By Dr Patrick I. Gomes, ACP Secretary-General
The following is a slightly modified version of remarks by the ACP Secretary General to the High-Level Forum of Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs) and the European Union in Brussels on 23 February 2018 on ‘Engaging the OCTs and SDGs and the Post-Cotonou Process’. – The Editor
BRUSSELS (IDN) – Together the ACP Group of States and the European Union constitute a unique partnership grounded in the task of making lives of all humanity meaningful, secure, peaceful and prosperous.
It is for this reason that my remarks wish to express a commitment of the ACP Group of States to build on and strengthen the provisions in the Cotonou Agreement for relations of the ACP with OCTs.
As the subject for reflection is EU, ACP and OCT relations after the Cotonou Agreement in 2020, let me situate my remarks in a framework and the global context within which the ACP can play a significant role in working with the OCTs to advance the goals of “reducing and eventually eradicating poverty, consistent with the objectives of sustainable development” and gradual integration of ACP countries into the global economy. This is Chapter 1 Article 1 of the Cotonou Agreement, stated in 2000.
Most pertinent in this regard, and for today’s discussion, is their translation into the UN 2030 Agenda on SDGs and I will outline the specific initiative of an ACP Forum on SIDS, the Small Island Developing States. This was announced by me at the September 2015 Summit of the UN General Assembly when the post-2015 Development Agenda was adopted.
I will also give an example of how the ACP is assisting our member states to address Ocean Governance – SDG 14: to conserve and sustainably use Oceans, Seas and Marine Resources. This, I believe, could be of much interest to OCTs as island states – you who are Large Ocean States – though called small islands!
At the outset, let me clearly state that post-Cotonou in 2020 has the overall aim, in the view of the ACP Group, of reaching a Comprehensive Partnership Agreement with the EU. Its centre should be “development”, building knowledge economies and political in nature.
This should be a legally-binding agreement, by which the two families of the ACP 79 and the EU’s 28 or 27 will join forces to secure and strengthen multilateral institutions and multilateralism – now seriously under threat by leadership of big countries, more inclined to striking deals to place only their country to be “first and great”. This is the philosophy of Social Darwinism – survival of the fittest, in which only those who are “great” should survive. A complete contradiction of the basis on which the United Nations exists!
Turning to the UN Agenda 2030.
At the global level, over the last few years, we have seen the convening of a number of international meetings that focused on sustainable development. For instance,
- The Third United Nations World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in March 2015
- The Third International Conference on Financing for Development in July 2015 and its Addis Ababa Action Agenda, and the
- Twenty-Third Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP23) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in December 2015.
From all these emerges a common thread – the universal, overarching framework of the Agenda 2030 and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
Adopted at the UN Development Summit on 25-27 September 2015, the SDGs give us the ambitious goals to which all member states of the UN have committed to work towards achieving by 2030.
Since the SDGs are to be universally implemented developed countries are also obliged to fulfil those goals. The SDGs are universal in nature but country and regionally driven in their applicability to the concrete circumstances in which societies and countries find themselves – due to history, geography and culture. In that sense all societies are developing and have to work towards sustainable development – but priorities, specific needs and targets for particular periods will vary.
Commonality of purpose and specificity of needs allow us in the ACP to have the SDGs as the overarching strategic framework for a renewed and modern partnership with the European Union.
This inclusive and comprehensive process and its outcome has given a new meaning to development and it is for that reason, the ACP has embraced it, and our Heads of State and Government gave support when they met in May 2016 in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.
In addition, the programmes and projects of the ACP with resources of the European Development Fund (EDF) have as their objectives building peace, security and stable societies. These have as their foundation, respect for fundamental human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law.
On this subject, the ACP Group admires and joins in supporting the African Union in its recent Decision of the Summit of the Heads of State and Government, in January 2018 to identify the explicit task on Winning the Fight against Corruption to be led by the President of the Federal republic of Nigeria, H.E. Muhammadu Buhari.
From an examination of the SDGs it was clear that an important area by which the ACP could support its member states to reach the SDGs will be one in which an important grouping of ACP states would benefit. Then it was recognised that 37 small island developing states, all maritime countries, are members of the ACP Group. (The UNDESA lists 57 as SIDS – including Anguilla, America Samoa, Bahrain, Cayman Islands, French Polynesia, Guam, New Caledonia, Maldives, Turks & Caicos, St Maarten, Saba, etc.) Hence we launched an ACP Forum on SIDS.
The ACP Forum on SIDS
The persistent development challenges and the unique vulnerabilities facing Small Island Developing States (SIDS), including, inter alia, their small size, narrow resource base, high levels of poverty and indebtedness, remoteness, increased exposure to global environmental challenges, including climate change, make SIDS a special case for sustainable development.
The scientific evidence has shown that SIDS will become increasingly more vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change, including, sea-level rise and storm surge, floods, droughts and extreme weather events, coral bleaching, coastal erosion and changing precipitation patterns.
The challenges faced by SIDS are not only of a structural nature. The graduation of many SIDS into the ranks of middle and upper income countries has effectively ended their ability to access sources of concessionary financing to support their development agenda and resulted in their having some of the highest public debt to GDP ratios in the world.
