Nairobi, 10/12/2019/ACP: “Ensuring that democracy, peace and prosperity prevails everywhere in the world, amidst global turbulence, increasing state of fragility in our countries, large or small, is at the heart of a transformed ACP group of states,” Dr. Patrick I. Gomes, outgoing Secretary General of ACP told the official inauguration of 9th African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Heads of State and Government Summit in Nairobi.
Themed A Transformed ACP: Committed to multilateralism, is happening ahead of next year’s conclusion of the Cotonou Agreement, a comprehensive agreement signed between the ACP group of nations and the European Union.
“Multilateralism is simply a means to organize relations as ACP member states for a common purpose. In this system of geopolitical and human engagement, interdependence and enormous connectivity within continents, regions and nations, ACP group of states sees its defining role as a catalyst and advocate for an inclusive multilateralism,” said Dr. Gomes.
The Summit culminated the Nairobi Nguvu Ya Pamoja Declaration (Nairobi Strength for Unity) Declaration, setting up of an ACP endowment fund as well as setting up of the first ever Women and Youth Fund.
At this summit, where Papua New Guinea passed on the head of ACP group baton to the host president Uhuru Kenyatta, outgoing president Patrick Pruaitch expressed hope that Kenyatta would take the group to the next level in this process of transformation and repositioning that commenced three years ago.
The ACP group of states started a process of self-reflection three years ago, seeking to reposition itself based on common and shared values and aspirations towards the ‘ACP We Want’, building on its three foundation pillars which included the commencement of the ACP-EU Post Cotonou Agreement, renewal of the Georgetown Agreement and the establishment of the ACP Endowment Trust Fund (ETF).
“The future is always as bright as how we want it to be. The decision to set up ACP endowment fund facility and the potential it promises, will be a game changer in our respective view,” said Patrick Pruaitch, outgoing ACP President, adding that much as the group appreciates continuous support from its partner the EU, ACP must also be able to help itself.
To support his call, Pruaitch disclosed that his country, Papua New Guinea pledged an amount of 500,000 euros towards shaping up the ETF, with 100,000 euros of the pledged having been released.
Since the signing of Georgetown Agreement 44 years ago, global dynamics have changed with today’s multipolar world characterized by competing geopolitical interests, new challenges to peace and security and unprecedented constraints to the free movement of people.
But despite the enormous challenges, leaders at the summit expressed confidence in the ACP group’s continued thrive, standing out as the world’s largest transcontinental formal organization.
President Uhuru Kenyatta, who takes over office as president of ACP group for the next three years, gave an assurance that the visions and goals of the group will be placed at the very center of all engagement and that ACP becomes a beacon of hope and multilateralism.
“Through the path we have taken together, we have shown the world that we can join forces to bring changes of global importance. We are all very proud of our solidarity and our growing capability to support South-South and North-South cooperation,” said Kenyatta.
Ghana’s president Nana Akuffo Addo told the summit that ACP’s strength would be strengthened not just by its numbers, but more significantly by attaching to its objectives when it was established under the Georgetown Agreement.
“The overarching goal was to realize a new international economic organ in which we will neither be victims nor poor, on top of closer trade relations and regional and interregional cooperation,” he said.
The 2018 UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) report made a sobering statement that the ACP region is described as “having a fractured economic and trade structure” with economies of member states over reliant on the production and export of raw materials.
Africa has signaled its intentions through the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA) – with 54 AU member states already subscribed to it. Africa is poised to be the continent’s commercial trade and investment facility based in its 1.2 billion population with a combined GDP of US$73 trillion.
Mia Amor, the Barbados Prime Minister, argued whether ACP at this point of its destiny was a fast track to the future or a relic of the past.
“The G7 became G20 not because of a planned democratic revolution or global governance but because global financial crisis required global response and it became totally obvious that it was inadequate to the task,” she told the conference’s inauguration.
In the 21st century, all institutional configurations underlined in the ACP-EU relation as defined by the Lome Convention are irrelevant to the present and the future.
“By virtue of the revised Georgetown Agreement, we can forge an international organization that is speaking to our future. We members of the ACP must function on our own terms and not on terms set by others,” she reiterated.
Steven Davies, Deputy Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, faulted earlier statement made by the U.S. Secretary of State who claimed that United States and Australia are neighbours united rather than divided by the verse empires of the pacific waters.
“The is a comment that stands in contrast to histories of pacific people and our claim to the blue pacific. Leaders of the Pacific region see opportunities to not only secure the future of Pacific, but also to realize a new era of autonomy following the achievement of political independence,” he stressed.
Commenting the debate whether multilateralism in this age of bilateralism is still relevant, Davies said, without it, the strength of small economies would be in jeopardy.
As the ACP group finalizes revision of the Georgetown Agreement, he argued that the importance of institutionalizing inter-ACP engagement and empower the ACP secretariat to become states.
Hannah Tetteh, the UN Representative at the AU welcomed the ongoing efforts to transform and adjust the ACP in a manner that reflects current realities, negotiating a mutual partnership for 2020 and beyond, transformation of the ACP and the coming into force of AfCTA.
“Multilateralism is key for us all and this summit is the perfect place for EU to convey our message of support as the partnership that binds ACP and EU is special,” Jutta Urpilainen, European Commissioner for International Partnership told the summit. [IDN-InDepthNews – 10 December 2019]