Brussels, 6 June 2021/OACPS: As organisations evolve, they must reflect on, and affirm their key values. The African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States was formed on 6 June 1975 in the city of Georgetown, Guyana. This date has, since then, been known as ACP Day. With the ACP Group’s evolution to being the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS), we now celebrate OACPS Day on 5 April. As such, we have chosen to continue to commemorate the 6th of June when the three geographical regions of the South came together, and to refer to this day as our ‘Unification Day’.

Unification is defined as the process of being united or made into a whole. The rapprochement of the six regions of the OACPS 46 years ago, marked a significant step forward for the regions and a remarkable accomplishment for the brokers of this historic Agreement; who had the vision and the courage to pool their political, economic and intellectual resources to negotiate with countries of the ‘developed world’ on behalf of their States.

“In unity we found strength, and courage to use it in principled ways”

Unification then, and more importantly, now, refers to the willingness to build a community, a network of developing nations, to speak as a group and to support one another’s interests. As Sir Shridath Ramphal, one of the persons involved in this process so concisely said in a presentation at the Inter-Regional High-Level Consultation in Barbados in 2019, “In unity we found strength, and courage to use it in principled ways.” Through this process of unification, we affirmed that despite our regional diversity, we faced similar obstacles, which because of various issues, such as our size, distance and language diversity, we found difficult to surmount on our own. Hence, we realised that we needed to make the journey towards the political, economic and social advancement of our peoples, together.

Forty-six years later, our unity has been tried and tested. We have held strong. The OACPS stands as a beacon of what can be accomplished through joint endeavour. The most recent proof of this was seen on 15 April 2021 when our Chief Negotiators initialled the new OACPS-EU Partnership Agreement. A proud moment for the OACPS and for the men and women across the 79 Members of the OACPS and the 27 States of the European Union.

Today as we make history by celebrating our 46th anniversary and our first Unification Day, the global COVID-19 Pandemic requires that we are united and stand together in solidarity as never before in our short history. It goes without saying that the socio-economic recovery of our Members is a priority following the continued ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent emergence of variants. I am happy to see the cooperation among States and to know that we are working together to ensure that our Members have access to vaccines. Let us remember that we are not safe, until all of us are safe.

The Pandemic has highlighted the weaknesses of our health systems. We need to work on that. We need to build back better, together. Not just among ourselves, but with our global partners. If we have learned one thing in this Pandemic, it is that our fortunes are inextricably connected and our very survival is linked to our partnerships and our unity.

In no area is the need for global collaboration more obvious than in the area of climate change. As we prepare for the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow later this year, we acknowledge the need to meet the ambitious goals set at the last Summit, which given the chaotic climate events in our States at the moment, are more necessary and urgent than ever.

On Unification Day, I take this opportunity to thank all of the persons who support and help to create the OACPS we want.

Happy Unification Day!