Photo: Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness addressing the ACP Committee of Ambassadors in Brussels on 16 April 2018. Credit: ACP. - Photo: 2018

Forward To a New Vision for the ACP Group

By Andrew Holness

Prime Minister Andrew Holness of Jamaica delivered a strong message on ACP solidarity in preparation for new relations with the EU when he addressed the Committee of Ambassadors of the 79-member African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States in Brussels on 16 April 2018. Following are extensive excerpts from his remarks, which are of particular importance as the Cotonou Agreement between the two blocs expires in February 2020 and talks for a follow-up accord are set to begin in August this year. – The Editor.

BRUSSELS (ACP-IDN) – The 1975 Georgetown Agreement as well as the more recent Sipopo Declaration of the 7th Summit of 2012, and the Port Moresby Declaration and the Waigani Communiqué of 2016: These jointly agreed documents serve as important guiding principles in our collective efforts towards attaining the principal goal of development for our countries across the African, Caribbean and Pacific regions.

Jamaica’s long-standing membership of the ACP Group is an important pillar in our foreign policy, which has at its foundation, the pursuit of partnerships with those who share similar values, principles, goals and aspirations for peace and security, good governance and the rule of law, for the ultimate objective of securing development and prosperity for all our people.

It is precisely for that reason, therefore, that over the many years of engagement with other developing countries within the ACP Group, our Ambassadors and other representatives have been specifically charged with the responsibility to give impetus to the work of the ACP and its relations with other partners, including those within the European Union. We will not renege on our commitment to the ACP Group of States.

I am ever mindful of the fact that access to development is a fundamental right of every citizen of countries across the globe. There is no doubt that each of our countries has to grapple with its own particular challenges in the pursuit of the goals of sustainable development. What is abundantly clear, however, is that as least-developed and developing countries, many of us highly indebted and having special vulnerabilities, we can only optimize our individual efforts, by acting together.

In my own engagement with developing country partners around the world, I have been inspired by the creativity that has been applied to processes to tremendous challenges into opportunities. There is therefore significant value, in countries of the ACP with similar constraints, working together to advocate for new approaches to common development challenges, and at the same time, sharing proven, useful solutions.

In Jamaica, my administration has been actively pursuing a range of creative social and economic activities that will generate economic growth and prosperity, particularly through investments in infrastructure, logistics and technology. By these means, we are seeking to create increased opportunities for meaningful jobs, particularly for young people transitioning from learning to earning. We believe that these combined activities, which are being driven and monitored by a high-level Economic Growth Council, will induce prosperity for our people, and foster the development of peaceful and secure communities.

While these national initiatives have been home-grown, their design and implementation strategies have also benefitted from our observation of the economic development successes of partner countries across the world. Indeed, we are quite clear that collaborative action between and among groups of countries in the management of challenges, has the potential to yield the highest returns for all stakeholders.

Mindful therefore of the value of mutual support among partners for the attainment of our national and collective development goals, Jamaica attaches great importance to our relations and cooperation with the ACP Group of States.

Our membership of this body has afforded us significant opportunities for deepening our bilateral and regional contacts with the countries of the Group, and with third Parties such as the European Union (EU), as well as advancing our trade prospects and development interests as beneficiaries of and/or signatories to successive Lomé Conventions, the Cotonou Partnership Agreement and the CARIFORUM-EU Economic Partnership Agreement.

We believe that following the expiration of the current Cotonou Partnership Agreement in 2020, a successor arrangement between the ACP Group of States and the EU, will be of critical importance to the effective pursuit of sustainable development by all our countries.

To this end, Jamaica has taken seriously its responsibility to each state in the context of its Presidency of the ACP Council of Ministers. Along with the CARIFORUM Group of States that we represent, we commit to promote a process of collaboration that will ensure that no state is left behind.

The ACP Group has a rich history and has accomplished much through its unity, strength and solidarity. Indeed, the Eminent Persons Group affirmed in its Report entitled, “ACP: A New Vision for Our Future”, that the ACP Group’s major strength lies in its ability to serve as a platform for its Member Countries to engage with bilateral and multilateral partners in order to secure sustainable development, inclusive growth and poverty eradication for its 1.1 billion people. Indeed, the Group’s numerical strength represents a formidable force in our engagements with third countries on issues of concern to our Membership.

We can readily attest to the clear benefits of the ACP relationship which has been manifested at different levels, including:

  • A significant contribution to the eradication of poverty;
  • Improved and more equitable access to basic services and infrastructure;
  • Increased awareness of the environment and climate change (very instrumental in the COP process and the adoption of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change); and
  • Enhanced mutual understanding through political dialogue.

