Brussels, 14 October 2013/ ACP: The first consultation of the Eminent Persons Group (EPG) will be held in Apia, Samoa from 17-19 October 2013. This is the first in a series of six regional consultations in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific to solicit the views and secure positions of member states on the outlooks of the ACP Group after 2020.
The ACP Group includes 79 member countries – soon to be 80 with the entry of South Sudan. ACP countries are part of a unique partnership with the European Union, covering development finance and cooperation, trade and political dialogue. The framework agreement comes to an end in 2020, with the last review in 2015.
“The EU is the second largest donor to the Pacific and represents a significant source of development support as well as trade opportunities. It is therefore important for the Pacific community to engage and reflect on this important matter as it will no doubt impact directly on their development agenda,” said the current Chair of the ACP Committee of Ambassadors, Samoan Ambassador to the EU Dr. Fatumanava Pa’o Luteru.
The Prime Minister of Samoa, Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi is set to launch the meeting this Thursday. ACP Secretary General Alhaji Muhammad Mumuni and PIFS Secretary General Tuiloma Neroni Slade are scheduled to attend along with other participants from Europe and the Pacific.
Discussion topics include key strategic issues for the ACP Group, lessons and best practices from four decades of ACP-EU agreements, options and alternatives for future relations, and a Pacific perspective on new orientations after 2020.
“Consultations have to be wide and thorough to include all major stakeholders. The Pacific voices have to be heard loud and clear together with the African and Caribbean voices in determining the configuration for the Group for the future. As a united force, we create our own solidarity, cohesion and special competencies that have a global force and outreach when exercised,” added EPG member Mr Kaliopate Tavola, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and former Ambassador to the EU for Fiji.
Mr Tavola will be representing the 12-member high level panel headed by ex-President of Nigeria Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, charged with reviewing the work of the ACP and recommending a way forward for the organisation. A website will be launched to share information and invite dialogue and input from the public.
He said the Pacific can contribute to the ACP “global force” through competencies in areas of climate change, fisheries, undersea mining, trade in the developing world, cultural uniqueness and diversity, economic growth with and without concessions, developmental experience in ODA, and rugby and sport, amongst others.
Fellow EPG member from the region, trade expert and former Finance Secretary for Samoa Mr Kolone Va’ai cited World Trade Organisation (WTO) trade issues and the increasing potential of intra-ACP cooperation as focus areas of interest for the Pacific.
“Drawing on the lessons learned in the last 38 years of the ACP-EU Lomé Conventions and Cotonou Agreements the Pacific countries will have the opportunity to identify its regional development needs which could be best addressed through a renewed ACP framework. We are fortunate the Pacific over the years has developed more robust frameworks for the identification of its regional needs, not only through the Pacific Plan, but also through the medium term operational country and regional strategic plans of the development partners.
"The real challenge is to try and capture the key trends which will dictate the prioritisation of these needs beyond 2020,” said Mr Va’ai.
The consultations take place 17-19 October, with government officials, parliamentarians and members of civil society and private sector from around the 15 Pacific ACP countries invited to attend.
– ACP Press