Brussels, 29 May 2015/ ACP: The 101st session of the Council of Ministers of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States took place on the 26th and 27th of May and reconvened again on the 29th to finalise outcomes.
Nine decisions and four resolutions were adopted. In addition to decisions on administrative matters, they included the following:
Implementation of the Report on the Future Perspectives of the ACP Group
The ACP Council of Ministers decided that the Task Force responsible for implementing relevant recommendations in the Final Report of the Ambassadorial Working Group on Future Perspectives, widen its discussions to include trade, development, and cooperation. The Committee of Ambassadors was also mandated to fast track the design of a Long-Term Development Fund to urgently address the issue of the Group’s financial sustainability. The proposed institutional architecture of such a fund is to be presented at the next Council meeting in December 2015.
The Committee was also instructed to reflect on measures to bring the institutions of the ACP Group closer to the Member States.
ACP Forum on Small Island Developing States (SIDS)
The ACP Council approved the creation of a special forum for Small Islands Developing States, or SIDS, within the ACP Group. This SIDS forum will work primarily to sensitise stakeholders and the general public to SIDS concerns, as well as mainstream the SIDS agenda in ACP-EU relations, in particular issues captured in the outcome document of the Third International Conference on SIDS, known as the SAMOA Pathway.
Intra-ACP project management framework
The ACP Council also approved a new project-management framework, which seeks to boost the ownership, capacity and visibility of the ACP Group as an implementing partner of Intra-ACP projects (large scale development programmes implemented across various ACP countries) financed under the European Development Fund (EDF), while reducing over-reliance on other international organisations as the implementing agents.
Health in the context of the Post-2015 Development Agenda
The ACP Council also welcomed the outcomes and recommendations of the 2nd Meeting of ACP Ministers of Health in February, including the promotion of universal health coverage (UHC) in ACP countries, and making it an over-arching goal for the health sector amongst the proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the post-2015 development framework, with sustainable financing. Strengthening health systems to cope with epidemics such as the Ebola outbreak through multi-sectoral, coordinated approaches standardized within national systems, was also recommended.
In addition, four resolutions were passed on the following key issues:
The ACP Council of Ministers urged the effective implementation of the ACP-EU Dialogue on Migration and Development, so that migration will not only be a challenge, but also an opportunity for both countries of origin and host countries. The Council underscored that beyond the military and security approach taken by the EU, there is an urgent need to have a comprehensive approach to deal with migration, in partnership with all countries concerned. This global approach should attach the root causes of migration, while favouring international legal instruments that guarantee the human rights of migrants, regardless of their legal status in the host country.
ACP-EU Economic Partnership Agreements
The ACP Council of Ministers called for more flexibility in negotiations on outstanding issues; more attention to the difficulties of implementation; and adequate new and financial resources as well as technical support required by ACP regions to implement the EPAs. The ACP-EU Trade Ministerial Committee, which meets in a few weeks on the 22-26 of June, was invited to approve the draft agreement on Customs Administrative Cooperation.
New approach to private sector development
The Council urged the EU to respect the compromise reached last year on the closure of the long standing ACP-EU joint institution for private sector development known as the Centre for the Development of Enterprise (CDE) and the establishment of the Light Support Structure for the ACP private sector. The Council mandated the Committee of Ambassadors to finalise the establishment and implementation of this ‘light structure’, while also requesting that it work with the European Commission to identify adequate resources for this exercise.
On ACP commodities
The Council of Ministers urged the completion of the new ACP-wide approach to commodities, taking into account the importance of commodities such as tobacco, cashew nut and kava, to some ACP countries. The Council also focused on:
Sugar:The Council passed strong resolutions on Sugar, calling for more policy coherence in the EU’s trade, agricultural and development policies, as well as an urgent review on the impact of the EU sugar reform and rapid and early decline in EU sugar prices on the ACP sugar supplying states. The Council urged the EU to rescind the sugar specific safeguard provisions in the ACP-EU EPAs, which will apply after September 2015, and exclude such provisions in any future sugar import implementation regulation
Cotton:The ACP Council of Ministers called on members of the World Trade Organisation to translate into reality the results of the 2013 WTO Ministerial Conference in Bali, with the view to reach an agreement on Cotton before the next Ministerial Conference in December 2015. The Council urged the Secretariat to work with relevant partners to finalise the Pan-African Cotton Agenda, with an aim to begin implementation in 2016. The Council called on development partners, in particular the EU, to support this on-going initiative over the next 10 years.
Bananas: The ACP Council of Ministers stressed the need for a review of the banana sector in ACP countries, as well as a study on the impact of the support given to assist the sector. This comes in light of new risks to competitiveness, as seen in additional trade benefits proposed by the European Commission to third countries that compete with ACP banana producing countries.
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