ACP-EU PROGRAMMES: EPA capacity-building project launched in the Caribbean
Georgetown, Guyana, 26 March 2015/ CARICOM: The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat-based Caribbean Forum of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (CARIFORUM) Directorate, in collaboration with key partners, launched a €3,099,915 Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA)-centered Capacity-building Project, in Georgetown, Guyana on 25 March.
The Project’s specific objective is to contribute to the effective implementation of the CARIFORUM-EU EPA, with particular reference to obligations relating to Competition, Public Procurement and Customs and Trade Facilitation. The Project—funded by the EU—entered into force on 13 December 2014 and has a duration of approximately twenty-seven (27) months. It is being implemented through a Service Contract between CARIFORUM, as the Contracting Authority, and Equinoccio, Compañía de Comercio Exterior, S.L., the Contractor.
The Launch took place at the opening session of a one-day Regional Sensitization Workshop for the Project. Conducted by Equinoccio, the workshop brought together National EPA Coordinators from CARIFORUM States as well as representatives of regional institutions and other Non-State Actors.
The Project Manager, Mr. Eugene Petty, who is the Director of Development Cooperation in the CARIFORUM Directorate, served as the Chair of the Launch Ceremony. At the Launch, remarks were delivered by: the Honourable Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Guyana and the current Chair of CARIFORUM; the Director-General of the CARIFORUM Directorate, Mr. Percival Marie, who has overall responsibility for the management of the Project; Ambassador Robert Kopecký, Head of Delegation of the European Union to Guyana, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, and for the Dutch Overseas Countries and Territories; and Mr. Angel Diez, Managing Director of Equinoccio.
In the feature address, Minister Rodrigues-Birkett placed the Project in context. Observing that “trade policy is now more complicated than ever,” she opined that the training to be provided via the Project is “timely.” Minister Rodrigues-Birkett also noted, “capacity-building will be critical for the CARIFORUM Region to benefit from the EPA, at institutional and sector levels.”
The Chair of CARIFORUM welcomed the multi-stakeholder reach of the prospective training, which she said augurs well for entrenching public-private dialogue spanning the relevant regional states, as all concerned strive to leverage the EPA.
In terms of the training, a cross-section of CARIFORUM stakeholders will be targeted in the public and private sectors, as well as in agencies with responsibility for the different thematic areas within the Region. The capacity-building training, in the aforementioned thematic areas, will be conducted at the basic, intermediate and tertiary levels, with a view to enhancing human, legal and institutional capacity across the CARIFORUM Region. Accordingly, CARIFORUM States’ ability to effectively honour their commitments and take advantage of the opportunities under the EPA will be strengthened.
In her remarks, Minister Rodrigues-Birkett also emphasized that the knowledge and expertise that Project beneficiaries are expected to garner in the respective thematic areas would be “transferable.” In this regard, it was observed that the training in question is expected to indirectly build the capacity of regional states to meet relevant obligations pertaining to the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), as well as with regards to certain trade agreements with third countries.
Mr. Marie affirmed this sentiment, in remarks delivered on behalf of the Secretary-General of CARIFORUM, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque. He noted, “Ambassador LaRocque attaches great significance to the Project.” Mr. Marie also revealed that inputs, to date, with regards to the process informing the Five Yearly Review of the CARIFORUM-EU EPA, have identified a number of gaps in the Region’s capacity to implement the Agreement. Those gaps, he said, include the thematic areas that anchor the Capacity-building Project.
Against this backdrop, Mr. Marie underscored that, with respect to the 11th European Development Fund (EDF) Caribbean Regional Indicative Programme (CRIP), “emphasis will continue to be placed on regional capacity-building.” He added, “the current Capacity-building Project represents the first stage of what we want to do in these areas under the 11th EDF CRIP, which is currently the subject of negotiations between CARIFORUM and the EU.”
Ambassador Kopecký’s remarks called attention to the fact that with the signing, in December 2014, of the Service Contract for the implementation of the Capacity-building Project, all seven component areas of the €46,500,000 10th EDF CRIP support to CARIFORUM States in the Implementation of the commitments undertaken under the CARIFORUM-EU EPA are now on stream. Furthermore, he noted, “given the capacity deficits that the Project seeks to address, it is essential to supporting the beneficial integration of CARIFORUM States into the world economy.” In this context, he sought to underline the importance of capacity-building to the Region.
In his remarks, Mr. Diez underscored that it is imperative for the Project’s methodology to embed learning outcomes and materials, on a sustainable basis, among academic and other participating institutions in the Region. In noting the significance of the Project, he also highlighted the strong commitment of his team to partner with CARIFORUM for the successful implementation of the capacity-building initiative.
In the implementation of the Project, Equinoccio leads a consortium that comprises: The London School of Economics (LSE) Enterprise, Ltd.; the Maastricht School of Management (MSM); and SGS Netherlands B.V.
Following the Launch Ceremony, the sensitization workshop’s sessions sought to inform key stakeholders of the Project’s planned activities and expected results. The forum was structured so that it could establish and strengthen the link between the planned capacity-building activities and effective implementation of commitments made under the EPA, in the three thematic areas. The engagement also sought to identify the role of National EPA Coordinators as focal points for Project implementation. The capstone of the workshop was preliminary, participant-led discussion of the needs of CARIFORUM States, pertaining to the implementation of obligations under the three thematic areas, as well as the identification of next steps.
In this latter regard, a more detailed discussion will take place at a Needs Assessment Workshop, to be convened on 26-27 March in Georgetown, Guyana. Equinoccio is also leading this engagement. The Workshop will carry out a comprehensive assessment of the training needs of CARIFORUM States, in the three thematic areas, in relation to EPA implementation, as well as prepare course outlines of training-based, capacity-building programmes in said areas. This two-day meeting will bring together Senior Officials from CARIFORUM States drawn from National Customs and Revenue Authorities, National Tender Boards and Procurement Offices, and National Competition Commissions and Consumer Protection Agencies, as well as representatives of targeted regional institutions with specialization in the three thematic areas under the Project.
The aforementioned workshops form part of the work to be carried out by the Contractor during the Project’s Inception Phase, which is expected to come to an end in early April 2015.