SPEECH: Statement by Secretary-General, Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas, on the Occasion of the Celebration of ACP Day Monday 6 June, 2011 ACP House, Brussels
Our Distinguished Guest Speakers Your Excellencies, Invited Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, Thirty-six years ago, precisely on 6 June 1975, the Founding Fathers of the ACP nations signed an Agreement in Georgetown, Guyana; committing themselves to building an alliance founded on solidarity, interdependence and international dialogue.
If the ACP did not exist, it would have had to be invented. A stepchild of history, our enduring partnership with Europe has been seen as a symbol of hope in a divided world. Through the ebb and flow of world events, we have weathered many a storm and lost not a few heroic battles. But we have also had our moments of triumph. Today, the ACP has come of age.
We no longer define ourselves in terms of our relationship with Europe. Rooted in history and in our sense of collective purpose and destiny, we stand for solidarity and universal values – for that dialogue of civilisations without which humanity’s future would be gravely imperilled. Distinguished Guests, The theme of today’s seminar is: “The Role of Dialogue in Sustainable Development: Implications and Prospects for ACP-EU Cooperation in a Changing Global Environment.” I need not remind us that our world is changing with breathtaking rapidity.
Globalisation imposes new competitive pressures on the economies of our member countries even as the rules-based WTO international trading regime no longer accommodates the privileged trading arrangements that we once enjoyed with Europe.
We also face a new era of uncertainties. The New Europe, with its changing institutional architecture and emerging geopolitical priorities poses a challenge for us to reassess our place in the world.
According to an old African proverb, “One must first praise the farmer for a job well done before asking him for a yam”. While we appreciate the support we have continued to receive from our EU partners, it is evident that we must reorient the partnership from aid to trade, investment and growth requiring a more intense involvement of the private sector.
We must also take our future into our own hands by embracing South-South cooperation and the opportunities opened up by the emerging economies of China, India, Brazil and others. In an increasingly difficult global environment, we need to reaffirm our solidarity and unity of purpose; faithful to the spirit of the Georgetown Declaration and the collective wisdom which inspired our Founding Fathers to embark upon this great adventure anchored on solidarity and interdependence.
We at the ACP believe that there is no alternative to dialogue and there can be no retreat from cooperation based on ethics and global responsibility. After the seminar, there will be a reception in the lobby downstairs, to which you are all invited. We also have two exhibitions; one, by the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM), who will be showcasing some of their activities; the other, a photo exhibition on Haiti before the earthquake, sponsored by the Organisation International de la Francophonie (OIF).
Not long after the devastating earthquake of January 2010, I visited Port-au-Prince to assess conditions on the ground and to see how we could help mobilise international support for those long-suffering people. Haiti is the ultimate paradigm of underdevelopment — the poorest country in the northern hemisphere. Those of us familiar with the Caribbean, however, cannot forget the illustrious history of Haiti.
The inhabitants of the island of San Domingo were the first in modern times to throw away the shackles of slavery and to establish themselves as a free people. The Trinidadian historian and philosopher C. L. R. James, in his famous book, the “Black Jacobins”, provides the most definitive account of the Haitian revolution, bringing to life the heroic deeds of men such as Jean-Jacques Dessalines, Henri Christophe and Touissaint de l’Ouverture. Haiti sent its brave fighters to support Abraham Lincoln in his struggle to emancipate the slaves in the United States of America.
These men also fought alongside Simon Bolivar, on condition that he ensured the liberation of black slaves in the Hispanic world. The Great Liberator kept his promise. And for nearly a century, the free nation of Haiti committed some 30 percent of her national wealth to support freedom movements throughout the Americas. Haiti was once a light unto the nations. In spite of her long night of captivity, the light of liberty can never be extinguished from the hearts of the Haitian people.
Ladies and Gentlemen, This afternoon, we are privileged to have in our midst three remarkable guest speakers. It is my pleasure to introduce to you Ms. Patricia Francis from Jamaica; Professor Mirjam van Reisen from the Netherlands; and Professor Meghnad Lord Desai from India and Britain. Ms. Patricia R. Francis Patricia Francis is Executive Director of the International Trade Centre (ITC) based in Geneva, Switzerland. The ITC is a joint agency of the UN and WTO that works with medium and small enterprises to promote successful export businesses while strengthening trade-support institutions and policymaking in developing countries.
She has brought her leadership skills to bear on the ITC, enhancing its management functions and lifting its profile internationally. She has also forged new partnerships with other international agencies, including our own ACP Secretariat. Before her appointment in June 2006, Ms. Francis held several important posts in government and the private sector. She served for 10 years as president of the Jamaica Promotions Corporation. During her tenure, Jamaica attracted more than US$ 5 billion in foreign direct investment. She also served twice as President of the World Association of Investment Promotion Agencies.
Ms. Francis has been Chair of the OECD’s Caribbean Investment Initiative as well as of the China-Caribbean Business Council. She is the recipient of the King Juan Carlos of Spain Prize for her leadership in investment and business advocacy, among other international awards.
Mirjam van Reisen Our second speaker is Professor Doctor Mirjam van Reisen. She is the Marga Klompé Chair of International Social Responsibility in the Faculty of the Humanities at the University of Tilburg in the Netherlands. The Marga Klompé Chair was established in honour of the former Minister of Social Affairs and first female Minister of the Netherlands. Professor van Reisen is also the founding Director of Europe External Policy Advisors (EEPA), an independent policy think tank based in Brussels. She has over 20 years’ experience working on EU and international development issues and is the author of an impressive list of publications.
A seasoned academic, policy analyst and international development activist, she brings a fresh new voice on the ethics of international responsibility on the part of rich as well as poor nations.
Meghnad Desai Last but not least, we have Emeritus Professor Meghnad Jagdishchandra Lord Desai of St Clement Danes. He was born on July 10, 1940, in Baroda, India. A child prodigy, our learned professor started secondary school at age 5 and matriculated at the University of Bombay when he was only fourteen. He completed a PhD in economics at the University of Pennsylvania, USA, at the precocious age of twenty-two.
Lord Desai recently retired from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), where he spent nearly four decades as a teacher and academic. Many of the leaders of our countries were trained at LSE: Michael Manley and P. J. Patterson from Jamaica; Maurice Bishop of Grenada; Forbes Burnham of Guyana; Dame Eugenia Charles of the Dominican Republic; Ratu Kamisese Mara of Fiji; Jomo Kenyatta and Mwai Kibaki from Kenya; Sylvanus Olyimpio of Togo; Sir Veerasamy Ringadoo and Navinchandra Ramgoolam from Mauritius; and Kwame Nkrumah, Hilla Liman and John Attah Mills from my own native Ghana. Sir William Arthur Lewis, the Nobel economist from St. Lucia, was also a professor at the LSE.
Lord Desai has been active in the British Labour Party, becoming Chairman between 1986 and 1992. He has written extensively in economics, international political economy and South Asian Development. He is also a public intellectual and newspaper columnist. In 2004, he published a biography of Indian film star Dilip Kumar.
Of this he has said: “My only regret in life is that I could never be as good-looking as Dilip Kumar. My hair, for one, is not as long and straight as his….With time, I reconciled to the fact that not everybody has the good fortune to look like Dilip Kumar”.
Well, my Lord Professor, if this is any consolation, be rest assured that hardly anyone in ACP House knows who Dilip Kumar is! Ladies and Gentlemen, I thank you all for coming and I trust that we shall enjoy this session of fruitful interchange.