Your Excellency, Alemayehu GUJO, State Minister of Ministry of Finance and Economic Development

Mr Peter GAKUNU and other Esteemed Members of the Eminent Persons' Group (EPG)

H.E. Dr Diodurus KAMALA, Chair of the Committee of Ambassadors

H.E. Ambassador Berhane Gebray, Former Secretary-General of the ACP

Honourable Members of Parliament

Highly distinguished personalities and resource persons,

Members of the Diplomatic Corps

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Honourable Minister,

At the outset, let me express my profound pleasure in welcoming you this meeting that has brought together leading personalities from the ACP East African region, with the objective of consulting on the future of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) Group beyond 2020.

Through you, Honourable Minister, I would like to thank The Right Honourable Prime Minister, the Government and the Peoples of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia for the warm welcome and generous hospitality that has been accorded to me and indeed all the delegates here present, since our arrival in this beautiful country – Ethiopia.

I also wish to thank you, Honourable Minister, for accepting to grace this meeting by taking time off your busy schedule to come here this morning to deliver an opening statement.

We should also express our deep gratitude to Ethiopia for offering to host this meeting in this beautiful city of Addis Ababa. The City of Addis Ababa is recognized as the “political capital of Africa" due to its historical and diplomatic significance for the continent. Therefore, it is fitting and relevant that the consultations that will guide us on how we chart out the future of the ACP Group should be held in this capital.

In addition, I thank the ACP East African Ambassadors in Brussels, particularly their coordinator, Ambassador Teshome Toga CHANAKA of Ethiopia who, together with his colleagues from the region, has played a key role in making this consultation process a reality.

Most of these Brussels-based Ambassadors are with us today. I recognize those from Burundi, Comoros, Kenya, Mauritius and Uganda. We also have in our midst, His Excellency Ambassador Dr. Diodorus KAMALA of Tanzania who is also currently providing leadership to the ACP Group, in his capacity at the Chairman of the ACP Committee of Ambassadors.

Last, but certainly not the least, let me note and welcome the presence of Ambassador Patrick Gomes, who although not from this region, is a key figure in the work that we are carrying out related to this meeting. Ambassador Gomes is the Chairman of the Ambassadorial Working Group on the Future Perspectives of the ACP Group. I think it will be useful to afford Ambassador GOMES an opportunity to update you on the work of his Group as well as the tasks that it has accomplished so far.

Your Excellencies, Distinguished Guests

As I have had the occasion to say in other regions that have concluded the consultations, it is worth reminding us that the ACP Group embraces 79 member countries from Africa, the Caribbean and the islands of the Pacific. I am privileged and honoured to head its Secretariat in Brussels and we operate with an elaborate network of institutions and stakeholders.

Our grouping is a product of history dating back to the Rome Treaty 1957 when the former French African colonial dependencies were brought into Association status with the European Economic Community. The membership was later expanded in 1973 when Britain acceded to the Community, bringing with it her erstwhile colonial dependencies that were now members of the British Commonwealth of Nations.

With the further expansion of the European Economic Community that brought Spain and Portugal into the European system, the former Portuguese and Spanish colonies in Africa and the Caribbean also became members of the ACP Group.

The ACP Group emerged largely as an association of countries that share particular ties with the former European colonial powers and that are bound to Europe through history, economics and trade arrangements. But the ACP does not define itself solely in its relationship with Europe.

Indeed, the Georgetown Agreement of 1975 sought to establish the ACP as an intergovernmental body bound together by a shared sense of South-South solidarity and commitment to the pursuit of equity in world economics and international trade and in the use of dialogue as the primary instrument of international cooperation.

The ACP is the largest trans-regional intergovernmental organisation of developing countries in the international system. The collective strength of the ACP Group derives from decades of inter-regional solidarity, international trade negotiations, development finance cooperation political dialogue and relations with other international organisations.

There is potential to build on this numeric strength to promote the collective cause of some of the poorest countries in the world, with opportunity to establish crucial alliances not only with Europe but with some of the emerging global players in the world economy.

At the various levels these relations need to be nourished to allow for greater intra-ACP cooperation and coordination, and a more cohesive, proactive and vibrant Group.

Indeed, the call for solidarity, greater visibility, relations with other international groups, streamlining of the core business of the ACP and empowering its Secretariat has been a constant theme of all of the Summits of ACP Heads of State and Government since the last two decades.

The ACP Group has existed for more than 30 years without having lost a single member. Since 1975, its membership has nearly doubled to its current 79 developing countries, soon to be 80 with the accession of South Sudan which currently has an observer status. We continue to pray and hope that the political and security situation in South Sudan will be resolved soon rather than later.

The call for action to justify the ACP’s relevance today is also an urgent reminder that the global context in which we have operated hitherto has been radically transformed. At the same time, it is a call to reaffirm our solidarity and the inherent dynamism and durability of the ACP ‘family of nations.

It is for this reason that the Eminent Persons Group on the future of the ACP beyond 2020 was formed and launched on March 25, 2013. It is comprised of 12 distinguished luminaries and statesmen from the African, Caribbean and Pacific regions. The Group is chaired by Chief Olusegun OBASANJO, former President of Nigeria.

The members of the EPG include former heads of state or government, executives at international organisations, accomplished academics, and former high level government officials. The eminent persons were selected for their distinctive leadership skills, far-reaching experience in international affairs and development, and sound technical knowledge in their various fields. Each possesses the demonstrated ability to ‘think out of the box’ to find solutions for complex problems.

But most importantly, the EPG members represent the African, Caribbean and Pacific people who would be the main beneficiaries of a sturdier, more dynamic ACP Group.

The significant task assigned to the Group is that of independently reviewing the 79-member ACP Group as an international organisation and to offer the future perspectives that the Group should pursue post 2020 when the ACP-EU Partnership Agreement, commonly known as the Cotonou Agreement comes to an end.

So far the EPG has held three consultations – in the Pacific, the Caribbean and West Africa regions. This is the fourth such consultation. We hope that the remaining two regions of Central Africa and Southern Africa will also meet soon, so that they too can have their say. Ultimately, the objective is to garner key contributions that must be compiled, reviewed and reflected in the EPG’s final report. At the same time, inputs from ACP peoples from all walks of life are strongly encouraged, through online discussions on a webpage that the ACP Secretariat has opened on its website.

The EPG is expected to make recommendations on the future orientations of the ACP and present its views and final report to the 8th Summit of Heads of State and Government in December 2014. I can indicate that the Summit will take place in Suriname, in the Caribbean in December.

That is why we are here today. We would like to hear your views in your various capacities as government officials, parliamentarians as well as non-state actors drawn from the private sector and civil society. And for that reason, as I have done in other regions that have already held their consultations, I encourage and urge you to be frank and candid because it is only by being open that we will comprehend what you want your organization to be and to do for you in the future.

I thank you all for your kind attention.

H.E Alhaji Muhammad Mumuni
ACP Secretary General

24 February 2014