Notwithstanding the significant efforts made by SIDS at the national and regional levels to implement the Barbados Programme of Action (BPOA) and the Mauritius Strategy for the further Implementation (MSI), their overall progress towards achieving sustainable development has been uneven.
At the Third International Conference on SIDS was held in Apia, Samoa, from the 1 – 4 September 2014, the Heads of State and Government reaffirmed their commitment to the sustainable development of SIDS and recognised that this can only be achieved by working in partnership with all relevant stakeholders.
The SIDS Conference adopted the ‘Small Island Developing States Accelerated Modalities of Action (SAMOA) Pathway‘, which addressed many of the challenges faced by ACP SIDS, including inter alia, graduation, debt sustainability, climate change, sustainable energy, disaster risk reduction, blue economy, agriculture and food security, freshwater resources, biodiversity, land degradation and drought, sustainable tourism, management of chemicals and wastes, health, gender equality and means of implementation and the post-2015 development agenda.
The above-mentioned challenges are, more often than not, cross-cutting, transboundary in nature and have direct and indirect linkages, therefore integrated approaches must be used to address the challenges of SIDS in a holistic and comprehensive manner.
Hence, the ACP Council of Ministers decided to establish an ACP Forum on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) to, inter alia, contribute to the implementation of the Samoa Pathway, provide a platform for discussion of issues relevant to the development of these large Ocean States and sensitise stakeholders to the challenges of SIDS.
The ACP Group, having managed many Intra-ACP programmes and projects, has garnered a wealth of experience in addressing challenges which are similar across all three regions of the ACP. The 11th EDF therefore provides the opportunity to develop and implement concrete actions at the regional, national and Intra-ACP levels that will contribute to climate change adaptation and mitigation, disaster risk reduction and environmental conservation. In the Programme of Work being developed it will be valuable to explore ways of designing joint activities with OCTs that may wish to cooperate with the ACP’s SIDS Forum.
Another area for cooperation is on achieving SDG 14 – to conserve and sustainably use the Oceans, Seas and Marine Resources for Sustainable Development.
The International Conference on Oceans and Seas was co-hosted by the Governments of Fiji and Sweden. The ACP participation at the conference was very fitting to shore up support and stand in solidarity with a hosting Member State in its endeavour to rally support to accelerate the collective actions of the global community to deliver on their commitments to advance the attainment of SDG 14.
The Conference aim was to significantly contribute to the reversal of the decline in the health of the ocean for people, planet and prosperity addressing the following objectives:
- Identify ways and means to support the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14;
- Build on existing successful partnerships and stimulate innovative and concrete new partnerships to advance the implementation of Goal 14;
- Share the experiences gained at the national, regional and international levels in the implementation of Goal 14; and was able to have the outcome of an inter-governmentally agreed declaration titled Our Ocean, Our Future: Call for Action.
In very concrete terms, the ACP is implementing the Declaration by a programme on Harnessing the Blue Economy with the overall aim of unlocking the potential of the blue economy for the sustainable development of Small Island Developing States (SIDS).
Our key message is recognition of the blue economy as a critical engine for the sustainable development of ACP SIDS. Equally important is the reaffirmation of the urgent need to reverse the declining ocean health and the need to accelerate actions that address the effects of climate change.
This is being pursued by enhanced coordination and strengthened partnerships to advance coherent approaches to tackling the challenges of SIDS as they strive to unlock their blue economy potential while taking into account particular specificities and vulnerabilities SIDS.
In this regard, the crucial role of investments and financing to unlock the potential of the blue economy has to be emphasised. Investments and financing for blue economy enterprises remain out of reach for many private sector players due to the perceived high risk. Emphasis is being laid on the urgent need to develop financing models that de-risk blue economy projects to spur high levels of participation by private sector players.
Development of innovative financing mechanisms such as blending operations and the associated advisory services to design bankable blue economy projects have been identified as crucial elements to enhance blue growth for SIDS. Additionally, taking actions to bridge the technology and innovation divide are also acknowledged as central for the development of diversified blue economies by SIDS. The talent, creativity and innovative capacity, for which all island societies are so well known, are to be promoted particularly among the youth who rightly deserve a future that is meaningful and fulfilling. They can be encouraged to see development, not as aid but as building tomorrow’s knowledge economy which we are building today.
In addition to financing, technology transfer and addressing climate change effects, there is the urgent need to strengthen partnerships to improve ocean governance for sustainable blue growth, in particular, highlighting actions to address overfishing, Illegal Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing and threats to maritime safety. In this area, the ACP is ready to join forces with OCTs to end this intense and growing threat to livelihoods of island societies and coastal communities across the Caribbean and Pacific.
As I conclude, it strikes me that within the overarching framework of the SDGs, the ACP Forum on SIDs and the efforts to have a sustainable use of our Oceans & Seas, together the ACP and OCTs have a valuable entry point for tangible engagements on development cooperation to enable a post-2020 ACP-EU Comprehensive Partnership Agreement to be one of which we shall all be proud and future generations will know we served them well! [IDN-InDepthNews – 27 February 2018]
Photo credit: UN
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