Transcript from audio

I’m pleased to join you today for this important commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States. The ACP, which brings together 79 developing countries across three continents is a unique organisation. It continues to play an important role in fostering unity and solidarity amongst members around its core values and objectives.

Indeed over the past four decades much work has been done in towards ensuring that the concerns, interests and needs of its Member States are addressed, and initiatives taken in the areas of sustainable development and poverty eradication, peace and security, as well as the promotion of human rights and good governance. It is therefore fitting, as the ACP Group takes stock of its achievements and challenges in the vital partnerships between the ACP and the European Union, to focus on how it can be strengthened in the new global order.

As I’ve said before, this is truly a momentous year. We are currently engaged in three interlinked processes that will define our collective development path for the next 15 years and beyond. We have to ensure that the post-2015 development agenda to be adopted by world leaders in September is ambitious transformative and transforms economies, improves people’s livelihoods, and protects our planet. To do so, we need the successful outcome of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development to be held in July in Addis Ababa, and action oriented deliverables to support the implementation of the development agenda. Achieving success in Addis Ababa will also boost our chances of reaching a binding agreement on climate change in December in Paris.

In all these important processes, the core objective is eradication of poverty, promotion of growth and achievement of sustainable development in social, economic and environmental dimensions. It is also increasing emphasis on renewing and strengthening the global partnerships for development. Most of these are issues in which the ACP states and the European Union have been and will continue to be engaged.

You Excellencies, Distinguished participants

One of the main strengths of the ACP Group of States is its dynamism and commitment to improving trade and economic cooperation in order to transform their economies and competitiveness and increase their share of world trade. While some promise has been registered in this regard, it is inadequate that a Group with a combined population of 900 million people contributes less than 5% of world trade and only 1.9% of global GDP. By contrast the EU, with a population of about 500 million people, contributes over 16% of global trade and 17% of global GDP. To be successful in the new global order, ACP countries will have to devise new and better strategies to positioning the Group to become competitive in the 21st century.

It is encouraging that some work is being done to orient the group with a view to making it fit for purpose in these rapidly changing and complex times. I would like to pay tribute to the efforts of ACP members to revitalise the activities of the Group in terms of its legal status, functions and strategic role. It is crucial to further enhance and deepen the level of cooperation and coordination amongst the membership of the Group with the European Union and other partners.

Why is this so important? To answer that questions, one has to look at the major trends and challenges facing the world today. There are still residual effects of the global economic and financial crisis that should be addressed, rising inequality, climate change, the resurgence of geopolitical competition, emerging threats and sectarianism and violent extremism, among others. To remain an influential actor in the new global order, the ACP states have to reposition the work of the Group to improve its competitiveness and strengthen representation in global governance structures. The need to diversify economies and reduce commodity dependence cannot be overemphasised. Though ACP states may belong to different groups and intergovernmental organs, it is essential to support and coalesce around their common interests and those of their members in special situations like the Least Development Countries, Landlocked Countries, and Small Island Developing States.

Collectively, and with the support of development partners, ACP countries need to address infrastructural deficits, especially in energy and transport, which constrain industrialisation and value addition to their commodities and natural resources. In this context, the upcoming Financing for Development conference will result in the adoption of measures or policies aimed at facilitating access by developing countries to affordable long term funding for critical infrastructural projects. It is also critical to address the enabling domestic and international environment for development, including on issues related to debt relief and trade, as well as systemic issues including the reform of global governance and international financial system.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The important role that the EU and its Member States play in development finance cooperation through the various ACP-EU agreements is commendable. This is a good example of how South-South and North-South cooperation can be complimentary. As a mutually beneficial post-Cotonou Partnership of 2020 and beyond is being envisaged, it is very important to build on this foundation. Taking into account the lessons learnt and the risks and persistent challenges, including those related to the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAS), would be very crucial. The ACP Group has worked to promote regional cooperation and integration as its main priority since its founding 40 years ago. Indeed, regional initiatives contribute to strengthening peace and security, and addressing root causes of conflict.

The prospects of the ACP Group in the new global order are bright, provided it recognises its strengths and seizes opportunities. ACP countries should enhance their economic power by boosting productive capacities and competitiveness, in order to increase their share of world trade. They should also further strengthen Intra-ACP cooperation, taking advantage of their combined population, diversity, and different levels of development. Above all, we should all work together, developed and developing countries, to improve the livelihoods of all people, and protect our planet.

I thank you for your kind attention.