Brussels, 1 August 2012/ ACP: The Committee of Ambassadors of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States welcomed three new members who recently began their tenures as official envoys to the European Union (EU) and Benelux states.

Making inaugural speeches to the Committee on Tuesday 24 July, the Ambassadors from Guinea, Nigeria and Zambia each stressed their governments’ commitment to enhancing the ACP as an international alliance and reviewing the Group’s longstanding partnership accord with the EU, due to close in 2020.

“Nigeria holds the ACP in very high esteem and had consistently demonstrated its avowed commitment to lifting high the profile of the organisation and sustaining the principles and values underpinning the ACP family of nations,” said newly appointed Ambassador of Nigeria, H.E Mr Felix Ebodor Awanbor, a career diplomat with previous postings in Tehran, Moscow, New York and Paris.

“The four decades of existence of the ACP have no doubt witnessed remarkable achievements… Today we face a new set of challenges.” He highlighted the global economic recession, climate change and stalled trade negotiations with Europe as examples.

Likewise, H.E Ambassador Grace Musonda Mutale Kabwe of Zambia also noted “severe challenges” facing the ACP Group, calling for solidarity amongst members and “alternative thoughts and measures to strengthen economies and independence.”

Ambassador Kabwe, a seasoned banker, urged fellow member states not to “take for granted” the privileged relationship with the EU, urging self-sufficiency of the Group and strengthening of South-South linkages with other emerging economies such as the BRICS.

“We should not accept a situation where the ACP is the largest coalition of the world’s poor and yet it’s full of rich natural resources. As the Group moves to reposition itself, there will be need to develop mechanisms that will assist in better harnessing these resources for the betterment of our people,” she said.

Guinean Ambassador, H.E Dr Ousmane Sylla also pledged his support, acknowledging the ACP Group and its Organs for assistinghiscountry in its return to constitutional order in 2010, after years of political instability. He commended the work of the Ambassadorial Working Group on the Future Perspectives of the ACP, created by the Committee of Ambassadors to tackle the issue of mapping out the group’s future.

Ambassador Sylla, a former Minister of Mining and Geology in Guinea, outlined key issues of focus for the Group with regards to EU relations, including the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs), the EU’s Multi-Annual Financial Framework for 2014-2020 which contains the 11th round of development funding to ACP countries, the promotion of sustainable development following the ACP-EU joint declaration in at the Rio+20 summit, and the issue of differentiation in development cooperation.

Ambassadors Awanbor, Kabwe and Sylla reiterated concerns over the stalled EPA negotiations, calling for flexibility and “fair and just” agreements that do not compromise their countries’ development interests, including regional integration.

The three new appointees were received by the Chair of the Committee of Ambassadors, the Dean of the Committee, the ACP Secretary General, and their diplomatic peers at the ACP House in Brussels.

(Photos: (From top) New ambassadors making their maiden speeches in front ofthe ACP Committee of Ambassadors,H.E Mr Felix Ebodor Awanbor (Nigeria),H.E Ambassador Grace M. Mutale Kabwe (Zambia) and H.E Dr Ousmane Sylla (Guinea); the ACP Secretary General Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas with Ambassador Sylla;Ambassador Kabweand Ambassador Awanbor)

– ACP Press