Brussels, ACP House, 15th June 2018

Hon. Joseph Owona Kono, President of the ACP Parliamentary Assembly, Honourable Members, Excellencies, ACP Ambassadors & Representatives of Missions, Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Guests –members of the ACP extended family especially those who have travelled from so far to be here at ACP House.

I welcome you to this 50th Session of the ACP Parliamentary Assembly, – a golden Jubilee session. One that is taking place at a pivotal moment as the ACP Group of States and the European Union, prepare to launch the negotiations for a Post Cotonou Partnership Agreement –an Agreement that is to be post-modern, dynamic and visionary.

I am particularly happy to update you on recent developments in this context as the role to be played by Parliament and Parliamentarians will be most significant…not only for a strong legal basis through ratification of the successor agreement but taking due care to ensure there are clear responsibilities and how they are to be discharged by all stakeholders –the executive, administration, civil society, organized interest groups. They are to participate in a truly inclusive and participatory manner, both in the process and the product.

Mr. President, Hon. Members, distinguished guests

As we all agree, the negotiations for the Post Cotonou Agreement is a Member States driven process; and as such preparations on part of the ACP Group are being guided by the Committee of Ambassadors in Brussels, with technical support from the Secretariat, mainly through an Internal Task Force. Their work has made possible key issues that have been addressed by what is the Ambassadorial Central Negotiating Group (CNG) and the three Technical Negotiating Teams (TNTs) that concentrate on the three strategic pillars that are the substantive core of the ACP’s Mandate and derive their political legitimacy having been previously approved by the Council of Ministers and rooted in the Summits of ACP Heads of State as early as 2012 in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea and more recently in 2016 in Port Moresby PNG.

These pillars are an advance and more contemporary reflection on the Lome and Cotonou Agreements that speak of trade, development cooperation and political dialogue. In the Mandate you have them as:

Pillar 1: Trade, Investment, Industrialization and Services;

Pillar II: Development Cooperation, Technology, Science, Innovation and Research; and

Pillar III: Political Dialogue, and Advocacy.

In the overarching frame-work of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, where these pillars are anchored, we have embedded a Core Nucleus from which emanate the guiding principles and objectives of the Negotiating Mandate, as well as nine cross-cutting themes which identify the mutually beneficial issues and interests that are to be thoroughly addressed as essential goals of the Partnership agreement. These themes are expressed as Climate change, Oceans & Seas, Gender Equality, Youth and Health among others. The Mandate also shows that needs and interests of specific categories of our Member States, such as LDCs, LLDCs, SIDs, MICs and HIMICs are to be addressed. Unity in diversity is not a slogan but a reality of the rich and complex scope that sustainable development must address.

In reporting to you today, at this Jubilee session of the JPA, I am indeed happy and proud of the tireless efforts of the Secretariat staff, the strong involvement of Ambassadors and the rich involvement of our Ministerial Representatives who by their presence and serious participation at the Council Meeting in Lome resulted in the adoption of our ACP Negotiating Mandate for a Post Cotonou Agreement. Together much has been achieved.

The 107th Session of the ACP Council of Ministers held from 29 to 30 May 2018 in Lome, Togo was truly a moment of great pride for this unique organization of 79 Developing countries.

In its No 2 Decision the ACP Council of Ministers adopted the ACP Negotiating Mandate for a Post Cotonou Agreement and authorized the Committee of Ambassadors to make preparations for the official launch of the commencement of negotiations with the European Union in accordance with requisite Article of the ACP-EU Cotonou Partnership Agreement.

The ACP Negotiating Mandate, copies of which have been availed to you, calls for a single undertaking within the ACP framework in the negotiation process, resulting in a legally-binding Agreement. This is very crucial for the solidarity and unity of the ACP Group, and as such the ACP Parliamentary Assembly has a role to play in promoting this undertaking at national, regional and continental levels.

In this regard, I would like to express my sincere appreciation for the strong Declaration you adopted at the 49th Session of this Assembly, held on 21st March 2018 here at ACP House. This Declaration called on all Member States of the ACP Group to maintain its unity and solidarity, and undertake the negotiation of the Post Cotonou Agreement as a single entity in line with the vision and mission of the ACP Group as articulated at the 7th and 8th Summits of the ACP Head of States and Governments, as well as the ACP Policy Framework document “Towards the ACP We Want”.

The commitment and contribution of the Parliamentary Assembly is meant to be creative, critical and on-going. As indicted, under Pillar III: Political Dialogue, and Advocacy, it has been well articulated in the ACP Negotiating Mandate that the role of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly as a platform for on-going political dialogue, must remain essential to the Post Cotonou Agreement. Further, it is underlined in the Mandate that the role of the ACP Secretariat should be strengthened to provide the requisite technical and administrative support to the ACP Parliamentary Assembly to enable it operate effectively, including complementing its work with that of the regional Parliamentary bodies.

Mr. President, Hon. Members,

I also consider it important that the consultative role of the ACP Parliamentary Assembly in this negotiation process of a Post Cotonou Agreement, will continue to be valuable particularly through the Working Group you have constituted on this matter with able and experienced members.

