By Dr. Patrick I. Gomes, ACP Secretary-General
BRUSSELS (ACP-IDN) - Presidents and Prime Ministers of 79 Member States of the African, Caribbean & Pacific (ACP) Group, the ACP Council of Ministers, Senior Officials, Continental and Regional organisations, development partners, civil society and private sector organisations deserve the ACP’s Secretariat's deep appreciation for having contributed so significantly to the main achievements of the ACP Family in 2016.
The gains made in the last year were particularly valuable in advancing commitments made by the ACP Group to the 2015 Paris Agreement and 2016 Marrakech Declaration on climate change. This is a great tribute to the programmes of the Global Climate Change Alliance (GCCA) spearheaded by the ACP & European Commission with resources from the European Development Fund (EDF).
The ACP is proud of the ratification and implementation of the 2015 Paris Agreement by so many ACP member states. Their submissions of nationally determined targets for adaptation and mitigation of climate impact on food security, protecting forests and oceans, ensuring sustainable management of extractive sectors and enabling our ACP agro-processing enterprises to move up and into Global Value Chains (GVCs) and derive improved incomes, skills development and decent jobs, especially among women and youth. This has shown significant success, for example, among cocoa, coconut, cotton, cashew nut farmers and fishers in West Africa and Pacific Islands.
The impact of these results across several sectors is tangible proof of growing attention to specific UN Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These have included reducing extreme poverty, fostering food and nutrition security, protecting land, forests, oceans and seas and upgrading living conditions in slums and urban settlements and thereby providing a strong platform for continuing progress of ACP States in achieving sustainable development in 2017 and the years ahead.
The Intra-ACP programmes of the 11th EDF in this area will deepen these results aiming at a cumulative impact in the 2017-2020 period of the ACP’s Strategic Management Plan (SMP) by addressing capacity-building and climate policy analysis in ACP Small Island Developing States (SIDS), Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs) and Least Developing Countries (LDCs).
Along with climate change, the ACP Group has identified trade, investment, research and innovation to loom large among the 2017-2020 activities in anticipation of and further preparation for forthcoming negotiations with the European Union (EU) for a successor agreement to the current ACP-EU Partnership Agreement, signed in 2000 in Cotonou, Benin for twenty years, ending in February 2020. In addition, preliminary analysis will be given to core principles for a possible Free Trade & Development Cooperation Agreement with the UK in the wake of its Brexit-EU relations.
On the trade front, sound progress has been made in 2016 with the contentious ACP-EU Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) that enables implementation measures for these WTO-compatible, preferential trade and investment accords to start reaping some, if even limited, harvests in public-private partnerships, for example, in a range of commodities, fishery products and professional and cultural services within CARIFORUM, in Southern Africa, a few African and Pacific economies. Those ACP countries with full or interim Agreements, that have not been ratified should do so as soon as possible and ensure their tariff schedules are prepared to take effect in 2017.
So too must be more concerted actions by ACP member states to ratify the WTO 2013 Trade Facilitation Agreement for which the ACP Group as a critical global force had exerted its influence in the G90 (Group of Developing Countries) to secure a Treaty that reduces cross-border customs regulations and transaction costs.
The ACP Group will continue to play the role of champion, advocate and reliable ally of the Global South in ensuring an enduring commitment to the development dimension of the World Trade System.
Linked to strides made in trade negotiation capacity building by the ACP Secretariat in serving our member states, efforts in 2017 are being centred on the design of an ACP-wide Investment regime to be developed in collaboration with the United Nations Conference on Trade & Development (UNCTAD).
At the UNCTAD XIV Summit in Nairobi, July 2016, the ACP and UNCTAD agreed on broad principles for regulatory and incentive systems to address cross-border and downstream investments on natural resource and commodity enterprises such as cocoa, cotton, kava, cashew nuts as well as minerals, oil, gas and petroleum by-products.
Moreover, in collaboration with UNCTAD, the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and FAO, the ACP has proposed a comprehensive approach to “harnessing the blue economy”. This will address marine resource development, research and innovation studies on fisheries, sea-bed mining, coastal area conservation and development, artisanal and aquaculture programmes.
Beyond climate change, trade and investment, the 104th Session of the Council of Ministers in Brussels in November 2016, unambiguously agreed that peace and security are pre-requisites for sustainable development and sustainable development could not be attained without peace and security.
While the ACP welcomes the notable gains in the rule of law and good governance by many ACP States as witnessed by the smooth transition of power by electoral means in Ghana, we are firmly resolved that the outgoing President of the Republic of the Gambia, Yaya Jammeh should handover the mantle of leadership to the democratically-elected President as expressed by the will of the people.
To this unequivocal call by fellow Leaders of the Economic Community of West African States ((ECOWAS) and by the African Union, United Nations and a host of civil society organisations in The Gambia, the ACP Group has aligned itself and urges President Jammeh to honour the electoral results and demit office by the constitutionally-due date of 18 January 2017.
As the ACP looks to this year that will be undoubtedly marked by meagre economic recovery, growing political uncertainty, complex realignments at the international level and continuing regional conflicts, we will redouble efforts to strengthen our initiatives to assist our member states to implement the UN’s Agenda 2030 and the SDGs and vigorously pursue alliances of the like-minded to safeguard multilateral institutions for the good of all humanity.
In this regard, 2017 will be a year for consolidation, standing firm on South-south solidarity and strengthening the core values and mutual interests between and among ACP societies as efforts are intensified for the structural transformation and diversification of ACP economies. The achievements of 2016 provide a strong platform on which to aim for reasonable success during this year and beyond. [IDN-InDepthNews – 03 January 2017]
Photo: Dr Patrick I Gomes