While preparing for talks on future relations with the European Union (EU) after the Cotonou Agreement expires in February 2020, the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) is engaged in concerted efforts to reshape itself into "an effective global player" serving as a catalyst and an advocate for defending, protecting and advancing multilateralism, within the overarching framework of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development including 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
An important factor for this objective to be achieved, as the ACP Secretary-General, Dr. Patrick I Gomes, told InDepthNews 'UN Insider', is the Revision of the Georgetown Agreement named after the capital of Guyana, where it was signed in 1975. The Revision would allow the ACP Group to deepen and widen its foundations.
With this in view, diplomats from 79-member states of the Group gathered in Brussels on April 5 for a special session of the 'ACP Committee of Ambassadors' – which is the ACP Group's second decision-making body acting between ministerial sessions on behalf of the Council of Ministers. The Council is the main decision-making body, also tasked with implementing the guidelines laid down by the Summit of ACP Heads of State and Government.
The Georgetown Agreement of June 7, 1975 and the first Lomé Convention, signed in the same year, established the Group – then comprising 46 member states – to stimulate "regional and inter-regional cooperation amongst the ACP States and amongst developing countries in general, and to strengthen the links between the respective regional organisations to which they belong", and also to promote implementation of "a new world economic order".
ACP's cooperation partner, the European Economic Union (EEC), then counted nine-member states. Countries that later joined the Group were still undergoing the process of decolonisation.
The ACP Group of States is bound by treaty obligations as the largest grouping of developing countries with a permanent secretariat and observer status at the United Nations.
The Group is actively implementing UN Resolutions and Programmes jointly with the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), UN Development Programme (UNDP), UN Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), UN WOMEN and the UN Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC).
Revision of the Georgetown Agreement after the previous 2003 amendment would include examination of provisions such as the Preamble of the Agreement, and the criteria and categories of membership in the organisation, giving close attention to the call of ACP Heads of State and Government at their Seventh Summit in 2012 for "contacts and relations with other States and groups of States" to feature prominently.
The revised Agreement will ensure that while the foundation is strong and has proven, over the last 43 years of the ACP's existence, to be deeply grounded, dynamic and open to innovative changes: "We have to be creative and sharply focused in addressing a 21st century that is showing new and vastly turbulent, geopolitical realignments at national, regional and continental levels," said Gomes.
Some of the violent realignments such as in Syria and the Middle East, the push for a Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) in Africa, the drift to the right across Latin America and the looming threat of a trade war between the United States and China have consequences for the sustainable development and structural transformation of ACP economies, thus impacting the very DNA of the ACP Group "to end poverty in all its forms everywhere" (SDG 1).
This also underlines why the restatement of the vision of the ACP Group was expressed as follows by Heads of State and Government at their 8th Summit in 2016 in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, in the southwestern Pacific:
"We commit ourselves to strengthening coordination and dialogue among our States, in all international fora, so that our numbers will work in favour of creating reforms to the multilateral architecture that will serve our interests and enhance the role of our Group, in all the areas of global governance in order to contribute to the development of our States and meet the expectations of our peoples."
As the ACP Group aims to be repositioned as a key global player facing the emergence of new global challenges, issues and new emerging priorities, revision of the Georgetown Agreement is now more than necessary.
The meeting was therefore an opportunity for the ACP Committee of Ambassadors and the ACP Secretariat to "thoroughly discuss and exchange views" on the various proposals that all six regions of Central, East, Southern and West Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific have circulated for amendments and additions to the 30-plus Articles in the Agreement.
Among issues receiving attention are even a change to the title and designation of the organisation (Art.1 The ACP Group) which could be replaced by the 'Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACP)'.
"These and other proposals from the regions make the task of revision both pertinent and exciting as this must provide a reinforced foundation for the ACP Group to execute its historic responsibility,” Secretary-General Gomes told IDN's ‘UN Insider’.
“We will build on a critical assessment of the ACP’s accumulated experience and institutional partnership with Europe and also move forward with other partnerships, as was intended by our founding fathers."
While the deliberations continue over the coming weeks, ACP sources expect that a consolidated draft revised Agreement will be subjected to legal scrubbing and be available for debate by the 107th Session of the ACP Council of Ministers to be held in Lomé, Togo from May 28-29, 2018.
"It will hopefully fulfil the mandate given to the Committee of Ambassadors by the 104th Session of the ACP Council of Ministers in November 2016 to review the Georgetown Agreement in order to modernize it and enshrine in it a new vision and adapt it to the realities of the present time.
ACP Press and InDepthNews