As we launch the negotiations with the EU, the ACP Parliamentary Assembly will be routinely updated on the process and more importantly will be your thoughts and eventually the institutional mechanisms that will enhance efficiency, effectiveness, transparency, democratic scrutiny, accountability and the visibility and coherence of how the successor agreement lives up to the legitimate expectations of our citizens – across Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific. To do so the critical assessment of how the Assembly has performed is essential and a rigorous study in this regard is being undertaken, with results and recommendations that can be debated at your next session in Benin.

While I underline once again that this is a Member States driven process, you as Parliamentarians, the legislative arm of the state must play a key role. There is therefore a need for you as Parliamentarians to engage and be heard by the negotiators through suitable avenues or various events and occasions for consultations as the process unfolds and a clear Road-map is defined.

This is only logical because, you will debate, amend, clarify and ratify a new Agreement or reject aspects as your Parliaments see fit. And once the new Agreement comes into force, as Parliamentarians you will continue to exercise your oversight role in its implementation in your respective Member States. It is thus vital, that ACP Parliaments are part and parcel of this process from the start.

Mr. President, Hon. Members,

I wish to take this opportunity to bring to your attention two other areas that are key to the future of the ACP Group of States. The first refers to deepening and embedding the vision for the ACP Group of States to be a more effective global player and address geopolitical changes of the 21st century, in response to deepening South-South cooperation and regionalization. These aspects are being in part addressed through the on-going work by the Committee of Ambassadors on the Revision of the Georgetown Agreement. More significantly is the acceptance of the generous offer from the Republic of Equatorial Guinea to host the ACP Information Centre for South – South and Triangular Cooperation, in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea. This is a tangible institutional mechanism by which the role of the ACP Group as a Facilitator and Hub of SS & Triangular Cooperation will be visible and the spread of our presence with a presence in an ACP member state. While grateful for such enormous generosity of President Obiang and government and people of Equatorial Guinea the use to disseminate case studies and convene meetings on SS & TrC must be well planned and operate in a sustainable manner. Not only strengthening Intra-ACP cooperation but the ACP will be a catalyst to other UN agencies already operating from within Malabo.

In as far as the Centre’s Headquarters is concerned, Equatorial Guinea will provide two floors, in a modern, equipped and computerized building in Malabo II, free of charge. The Republic of Equatorial Guinea will provide the local staff required and will cover their salaries, and also cover 50% of the operating expenditure of the Centre. The building and the staff members will be accorded diplomatic status. The ACP Group will cover the recruitment costs and salaries of foreign staff, as well as 50% of the Centre’s operating expenditure. It will also handle the administrative and logistical management of the Centre. The authorities in Equatorial Guinea have proposed that the Centre be opened in October 2018. The cost-sharing mechanism proposed by the authorities in Equatorial Guinea, was extensively considered by the Committee of Ambassadors, particularly with respect to the financial implications for the ACP Group. According to the Secretariat’s estimates, the average cost for the first three years will stand at €430,000.

The Committee of Ambassadors believes that this cost can be borne by the ACP Group, in light of the desire to strengthen intra-ACP cooperation and play a greater role on the international stage.

It is my hope that this Centre will be another vehicle of facilitating and strengthening the work of the ACP Parliamentary Assembly and its interaction with other regional Parliamentary bodies.

Mr. President, Hon. Members,

The second topic on which I wish to draw your attention concerns enhancing of the financial sustainability of the ACP Group. Substantial progress has been achieved on the establishment of the Endowment and Trust Fund (ETF), particularly on its proposed governance structure. This will be by means of a Board of Trustees of seven members and a Financial Planning and Investment Unit (FPIU) with a small staff having relevant expertise in financial resource mobilization and investment policies. The Board of Trustees’ will be a mix of private citizens well accomplished in banking and financial investments who are willing to serve on a voluntary basis. Three members will be from among the Committee of Ambassadors. No need to go into details now but to alert you to thinking of benefactors and possible investors who wish to show their trust in a long term future of an ACP that is financially self-reliant. Great progress has to be made in this area if we are to become increasingly independent of the almost 50% of the costs to manage our Secretariat. Steps are under way to mobilise the capital of 30 mn Euros as a start which with sound investment will help us in about two years to contribute 5% more to annual operating costs and supplement our member states contributions. Urgent actions are addressing:

  • The establishment of a legal structure;
  • The designation of members of the Board of Trustees;
  • The establishment of the Financial Planning and Investment Unit in charge of mobilizing resources;
  • Identification of potential donors to be short-listed and initial contact;
  • The launch of the recruitment process for the Financial Planning and Investment Unit; and
  • The development of a brochure that will provide potential donors with detailed information on the ACP Group and its goals.

The Endowment and Trust Fund (ETF), will need the support of ACP Parliaments, particularly with respect to resource mobilization.

Mr. President, Hon. Members,

In conclusion, let me state clearly that today we face a very turbulent, multi-polar world order – so desperately in need of peace, security and stability in our societies where there will be respect for fundamental human rights, rule of law, justice for all and strong institutions that serve the interests of the majority. This demand of a new world order can not be achieved without effective and honest parliaments in our societies.

Gathered here for this 50th session of the ACP parliamentary Assembly each and everyone of us can make the new order be a reality. Let us do it.!!

I thank you for your kind attention.