Statement by ACP Co-Chair of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly Hon. Musikari Kombo
Hon. Jennifer Geerlings-Simons, Speaker of the National Assembly of Suriname,
Hon. Louis Michel, Co-President of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly,
Dr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas, Secretary-General of the ACP Group of States, and Co-Secretary-General of the JPA
Mr. Marco Aguiriano Nalda, Co-Secretary-General of the JPA
Distinguished Invited Guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I thank you for the opportunity to make a Statement at this distinguished gathering here in this beautiful city of Paramaribo, Suriname. It is particularly a personal pleasure for me as this is the first time that I have the opportunity to be in the Caribbean in my capacity as Co-President of the JPA. It was gratifying for me to watch the patriotism of the People of Suriname at play on Monday as you celebrated your independence.
I wish to thank most sincerely the Government and people of Suriname for their warm welcome. I have been here for the past 5 days and I am pleased with the facilities that you have put at our disposal for the efficient conduct of our meetings.
Allow me to make special mention of the tireless endeavours of our friend and colleague Rabindre Parmessar, whom I know played an active part in the organisation of this meeting.
We can indeed only do justice to your collective efforts by applying ourselves with equal enthusiasm to the issues for which we are here to debate.
I always look forward to our Assembly Sessions with keen anticipation. The diversity of our political and ideological backgrounds often makes for very rich debate. But this is not merely a window dressing exercise, because I sense, on both sides of the house, a genuine and deep interest in the mutual development of our disparate countries and nations. We may have different approaches and views about how best to address the development challenges of ACP, and indeed EU states, but within this House we have the opportunity to have a broader perspective on human development because each one of us has some practical experience on what can be done and what has worked elsewhere.
From its inception in the 1970s, this Assembly has mainly focused on discussing the development challenges of ACP states. But over the years, there has been a gradual convergence of our political and economic challenges and needs with the realisation that many of these issues can only be addressed in a collegial way.
While we have spoken against the one-size-fits-all approach, we have also spoken against unilateralism, as well as isolationist and protectionist tendencies. Political and security threats have taken on a transboundary nature, as much as natural disasters and climate change have done.
Currently European political leaders are in the flux of intense debate about how to rein in budget deficits while at the same time ensuring necessary social spending, job creation and stimulating growth. The Greek situation is only the archetype of what is going on in other countries, including the USA. Our European colleagues may be reassured that several ACP states have and are still going through these same processes of painful restructuring at huge human cost. This fact alone demonstrates that, more than ever before, North and South, ACP and EU still need each other. Our destinies are intertwined, and we can only be sustained by acting in concert.
Just to buttress the point, we appeal to you not to close your countries to our trade; this will only have the effect of depressing import demand in our States in the long run, which will in turn hurt your exports to our markets. It would slow, and perhaps negate our development gains, which will in turn increase social tensions, with attendant risks of political conflicts within our states and immigration pressures at your borders.
We hope that the global crisis will not play into the hands of those who question the need for continuing development assistance. EU aid and technical support has played an important role in many of the institutional and structural reforms that have contributed to the growth of our economies. And the European Parliament has been an influential interlocutor of ACP interests within the EU institutional architecture over the years.
In this regard, it with profound sense of gratitude, therefore, to have learnt that once again, the Parliament took up this mantle admirably in your vote on the application of the EU’s Market Access Regulation 1528/2007.
But we know that this is not the end of the EPA issue. As the negotiations continue, we must ensure that the development dimension of EPAs remain paramount.
The ACP side has always insisted that EPAs must be used as instruments of development. Our experience in the last 10 years of negotiations has indicated that perhaps this is one of the reasons that the negotiations have dragged on for so long. And we know that part of the problem is that EU trade negotiators have been obsessed with a narrow liberalization agenda which focused only on trade aspects, including issues that definitely inimical to the development aspirations of ACP States. Perhaps it is because the EU mandate for negotiations is with the Commissioner for Trade, while the issues involved are more the province of the Commissioner for Development EPAs will wreck havoc in our States if the development dimension is relegated to the margins of the negotiations instead of being at the core. You will recall the objectives of EPAs were to ensure no ACP country should be worse off after the EPAs than they were before. Further, that EPAs support regional integration efforts of ACP States. We are of the view that the direction that EPAs negotiations have taken in the last 10 years run counter of these two principles.
Further, we feel that trade negotiators are paying lip service to the EU’s own pronouncements on policy coherence for development. In this case it is clear that any gains that are made the development risk being un- done by the EU’s trade policies. We call on our colleagues in the European Parliament to remain vigilant to ensure EPA’s truly deliver on the promise of development.