It is our desire therefore to see this relationship continue in a structured framework beyond 2020, preferably within the context of an all-ACP framework. However, in order to remain viable and effective, every organization must periodically go through a process of reflection and self-examination.

In like manner, ACP Member States must commit to a process of reinventing and repositioning of the Group into a modern, fit-for-purpose, inter-governmental organization.

Jamaica therefore stands ready to support a process of operationalization of the aspirations for a revitalized ACP, as outlined in the Policy document – “Towards the ACP We Want”. If the reform process is to be successful, it must be pursued in an atmosphere of transparency and trust, where both pragmatism and compromise can prevail, and where our collective efforts can give rise to an effectively reformed ACP Group of which we can all be justly proud. Undoubtedly, a transformed ACP Group will be able to better empower the more than one (1) billion people that it represents across the three regions.

I can recall several examples of common challenges affecting our people that have been resolved through our collective efforts and partnerships with third countries. Last year, several countries in our region were severely impacted by climate change and weather-related crises.

These are experiences that are not unique to the Caribbean but which affect many countries of the ACP. None of us can champion this cause alone in the international arena. However, a united ACP can establish synergies with bodies such as the United Nations and the Commonwealth, which will meet in the coming days, to discuss these and other development issues.

Undoubtedly, our efforts to address our common challenges will have the best prospects for success, if mounted from a united front. Together, we can engage Third Parties in meaningful dialogue aimed at changing, among other things, the criteria for development support, as well as for establishing international standards for growth, which have continued to impede our development process.

You can well appreciate, therefore, the need for a concrete and effective mechanism for the articulation of the concerns of Member States in the international arena. Our issues of concern include good governance, taxation, climate change, migration, labour productivity, private sector development, human resource capacity-building and the digital economy, within a robust governance framework.

A reformed ACP, backed by the political commitment of Member States, as well as sound governance mechanisms and processes, and financial stability, would be able to guarantee this process.

In addition, a reformed ACP would facilitate greater knowledge transfer among the Member States, who have had successes in key areas, and have established national, regional and globally recognized best practices. Indeed, the ACP Group of States can present the finest example of practical and effective approaches to South-South Cooperation.

With this in mind, I can readily envisage the scope for enhanced cooperation among our three regions in technical and vocational training, sports management and MSME development, among others. These are avenues which we should be pursuing among ourselves without having to rely on external partners.

This must become part of the “ACP we want” in the short to medium term and not postponed to some distant point in the future. Our youth in particular are impatient for action and we must deliver!

In this regard, I take note of recent and ongoing work of this distinguished body on the revision of the Georgetown Agreement. This is critical to our efforts to reposition the ACP within the international sphere. The completion of this process should lead to the consolidation of the Group, as an effective global player and to the further articulation of an Action Plan with agreed timelines for the effective transformation of the ACP Group.

A true test of the credibility of our efforts to reposition the ACP Group is our management of the negotiation process with our longstanding partner, the European Union, on a successor arrangement to the Cotonou Partnership Agreement, scheduled to commence in August 2018.

This impending activity provides the ACP Group with a critical opportunity to outline its future direction as well as to infuse some dynamism into this bilateral relationship. It is a chance for us to place squarely on the table, the basis on which the Group will then engage with the EU27, with Britain having fully exited the Union by then.

We owe it to future generations to make the best projections and provisions for their well-being. All of our countries have large sections of young people who are setting much store on the actions we take in their favour. I encourage you therefore, to be bold, visionary and ambitious in outlining our aspirations for a renewed partnership with the EU.

In this respect, let me reaffirm the commitment of the Government and people of Jamaica towards the advancement of this process, which is to culminate in the adoption of an All-ACP Negotiating Mandate at the upcoming 107th Session of the ACP Council of Ministers and its preceding Special Session on Post-Cotonou relations.

My Foreign Minister is pleased to have the opportunity to preside over those critical discussions to be held in Lomé, Togo at the end of May. She has already given me the assurance of her commitment as President of the Council to provide the requisite support to Member States of the ACP, as you prepare for the launch of a rigorous process of negotiation with our EU partners in the coming months. [IDN-InDepthNews – 19 April 2018]

Video: Prime Minister of Jamaica’s statement to the ACP Committee of Ambassadors – 16th April 2018. Credit: ACP

Photo: Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness addressing the ACP Committee of Ambassadors in Brussels on 16 April 2018. Credit: ACP.

This report is part of a joint project of the Secretariat of the ACP Group of States and IDN, flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate. –

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