I bring you fraternal and warm greetings from His Excellency President Baldwin LONSDALE, The Rt. Honourable Prime Minister Joe NATUMAN and the Government and good people of the Republic of Vanuatu. Permit me to express how delighted I am to be here. Indeed, I consider it an honour and privilege to be presiding over the affairs of this august 101st Council session here at ACP House.
The fact that you are here today, in spite of the pressing affairs of state in your home countries, testifies to the importance you accord our ACP family of nations and this ministerial Council in particular.
2015 is an important year for the ACP Group, as June the 5th marks 40 years since the signing of the Georgetown Agreement which brought into existence the ACP Group of States. Fittingly, the Committee of Ambassadors and the Secretariat are working closely to commemorate this momentous occasion on the 4th and 5th of June. In addition to symposia about where we have come from, where we are today, and where we want to take the ACP Group, I am reliably informed that the occasion will be punctuated by culinary delights and cultural performances that celebrate one of our great strengths, our cultural diversity. To which of course, you are all invited!
Honourable Ministers,
2015 is also important because this year we are succeeding in overcoming one of the greatest challenges that some of our Member States have had to encounter, that is the scourge of Ebola, which my predecessor amply elaborated on during the last Council session. To this end, we would like to congratulate our sister Republics of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, for the successes registered so far, while encouraging them at the same time to maintain their laudable efforts.
Congratulations are also due to our Member States that successfully conducted elections earlier this year, including Namibia, Nigeria, Benin and Togo.
Honourable Ministers, Excellencies
While 2015 will go down in history for the aforementioned successes, it will also be remembered for the devastation caused by Cyclone PAM in the Pacific, specifically in my own country of Vanuatu, but also in neighbouring Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Kiribati and Federated State of Micronesia. According to the final version of the Post Disaster Needs Assessment, the destruction caused by cyclone PAM resulted in the loss of 11 lives in Vanuatu, while the destruction of property is estimated at 80%. As a result of this devastation, Vanuatu unfortunately was no longer in a position to host the 38th ACP Parliamentary Assembly as well as the 29th ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly next month. Nonetheless, I am pleased to confirm that in Fiji, the ACP Group of States could not have found a better replacement.
With regard to the overwhelming support we received from the international community in the wake of cyclone PAM, Vanuatu would like to once again place on record our deep sense of gratitude and appreciation.
I would however like to single out the unprecedented solidarity demonstrated by the ACP Group to the Government and People of Vanuatu, during our hour of need. The dispatch of an ACP delegation to Port Vila to ascertain firsthand the situation on the ground, as well as the cash donation presented, in spite of the resource constraints the Group is facing, is a manifestation of solidarity that the Government and People of Vanuatu shall not forget.
We note also with appreciation that this demonstration of solidarity from the ACP Group has not been confined to Vanuatu. This year alone we have seen the ACP Group also manifest its solidarity during the International Conference on Ebola, as well as the International Donor Conference Guinea Bissau, both of which were held in Brussels earlier this year.
May I also take the opportunity to reiterate the ACP Group’s deep appreciation and gratitude to our President-in-Office, His Excellence Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, for his generous contribution to boost the finances of the Group, which made it possible for the Group to undertake actions in pursuit of our stated objectives, which may otherwise not have been possible.
Honourable Ministers, Your Excellencies,
It is my firm conviction that it is only through unity and solidarity that developing countries such as ours can promote their common interest and the values that they cherish.
This is why the success of the ACP Group is of such importance to the future of our common humanity, as we represent a significant part of the family of nations. As my predecessor, the distinguished Minister from Guinea mentioned in his Statement to our 100th session, and I quote: “From the viewpoint of the poor and vulnerable, we are the moral majority. Not only do we count, but we must continue to make our voice count in the global arena, if we are to transform the ACP Group of States into a truly effective global player within the community of nations”. Unquote.
Honourable Ministers,
Coming back to the matters before us today, I would like to underscore the importance of our 101st Council Session, in that we will be dealing with issues pertaining to our preparations for the Financing for Development Conference to be held in July in one of our capitals, namely Addis Ababa, as well as the UN Summit on the Post-2015 Development Agenda to be held in New York in September. Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris in December, 10th WTO Ministerial Conference in Nairobi, Kenya in December. We will also receive updates on the state of play regarding the regional EPA negotiations, and in the case of the Caribbean, on the state of implementation. Our 101st Council session is also important as we prepare for our 40th Joint Council Session with the EU, wherein we will exchange views not only on trade matters, but also the issue of migration and development, the latter made all the more pertinent by the unacceptable loss of thousands of lives in the Mediterranean Sea, some of whom are unfortunately from our Member States.
Honourable Ministers
You would all recall that during our last Session in December, we appointed the distinguished Ambassador Dr. Patrick Ignatius GOMES from the Republic of Guyana in the Caribbean Region, to steer the affairs of the ACP Group from 2015 to 2020. On behalf of the ACP Council I would like to once again heartily congratulate Dr. Gomes for being so brave as to accept the challenge. May I also take the opportunity to welcome the new members of his team. They of course have our full support, but we must also give them the resources and authority that they require to successfully implement their mandate. We have of course already given them their marching orders, in the form of the 2012 Sipopo Declaration from our Heads of State and Government at the 7th ACP Summit, but also through Decision No. 11/C/14 of our last Session wherein we approved the final report of the Ambassadorial Working Group on the Future Perspectives of the ACP Group of States.
And speaking of resources, let me seize the opportunity to congratulate and thank those of our Member States – 16 in number – who have already paid their financial contributions to the Secretariat for this year. In fact one member – Guinea Bissau – has even paid its full contribution for 2016.
Honourable Ministers, Excellencies,
I would like to encourage all of us to emulate the shining example of these Member States, in spite of the economic and financial challenges many of our countries continue to face.
Honourable Ministers, Excellencies
It would be remiss of me to conclude my statement without making mention of the outstanding issue of our 8th Summit. Following the inability of the Republic of Suriname to host the Summit last year, our Ambassadors and the Secretary General continue to work tirelessly to find a replacement. I would therefore like to take the opportunity to urge all Member States to consult closely with our Capitals with a view to finding a host for the 8th Summit. I would like to underscore the importance of holding the 8th Summit this year, ideally in November. Not only would it extend the commemorations for our 40th anniversary, but it would also provide the platform for our Heads of State and Government to receive the final report of the Eminent Persons Group on or common future. You would recall that the EPG was launched at the 7th Summit in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, in December 2012.
Finally, let me thank the Chair of the Committee of Ambassadors, my own compatriot, Ambassador Roy Mickey JOY, and his colleagues for all the hard work undertaken by them to implement the Decisions we made during our last Session in December 2014, as well as for the preparatory work to ensure a smooth and successful Council meeting. Our appreciation also extends to the staff members of the Secretariat, led by Secretary General Gomes, who provide the technical support that is indispensable for the Committee of Ambassadors to implement our decisions. I am reliably informed that once again, they have worked tirelessly to prepare for our Council meeting, even having to work yesterday, even though it was a public holiday. We truly appreciate their efforts.
Honourable Ministers, Excellencies, I thank you once again and wish us all successful deliberations.
Hon. Sato Kilman Livtuvanu
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Vanuatu
President of the ACP Council of Ministers