Most the issues we shall be discussing in this Session of our Assembly relate directly or otherwise to the cause of sustainable development. We must do whatever works to achieve this objective. We cannot remain straight jacketed by ideological or stale theories.
This is why I am glad that we shall launch here, in this Assembly, even before the other joint institutions of the Cotonou Agreement do so, some preliminary discussions on the future of ACP-EU relations beyond Cotonou. I have no doubt that, for those of us in the ACP who are yet to sign the full EPAs, there is wealth of experience from the CARIFORUM -EPA negotiations so as to avoid past mistakes.
We need to take into account of the evolution of the international discourse on development, and the many international initiatives that have been taking place in the last few years, namely on sustainable development, aid effectiveness and climate change. We should send clear signals about how we should join forces on issues of common concern.
We have at various times stated, and this is still our firm conviction as ACP States, that a partnership such as ours, comprising half the membership of the United Nations and most other multilateral institutions, can play an important role in shaping the global political and development agenda.
A good illustration of ACP-EU cooperation was the Joint Declaration on the Rio+20 adopted by the ACP-EU Council of Ministers that took place in Vanuatu in June this year. The outcome of the Rio+20 conference is one of debates without resolution of this session, and given the interesting debate we had in Horsens, it is good that we shall have a follow-up debate. Of course, as was to be expected in a meeting of this nature, some of our expectations were not met, but I believe that this time around, there are reasons to be a bit more optimistic.
As some commentators said, the outcome document agreed to just about meets the minimum requirements of success, given the deteriorating state of international cooperation and the tough battles that developing countries had to fight in the past year to get their points across.
We still can achieve the future we want!
And if the future we want is to be based on sustainable development, one of the issues that is of utmost concern to developing and developed countries is access to energy.
If we speak just in terms of electricity alone, it is estimated that by 2030 the number of people without access to electricity will fall by only a fraction – from 1.4 billion to 1.2 billion, according to figures from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and International Energy Agency (IEA).
We must also take into account that without access to modern energy, it is not possible to achieve the Millennium Development Goals because energy facilitates social and economic development, offering opportunities for improved lives and economic progress. We believe also that meeting universal energy access targets will also require public and development finance mechanisms to leverage additional private investment.
It will also require the involvement of many stakeholders including: governments, regulatory agencies, business, development agencies, financial institutions and civil society.
We have spoken before in this Assembly of the digital divide between north and south. But I think we must acknowledge that some significant changes are taking place in ACP countries. In terms of mobile phones for instance, there were only 15 million subscribers in Africa in 2000. Currently, there are more than 500 million. It is expected that subscriptions will reach 800 million by 2015.
In the period between 2000 and 2011, internet usage on the continent surged by 2,527% compared to a world average of 480%. One of Africa’s most talked about success stories is the rise of mobile money transfer services pioneered by Kenya’s Safaricom M -Pesa platform. Since its launch 5 years ago, it had been used by a staggering 15 million people, with 37,000 agents countrywide. In fact, around 20% of the country’s GDP moves through M-Pesa, with over $20 Million per day in transactions.
That example is just one of the many positive economic initiatives taking place in ACP State at both local and regional level. Indeed, a recent study by the Renaissance Group projected that Africa is already attracting more foreign investments than any other continent owing to a faster growth rate. The continent is said to have a unique advantage of “leapfrogging” through various stages of economic development, which the more developed western states had to go through in growing their economies.
However, this trajectory will only remain if good governance is assured. We have to shift from the politics of the right versus the left, to the politics of the right versus the wrong!
On the economic front, I am glad that we shall take time to debate regional integration. This is an important theme. In the ACP Group we have been alive to the imperative of regional integration for many years.
In recent years, globalisation has given further impetus to the need for regional integration. Due to the failure to achieve agree on global rules for trade at WTO level, perhaps regional bodies are the answer not only to achieve economies of scale, but to allow social and human capital to circulate freely among our regions.
All the ACP regions will have to decide how and where they intend to pursue these objectives, but already, I am glad, the political direction is very encouraging. We are therefore very eager to learn of progress in this regard in this Caribbean region. It should also be particularly instructive to those of us still attempting to conclude EPA negotiations. An issue which is of particular interest to is how the Parliamentary monitoring mechanism for the EPAs is proceeding.
