7th Regional Meeting (Southern Africa) of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly, Lusaka, ZAMBIA
Statement by the Secretary-General of the ACP Group at the Meeting of ACP Members
22 February 2012

Mr. President, Members of the ACP Parliamentary Assembly, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for giving me this opportunity to address your meeting. I wish to thank the Government and National Assembly of Zambia for having offered to host this Meeting and all the facilities that they have put in place for our comfort and the success of your Meeting.

Mr. President,

In the first place, allow me to present my personal congratulations to you on your election as President of the ACP Parliamentary Assembly and Co-President of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly. I have noted your impressive record of public and private sector experience in your country, and I believe that you are more than qualified to be at the helm of our parliamentary institutions.

Your election is also a credit to your own country, which has passed through some difficult political times in the past, and through the determination of its people, including your personal contribution, has made remarkable progress. I would like to assure you that I and the ACP Secretariat will assist you in whatever way we can to ensure that you have a successful tenure of office.

Mr. President,

Hon. Members,

At the outset I would like to comment more on the democratisation process in Zambia and about how the last elections, which were transparent and credible and led to an alternation of power, peacefully and smoothly has made Zambia a model in Africa. All Zambians should proudly defend this democratic culture which is being consolidated in their country. Elections are the fullest and most public expression of any country’s democratic aspirations, and the ability to regularly and peacefully change political leadership is the hallmark of democratic maturity. Zambia has an unbroken record of regular Parliamentary elections since its independence from the UK in 1964. The September 2011 elections were the second in its history, after the 1991 elections, which marked the peaceful change of power from a losing incumbent President to one from the opposition. These elections were therefore testimony to the fact that Zambia has attained a trajectory of democratic governance which she has to work very hard to strengthen and sustain.

Zambia has also been performing well economically in the past decade, with growth rates averaging 5% per annum, to the extent that the country was last year reclassified from Least Developed Country to Middle Income Country status. This achievement has come as a result of bold economic reforms that the country has been implementing for the past 20 years.

May I also congratulate Zambia on the winning of the recent Africa Cup of Nations Championship at the CAN 2012 in Libreville, Gabon. The Zambia National Soccer Team, the Chipolopolo, made all of us proud by the team play, determination and discipline. Well done!

Mr. President, Hon. Members,

I think it is also appropriate that I should thank all the Members and their delegations for coming to this Regional meeting. Your presence is indeed testimony of the importance you attach to your roles as Parliamentarians and to the issues that will be discussed. Indeed, this also vindicates the efforts of the Secretariat in facilitating such meetings.

Mr. President, Hon. Members,

Each time we convene these meetings, I believe that it is worthwhile to reflect on how the ongoing global trade, financial and economic crisis is fundamentally altering the approach to the development discourse. The crisis has once again helped to draw attention to the type and quality of the supervisory role of government over financial and economic management.

In the United Kingdom, the debate has shifted to the recognition that shareholders need to have more effective oversight over boardroom decisions, because it is felt that incentive structures for remuneration have effectively placed the futures of financial institutions, and indeed, the global economy, at the mercy of a few top executives.

I believe that this kind of debate is of direct relevance to the kind of activities that you are engaged in at JPA level. As Parliamentarians, you need more than ever before, to take an active interest and play a more effective role to ensure that your respective governments take decisions that positively affect the welfare of your constituents.

We hope that through exchanges such as this one at JPA level, you would have the opportunity to know how your respective governments are faring in various sectors at national level. But this occasion also gives you an opportunity to have a regional perspective on certain developmental challenges.

I therefore urge you to participate very actively in this meeting, and to ensure that the Communiqué that will be adopted at the end of the meeting reflects your concerns as ACP Members, not only for your countries, but the entire Southern African Region.

The agenda for this meeting captures some of the development challenges in the Southern African region. In accordance with other Regional Meetings, the subjects can be roughly grouped into 4 broad themes, namely:

i. Regional integration and cooperation;

ii. attainment of the Millennium Development Goals;

iii. participatory approaches to development; and

iv. strengthening democracy.

Further, let me hasten to add these themes also have a legal basis, as they are provided for in the Cotonou Agreement.

Mr. President, Hon. Members,

I am particularly pleased that you will have a discussion on the health and education MDGs, because they are critical factors to the futures of our respective states. The MDGs offer pragmatic, measurable indicators of progress or failure in 7 areas of social development. However, the attainment of the MDGs and the conditions for their sustainability beyond 2015 requires a well developed political, social, legal, and institutional framework that respects rights as well as supporting political freedoms, peace, security and stability.

Mr. President, Hon. Members,

Equally important are measures that support and deepen the democratization process and to maintain peace and stability in your respective countries and the region as a whole. The discussion of gender mainstreaming in the development process is important in this regard. Equally important is the fight against corruption, which affects accountability and limits of government, as well as about legitimacy and limits of private influence over public policy.

Mr. President, Hon. Members,

I would like to end my brief statement by on the subject of Economic Partnership Agreements. This has been the prominent pre-occupation of the ACP Group for the past ten years. As Parliamentarians, you have discussed this issue in virtually every Session of the JPA since 2001.

As you all know, the Caribbean Region, through CARIFORUM, has been the only region that has managed to sign a comprehensive EPA Agreement with the EU.

Mr. President, Hon. Members,

Many other ACP States and Regions have opted instead, to initial interim agreements with the EU. Still others might wish to undertake interim agreements as subgroups of EPA regional integration configurations. This was always one of our principal fears about EPAs, that is, whether they will contribute to regional integration or lead to the fragmentation of the regions of the Group, and indeed the ACP Group itself.

This region, for instance, was faced with a very pragmatic issue of how to configure itself for the negotiations given the existence of two regional integration bodies, COMESA and SADC. I am glad that we shall have the representatives of both organisations at this meeting to inform us about progress and the effect of the two pronged negotiation process in the region.

I feel that Regional Meetings such as this one provide an ideal forum for open, frank and substantive discussions on this matter.

Mr. President, Hon. Members,

Another issue of concern is that you will have observed that sometimes our principle partner unilaterally adopts certain policies and initiatives that impact on our Member States, such as the revocation of EU Regulation 1528 on EPAs. To a certain extent this undermines the role and obligations of statutory organs of the Cotonou Agreement and the spirit of our partnership, which should be based on the principle of equality and mutual respect.

EU Representatives will be present in your meeting and I hope that you can interrogate them on this issue as well.

Mr. President, Hon. Members,

As I end, I would like to assure you that as a Secretariat, we shall endeavour serve you better, to lead a Secretariat that can promote the interests of ACP States and Regions, and to become a far more vibrant interlocutor in the management of the ACP-EU development relationship. We have therefore, alongside the reflection in the ACP Committee of Ambassadors on the Future Perspectives of the ACP Group, also embarked on some serious examination in the Secretariat about how we can facilitate the work of the ACP Group better.

I believe thatthe ACP Group has served us well for over 30 years, and it is my view that a strengthened and empowered Group will be better placed to continue promoting its objectives vis-à-vis the European Union and indeed globally.

In conclusion, I would like to wish you every success in your meetings and a wonderful stay in this beautiful city of Lusaka.

I thank you for your kind attention.

H.E Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas
Secretary General
ACP Secretariat