ACP countries target economic transformation in new relationship with Europe
Members of Parliaments from Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific gathered in Brussels this week for the 47th session of the ACP Parliamentary Assembly, as well as joint intersessional meetings with Members of the European Parliament.
With less than one year to go before negotiations begin for a new partnership framework between the 79 members of the ACP Group of States and the European Union, one of the key issues of concern for the ACP is the state of preparations, including the shared principles and rationales that would guide the process.
“Negotiations for [a new ACP-EU partnership] are so important that all voices of the ACP Group need to be heard, including parliamentarians, civil society, etc. The ACP we want, must be people-driven… because the issues touch on the ordinary lives of all ACP citizens,” emphasised the President of the ACP Parliamentary Assembly, Hon. Ibrahim Rassin Bundu, MP of Sierra Leone.
Summarising discussions of the Assembly from 9-11 October, including an exchange of views with Brussels-based Ambassadors on Monday, the Secretary-General H.E. Dr. Patrick I. Gomes noted the call from representatives for a “radical departure” from the traditional relationship, marked by an “imbalance” between the two blocs of countries in terms of economic might and levels of technology and capacity.
Members urged consolidated efforts to achieve a level of sustainable development whereby ACP developing countries are able to progress from being dependent exporters of raw materials, to being able to add value to their own products.
“The underpinnings of the entire process for a post-Cotonou Agreement rests on the fundamental aim of achieving the structural transformation of ACP economies,” said Dr. Gomes, referring to the current ACP-EU partnership framework known as the “Cotonou Agreement” – a comprehensive and legally binding treaty that governs trade, development cooperation and political dialogue between EU and ACP countries. The agreement was signed in 2000 in Cotonou, Benin, for a period of 20 years.
“Transforming economic structures and investment strategies is essential to achieve healthy and productive lives by the great majority in our societies and not only for a few… This means productive resources must enable jobs, particularly for youth, women and girls; investments must give equitable returns to workers by living wages that improve the quality of life of families; and education and health care must become available, at reasonable or no costs,” he added.
These aims, in line with the globally endorsed 2030 Development Agenda, are captured in the policy framework document adopted by the ACP Council of Ministers in May 2017 entitled “Towards the ACP we want.” It cites three pillars that would steer the work of the ACP Group in the future, including: (i) Trade, Investments, Industrialisation and Services; (ii) Development Cooperation, Technology, Science and Innovation/Research and (iii) Political Dialogue and Advocacy.
According to the document, which was shared and discussed by Members of Parliament, a Central Negotiating Group at both ministerial and ambassadorial levels will be set up to lead talks with the EU side, supported by Technical Negotiating Teams focussing on the strategic pillars. Negotiations are set to start by August 2018, for a renewed ACP-EU partnership framework to replace the current one expiring in 2020.
Following the meetings of the ACP Parliamentary Assembly from 9th to 11th October, members took part in joint meetings with European counterparts from 11th to 13th October. These intersessional meetings of the Bureau and Standing Committees of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly (JPA) are in preparation for the upcoming 34th session of the JPA to be held in Haiti, tentatively scheduled for 13th to 20th December 2017.
Statement by the Secretary General at the 47th session of the ACP Parliamentary Assembly
11 October 2017, Brussels
I would like to take a few moments to update you on some of the developments being undertaken by the Secretariat since our last meeting in Malta. But before doing so, given Monday’s very enlightening exchange with Parliamentarians, my remarks cannot be a mere update.
I listened carefully to the genuinely-felt concern that the post-Cotonou ACP-EU Agreement must show a radical departure from the unbalanced relationship that has so far prevailed, despite some tangible benefits. In trade terms it is asymmetrical – greater capacity in volumes of production and marketing by the EU and institutional mechanisms have more technology, skills and human resources.
The underpinnings of the entire process for a post-Cotonou Agreement rests on the fundamental aim of achieving the structural transformation of ACP economies.
This means productive resources must enable jobs, particularly for youth, women and girls; investments must give equitable returns to workers by living wages that improve the quality of life of families; and education and health care must become available, at reasonable or no costs.
Transforming economic structures and investment strategies is essential to achieve healthy and productive lives by the great majority in our societies and not only for a few.
These ideas mirror what several others said on Monday. Gambia was clear on this so was Cameroon; and Ethiopia spoke of the youth bombshells ready to explode.
This is the context and process for the negotiation positions that will be undertaken by a reinvented and restructured ACP Group. The elements are there in the document Towards the ACP We Want. It was distributed since Malta and deserves to be read thoroughly and critiqued. Embellish it with your comments. To those who do not have it, copies can be sent electronically.
The negotiation process has a road map guiding it – the Georgetown Agreement is to be revised; briefs prepared for the Technical Negotiating Teams on each of the 3 strategic pillars; studies done on the Political Dialogue and Investment Facility in the Cotonou Agreement, etc. leading to an exchange of a Negotiating Brief with the European commission by August 2018. You as parliamentarians must play a key role. You will debate, amend, clarify and ratify a new Agreement or reject as your Parliaments see fit.
I was particularly struck by the lady members of Parliament of Samoa and Gabon who gave us an impetus to place emphasis on charting a course to bring tangible benefits to the millions of peoples in our 79 Member States.
To the Honourable Parliamentarian from Gabon, I admire your searching question on how will the EU regard the diversification of ACP partnerships? I can only answer your question by saying that it is for us to determine the nature and kind of partnerships the ACP Group as a whole will pursue.
These need not be incompatible with what we agree to as a legally binding Agreement – a Treaty – with the European Union. The nature and scope of membership in the ACP Group will be determined on the provisions of our Constitutive Act – the GT Agreement of 1975 and amended in 2003.