Another interesting aspect for the Caribbean region is the presence of several European territories. They too share with some Caribbean states attributes such as remoteness, insularity and relatively small sized territory with difficult topography and climate. They are also characterised by economic dependence on a small number of products. However, I believe that because of their proximity to ACP Caribbean States, these regions also have major assets and the potential not only to contribute to their own development, but also to those of their ACP neighbours.
It is an issue which is worth exploring, if it has not been done already, and I am eager to listen to that debate.
As is the case every time we meet, we take time to debate and express our concern about political developments in certain of our member States. This time we shall focus on the situation in Somalia, Mali and the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Regarding the DRC, I hope the findings of the recent UN report about killings and cases of human right abuses in the eastern part of the county will inform our debate and resolutions. It cannot be business as usual when more than 250 civilians, mostly women and children are slaughters in such senseless manner.
In this regard, I am reminded that a number of ACP States will be holding Presidential or Parliamentary Elections in the next 12 months or so. I have in mind, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Cuba, Cameroon, Madagascar, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Mauritius, Nauru, Grenada, Swaziland and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe and of course, my own country Kenya. I wish to call on these countries to ensure that these elections are held in an atmosphere of peace and security in order to ensure that elections are transparent, free and fair.
In this regard, I wish to congratulate the Government and people of Sierra Leone for successfully conducting free and fair elections last week, a remarkable achievement for a post-conflict state. Congratulations are also due to President Ernest Bai Koroma for winning another term of office. I wish the people of Sierra Leone all the best in their future endeavors to consolidate their hard fought for peace.
The positive turnaround makes me believe that it is also possible to achieve peace in Somalia. This Assembly has been following the situation in Somalia for the last 20 years. Various solutions and interventions have been proposed, but whatever success we have achieved has been tenuous at best. Neighbouring countries have paid a huge price in their efforts to secure peace in the country. Kenya was compelled to send troops into Somalia because the situation had begun to threaten the internal security of Kenya.
I take this opportunity to thank those countries that have contributed to the African Union Peace-keeping force. Military intervention has been crucial in creating the conditions in which the people of Somalia can debate the future of their country. However, sustainable peace will not be possible in Somalia without the active participation of the Somali people themselves.
Now is the time has come to seriously consider scaling up support to the civilian government, because the situation has a taken a hopeful twist with the election of a new President and Parliament on 10 September 2012. A new Prime Minister was appointed on 6 October 2012.
One of the significant factors of this process was that it took place in Mogadishu, despite terrorist threats. This demonstrates the commitment of the people of Somalia themselves to drive the peace process, and we need to ensure that they success by giving them the appropriate technical, logistical, financial and military support to ensure that they succeed.
With regard to the situation in Mali, we recognise that the international community needs to assist the country on two fronts, namely to resolve the crisis in the north, as well as to ensure stability in the central government in Bamako for peaceful progress for the restoration of democracy.
Of course, the African Union and ECOWAS’s role is indispensable to this process not only in terms of military intervention, but also in facilitating a peaceful political settlement in Bamako, and if possible, encouraging those of the belligerents in the north who wish to negotiate.
Above all, we should remain resolute in seeing that Mali’s territorial integrity is restored and that transnational armed groups that indulge in terrorism and arms trafficking are effectively neutralised. It may be that this aspect of the crisis needs the collaboration of Mali’s neighbours and those beyond, such as Algeria and Libya, to assist in cutting off supply lines to the rebels.
In the east of the DRC, there has been an upsurge in the state of insecurity. Since April this year, more than 250,000 people have fled their homes due to the attacks of rebel groups, particularly the M23 Movement as well as others such as the Raia Mutomboki.
Human rights organisations have documented the horrendous cruelties inflicted on civilian populations especially on women and children, such as summary executions, rapes, and forced recruitment. Clearly, this cannot be allowed to continue. International humanitarian law or the laws of war, including Common Article 3 and Protocol II to the 1949 Geneva Conventions, which prohibit summary executions, rape, forced recruitment, and other abuses are very clear on the crimes being perpetrated. Only the decisive action of the UN and the African Union can address these issues comprehensively.
As I conclude, I want to inform the Assembly that my country Kenya will be holding General Elections in March next year. I have the usual confidence of a seasoned politician that my people will re-elect me to parliament.
I have also asked the Kenyan electoral authorities to see if they can allow members of this Assembly to vote in Kenya- but only if you commit to vote for me! When we conclude our Session, we shall leave back to our various countries and homes with Resolutions that reflect our consensus on the issues at hand.
We may not all be entirely happy with the outcome, but we can leave with the satisfaction that we have all played our part in sending out clear messages on what constitutes the minimum of what should be done to achieve our objectives.
I thank you for your kind attention