My experiences in the ActionAid Brussels office

Friday, June 29, 2018 - 11:36

Hi I’m Elise from Australia! A long way from home, I’ve just spent two weeks with the ActionAid EU team in Brussels, seeing first-hand the incredible work they do here. Since 2017, I’ve been involved with ActionAid in Australia as a volunteer in campaigning and community organising. My time in the ActionAid EU office has opened my eyes up to the larger workings of the ActionAid federation and especially the importance of working with the European Union.

In my short time here, I’ve been exposed to a lot! The small team of three, My in admin, Katarina in EU fundraising, and Isabelle in EU advocacy, supported me in understanding how the EU office operates. They work to ensure that EU policymakers, who create policies which often directly and indirectly impact on the Global South, hear the voices of those who live in the Global South. For example, EU policies on renewable energy created a high demand for biofuels, which in turn led to the private sector buying up land belonging to communities and families in Africa and Asia, otherwise known as land grabbing. The EU office successfully led a campaign which brought this issue to the attention of EU policymakers.

In my first week here, I attended the Eurodad (European Network on Debt and Development) Policy Forum alongside Isabelle and Hannah from ActionAid Denmark, who introduced me to the ‘Brussels bubble’ (the group of people who work for NGOs and civil society organisations (CSOs) based in Brussels for EU advocacy). In one of my classes at university I had been exposed to some of Eurodad’s work, so to sit in on a Eurodad Policy Forum, surrounded by these experts trying to make the world a better place was a really incredible experience.

Next was the CONCORD General Assembly. CONCORD is the European Confederation of Relief and Development NGOs, which includes over 2600 NGOs from across Europe (including ActionAid), who find greater influencing power in working together. There were some very inspiring speakers seeking to address the rise of leaders who capitalise on racism and nationalism in Europe. The two key messages I took home were: that NGOs need to acknowledge that they are failing to address the current political climate, where the extreme right is succeeding; and secondly that there is great power in working together and providing a message of hope. You should never underestimate people power!

In my second week, I met a group from ActionAid Ireland, including two young women who won a speech-writing competition to visit Brussels. I was lucky enough to visit the European Women’s Lobby with them where my eyes were opened to the state of women’s rights in Europe. We also were visited by representatives of the European Youth Forum and CONCORD to hear more about their work. We also paid a visit to the EU Parliament, where I was particularly struck by the translators – more than 20 booths of translators feeding English into my ears so we can all understand each other better. I’ve also been really amazed by the people I’ve met who communicate in the workplace in English every day when it is not their mother tongue.

It’s been a whirlwind tour of the EU advocacy work ActionAid does. I’m so grateful to have had this opportunity. A big thank you to the small team trying to keep the EU in line: thanks Isabelle, Katarina and My. Merci mille fois !