The Council has decided that the Agreement be revised. That will be another milestone in our roadmap. The revision will require your critical inputs.
While most of the discussions and consultations in the lead up to the negotiations, and during the negotiations themselves, will be conducted from Brussels, there will be need for deeper reflections at regional level to ensure that the ACP approach is as comprehensive and inclusive as possible. The Secretariat has been actively engaged in this regard, at both regional and international levels.
Let me illustrate.
I was privileged to attend the Pacific ACP Leader’s Summit held in Apia, Samoa, on 5 September 2017, to which the Member of Parliament from Samoa referred.
Most encouraging from the Leaders’ Summit is the unequivocal and unambiguous endorsement of the ACP policy framework in the document which was studied and debated.
The Leaders also reaffirmed, and I quote, their “strong commitment to, and support of, the decisions taken by the ACP Summits and the ACP Council of Ministers for the ACP Group to negotiate a successor post-2020 Agreement with the EU as a single unified trans-regional entity with guidance to be provided by a Central Negotiating Group.
The Resolution also reiterated their “commitment to work in mutual understanding and cooperation with other ACP regions and endeavor to further enhance the relationship and engagement with the ACP Group in the spirit of partnership, unity and solidarity.”
We would do well to have this kind of sustained engagement on the part of all ACP regions in order to enrich and buttress the work that will be done at Ministerial and Ambassadorial levels.
The Committee of Ambassadors and the ACP Secretariat are committed to ensuring that the voices of our Parliamentary representatives are heard and their concerns taken account of in the negotiations.
I turn now to progress made on thematic issues for structural economic transformation.
In July the ACP and UNCTAD approved guiding principles for investment policymaking.
These principles are in support of existing ACP initiatives, such as the ACP Private Sector Development Strategy, the New Approach to ACP support for the development of Agriculture Value chains, and the ACP Investment Facility.
These non-binding principles provide a basis for investment policymaking with a view to:
promoting inclusive economic growth and sustainable development;
promoting coherence in national and international investment policymaking;
fostering an open, transparent and conducive global policy environment for investment; and
aligning investment promotion and facilitation policies with sustainable development goals.
These Guiding Principles come at a time of mounting economic, social and environmental challenges, which highlight the critical role of investment as a driver of equitable economic and social growth. Mobilizing investment and ensuring that it contributes to sustainable development remains a key objective of the ACP Group.
The ACP held its 5th Meeting of ACP Ministers of Fisheries on 18 -20 September, in Nassau, Commonwealth of the Bahamas. In line with SDG 14 on conservation and sustainable use of oceans, seas and marine resources, the meeting addressed issues such as Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, effective fisheries management, the blue economy, aquaculture development, small scale fisheries and fisheries subsidies reforms.
This meeting sought to reinforce political and financial commitment to enhance capacity and collaboration, ensure robust monitoring and enforcement to eliminate IUU including the implementation of regional and international obligations. It also sought to increase investments and measures to unlock the economic potential of fisheries value chains and accrue benefits to countries and coastal communities particularly the SIDS.
At the conclusion of that meeting, Ministers renewed their commitment to developing the fisheries and aquaculture sectors in ACP countries, as well as unlocking the potential of the ‘blue economy’ through a new €40 million EDF grant resources for “ACP Blue Growth Initiative”. Scope for blending with the World Bank will be explored.
Another topic that I would like to bring to your attention is the historic launch of a Gender initiative to fight against sexual and gender based violence against women and girls. This initiative was launched in the margins of the UN General Assembly and the ACP was represented by the Chairman of the Committee of Ambassadors, Ambassador Amadou DIOP of Senegal. The ACP is a key partner alongside the EU and the UN.
This initiative will strategically focus on the most prevalent forms of Violence Against Women and Girls in different regions, including sexual and gender-based violence and harmful practices; specific forms of domestic and family violence; trafficking in human beings; and economic (labour) exploitation.
For the ACP regions, the emphasis will be on sexual and gender-based violence and harmful practices in Sub-Saharan Africa, domestic and family violence in the Caribbean, and domestic violence in the Pacific.
Violence against women and girls is a global pandemic that holds back development. Today it is said that one out of three women experience violence in their lives, this is, about 30% of women in the world. Up until last year 19% of women between 15 and 49 years of age have experienced physical and sexual violence by an intimate partner. These numbers tell us that the issue can no longer be ignored and must be addressed.
Mr. President, the above are a few examples of the process of transformation the ACP is pursuing in the Global context of Agenda 2030.
Before I conclude, allow me to express my gratitude for the constructive exchanges we had on Monday on the post-Cotonou process. The Secretariat continues to be inspired by the enthusiasm and dynamism this body has portrayed. This speaks clearly of how determined you are to make a difference in the lives of our people.
The Secretariat has listened carefully and is taking due action.
We remain committed to ensuring that the 2020 Agreement will be one that responds to the challenges of our times, the needs of our people and the objectives of Agenda 2030. We look forward to continuous policy engagement with the Parliamentary Assembly to ensure that the new agreement is fit for purpose as we accelerate changes to end poverty.
In conclusion, I would like to reiterate that your presence in these intercessional meetings speaks of the importance you attach to the wellbeing of the people you represent. The responsibility lies on you to tackle the economic turbulence and political challenges that call for decisive leadership and sincerity. Our mission at the ACP will not be a task for individuals but together with clarity of purpose and by those like you, who are here today, determined to discharge their duty with dignity, determination and distinction.
I am inspired by words from the late Nelson Mandela – “Thus shall we live, because we will have created a society which recognizes that all people are born equal, with each entitled in equal measure to life, liberty, prosperity, human rights and good governance.”
Thank you for your kind attention and all success in your meetings.