Statement by the Co-President of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly Hon. Fitz Jackson at the 30th session of the JPA, 7 December 2015, Brussels
I thank you for the honour of addressing the Joint Parliamentary Assembly once again. Before I go ahead, I wish to place on record the appreciation of ACP Members, and indeed of the ACP Group for the efforts that the Parliament has taken to ensure that this particular session of the Assembly takes place.
Our meetings come at a difficult time; the ugly pall of terrorism hangs over our countries. The terrorist’s attacks by religious extremists in Paris last month being another manifestation of what has been happening in African for quite some time now, namely the Al-Shabab menace in Somalia and Kenya, Boko Haram in Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, and Niger and al-Qaida affiliates in Mali.
Our sympathies and condolences go to the Governments of and people of France, Mali and Chad for the deaths and injuries suffered in the latest heinous incidents of terrorism.
The year 2015 marks the forty years of the founding of the ACP Group of States in Georgetown, Guyana, in 1975. It also marks 40 years of ACP-EU cooperation since the signing of the first Lomé Convention in 1975. This occasion of our Assembly is the first opportunity we will have a debate that will culminate in a Resolution that reflects our views on the forty years of partnership between the ACP Group and the EU. This is a partnership that has grown both in the diversity of the issues covered as well as in the amount of resources put at the disposal of ACP states by the EU.
I would like to submit however, that this partnership should not only be measured in terms of statistics, but in the solidarity that it has helped to build among peoples of the South and those of the North. As we approach the expiry of the Cotonou Agreement, we need to see how we can enhance and strengthen, rather than diminish, the partnership.
In fact, events of the last few years indicate that the world needs more effective global governance than ever before, from dealing with effects of climate change, and man-made disasters like the financial crisis, we need effective leadership and consensus on the essential issues affecting us all. The ACP-EU partnership, which collectively represents about 1.2 billion people in the world, can play a very important role in addressing challenges of sustainable development and poverty eradication.
Co-President, colleagues, friends
In the context of the debate on the outcome of COP21, nothing perhaps better illustrates the dangers of climate change and the threats posed to Small Island Developing States. Climate change and sea-level rise continue to pose a significant risk to small island developing states and their efforts to achieve sustainable development and, for some, represent the gravest of threats to their survival and loss of territory. I am reminded of the devastating effects of cyclone Pam in Vanuatu earlier in the year, and the devastation caused by a cyclone in Dominica in September of this year.
The scientific evidence adduced so far demonstrates that climate change is the result of the burning of fossil fuels. Historically, economic development has been strongly correlated with increasing energy use and growth of greenhouse gas emissions. Renewable energy can help decouple that correlation, contributing to sustainable development. In addition, renewable energy offers the opportunity to improve access to modern energy services for the poorest members of our many societies, which is crucial for the achievement of any single one of the Sustainable Development Goals we all have signed off on.
However, investments in renewable energies will require a lot of financial support and technological transfer if developing countries are not to make the same mistakes in their pursuit of development and poverty reduction.
Co-President, invited guests,
We must also restate the importance of policy coherence for development not only as they relate to climate change, but to the whole sphere of development as well. Despite the major impact of trade and investment on economic activities that impact the environment – and responses to related problems like climate change – there is no single institution at the global level tasked with ensuring the mutual supportiveness of the international trade regime with sustainable development.This is indeed a major structural deficit. That is what has led to the stalemate in trade negotiations at both the WTO and EPA levels. ACP states approach the negotiations in a comprehensive way as a tool to address the challenges of development in all its aspects. On the other hand, some of our partners’ narrow focus on trade alone, without the need to address other concerns that will in the long run have social, economic, political and environmental consequences, have driven some of our countries to question the whole approach to these negotiations.
The overall approach must respect asymmetrical trade liberalisation, preserving government policy space to safeguard social and ecological objectives, flexible safeguards, and introducing new issues with potential to boost sustainable development and regional integration. Backing the process with aid for trade is an aspect of great importance, both for covering adjustment costs and for initiating processes and sharing lessons and experience.
All these issues cannot of course be addressed without regard to the need for appropriate political and economic institutions that, in guaranteeing peace and security, create the necessary environment for investment and trade.
My association with the JPA goes back to the 1990s when I represented the Parliament of Jamaica. I left only when I had to serve in the Government as a Minister. For me personally, this Assembly is representative of the democratic ideals, dialogue, debate, and real exchange of ideas that should characterise global governance.
In my first address to the Assembly, I remarked that the interactive and participatory process of adopting resolutions provide a means and a common platform, cutting across ideology and different levels of development, for us to come together to discuss different views and concerns.
Our ultimate goal should be to ensure that multilateral governance encompasses the values, rules, institutions, and processes through which people and organizations attempt to work towards common objectives, make decisions, generate authority and legitimacy, and ultimately exercise power for the benefit of the people who ought to be the object of all human endeavours.
As I approach the closing days of my tenure as Co-President of this eminent and esteemed assembly of the peoples’ democratically elected representatives of over 100 nations across Africa, the Caribbean, Pacific and Europe, I am convinced we have indeed come a far way. Our predecessors on both sides of partnership must be commended for having the shared courage to forge an arrangement to redress ills of the past, and redesign a cooperation that seeks to be civil, all-inclusive and forward looking. Is it perfect? Certainly not! However, it sure provides a tremendous advance on a more constructive path than what existed prior.
We must never allow perfection to be the enemy of good!
In this regard, it is imperative that we are diligent in preserving what we have achieved so far. From a ACP perspective, I believe preserving the assemblage of Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific must be non-negotiable. It is that configuration that has brought us this far. We MUST therefore resist any attempt, however subtle or discreet, to separate the A – C – P. This would serve to ferment skepticism in the ACP and beyond of an unraveling of intention to divide and rule Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific. This dangerous vulnerability will also serve to incite the convictions of skeptics of ACP-EU cooperation of a more explicit attempt to preserve imperialist objectives under a modernized cloak of rationalized cooperation. As such, I make a special appeal to our colleagues and friends in the European Parliament to be in solidarity against any such tendencies.
I will leave the Office of Co-President fully committed to assist in achieving our shared ideals in whatever capacity I may be called upon to serve. Over the past 2 years during my tenure of Co-Presidency, I have become more convinced that in the main there is a sincere commitment to the collective development of the regions of our cooperation agreement. But as we all know, in politics as it is in life generally, perception is even more important that the facts. And therefore, the facts must always seek to shape the dominant perception.
Another of Jamaica’s foremost reggae artiste, Peter Tosh, in his prescription for lasting peace proclaimed:
“There can be no peace without justice. All we want is equal rights and justice”
Because I am convinced that my colleagues of this JPA is committed to justice, I am confident that you all will do your part to ensure that the future cooperation agreement, the Post Cotonou Agreement, will preserve equal rights, pragmatic and forward looking cornerstones to building a more enlightened future for all our people throughout the ACP and Europe.
To all, ONE LOVE!
I wish to thank you all for your kind attention, and may we have a successful meeting.
Fitz A. Jackson
Member of Parliament, Jamaica
Co-President ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly