnerships

The coronavirus pandemic did not stop the Practitioners’ Network (PN) from holding its Annual Members’ General Assembly (AMGA) on May 4th, albeit via a video link. Around 100 staff members from all Europe and representing 18 EU Member State (MS) Organisations, plus DG DEVCO and DG NEAR - joined the session to discuss joint responses to the COVID-19 crisis, partnerships and strategic ways forward for the Network itself.

The Assembly traditionally represents the handover moment from the current to the new Presidency: this year, organised and chaired by AECID (Spain), the passing of the torch has been virtually made to ENABEL (Belgium), who will hold the presidency jointly with LuxDev (Luxemburg) until May 2020.

It marks the first time the PN will have a “dual Presidency” of two members (that will however continue to act and count as one single vote): an innovative way to establish closer partnerships and to join forces for what is becoming the chairmanship of an increasingly visible and popular network in the European development scenario.

In this spirit, GIZ decided to make this idea its own and officialised on this occasion its candidature to hold the next Presidency 2021 – 2022 jointly with the Lithuanian cooperation agency, CPMA. A candidature that that has been welcomed and officially endorsed by the Assembly.
“It is a very practical example of how PN members can work better together, but also of how the inclusiveness principle is driving the action of the Network” announced Lidija Kašubienė, Managing Director of the agency when presenting the joint application.

Proud for having been granted again the possibility to steer the Network after a successful Presidency from 2017 to 2018, GIZ contributed to the CEO roundtable (morning session) represented by Tanja Gönner, Chair of the Management Board and Timo Menniken for the first time in a PN event since his appointment as Head of Corporate Development.

In line with many of the statements voiced by the representatives of the Member organisations, Ms. Gönner expressed GIZ’s appreciation for the #TeamEurope initiative, promoted by the European Commission to address jointly with EU MS the consequences of the global health crisis with a specific focus on development beneficiaries. She also stressed the importance to build on our joint experiences and expertise, to make our response more effective and to strengthen the role of technical assistance (TA) in our joint efforts to support partner countries in facing short and long-term challenges derived from the current health crisis. In this framework multi-donor actions are a precious tool to implement such efforts.

In his opening remarks Koen Doens, Director General of DG DEVCO, underlined the crucial role played by the Network that “walks the talk on general and specific challenges” in a “co-creation” mode (EU and its MS implementing organisations). He also confirmed that the success of the Team Europe approach will also be “to keep what we do now and to bring it to the next financial period”. The answer dictated by the urgency of the current crisis may then well guide the EU and MS approach to development cooperation in the next 7-year period (Multi-annual Financial Framework 2021-27).

The CEOs brought to the table several ideas and proposals, all in line with a strong European spirit and constructive approach. These included, inter alia, the importance of EC guidance in coordinating internal debates over bilateral and multilateral actions, incl. the role to be played by EU Delegations in the field, the need to respond not only to short-term (emergency) measures but also to plan for medium and long-term actions, and the support to the EC strategic priorities (Green Deal, digitalisation and the achievement of Agenda 2030), complemented by the COVID-19 response.

A working level session followed in the afternoon, where the strategic plan for the Network has been discussed, under the lead of the Enabel - LuxDev Presidency: inclusiveness and the Working Better Together agenda remain the milestones for the PN in the next months. In addition, coordination for the European Green Deal and for COVID-19 related actions will be in the foreground in light of the recent new policy priorities on the EU stage. In this context, the PN will also look into a simplification of contractual and operational modalities, together with the Commission.

The virtual AMGA confirmed the engagement of all PN Members in working together among themselves and with the EU and the openness to learn from each other. It was also a confirmation that digital tools are becoming an important part of our way of working not only in current times but possibly also in as a long-term operating mode, always having inclusiveness of all members in mind.