Statement by the Co-President of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly Hon. Netty Baldeh at the opening ceremony of the 31st session of ACP-EU JPA, 13 June 2016, Windhoek, Namibia
First of all, I would like to express solidarity with, and condolences to, the USA concerning the horrendous massacre in Orlando, Florida, on Sunday, 11 June 2016 in which 49 people died.
I thank you for the opportunity, honour and privilege to make a statement to this distinguished Assembly. Before we proceed, I would like to place on record the appreciation of the ACP Parliamentary Assembly to the Government, National Assembly and people of Namibia for offering too host these meetings, and for all the facilities they have put in place for the efficient conduct of our meetings.
We recognise the huge efforts and financial resources that must have been expended by the national authorities to put in place all these arrangements in the short period of time they have had to organise these meetings.
To the Government, Parliament and people of Namibia, we shall forever be in your debt. We shall endeavour to justify and repay your good work by endeavouring to devote in equal measure our full attention to the work that has brought us here.
The ACP Group attaches great importance to the Cotonou Agreement and the principle of partnership which it embodies. It is now apparent, however, that a partnership between very dissimilar partners will always have its own inherent difficulties and challenges. Such a partnership can only survive if it is nurtured by mutual respect, understanding, conciliation and consultation. These are values that must remain as the core guiding principles of ACP-EU cooperation, and this Assembly is at the heart of efforts to build on and sustain the true spirit of ACP-EU cooperation. Collectively, and with mutual respect, we can make this unique partnership the model for North-South development cooperation.
The 8th Summit of ACP Heads of State and Government that was recently held in Port-Moresby, Papua New Guinea, re-affirmed the commitment of the ACP Group made at the 7th ACP Summit to continue and enhance cooperation with the EU beyond 2020. The Summit also considered other issues based on the Report of the ACP Eminent Persons Group chaired by Former President of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, aimed at the internal reorganization of the ACP Group.
The recommendations arising from the Report of the EPG, in addition to others that have already been adopted by the ACP Council, will, among others, inform the ACP Group’s position for the negotiation of a post Cotonou Agreement with the EU.
The choice of themes for this Session of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly reflects the transboundary nature of some of the most pressing development challenges in ACP States that require the full cooperation and assistance of developed countries as they are all a feature of the international trade, financial system and political system. Further, all the themes are interrelated in pointing to poverty and lack of development opportunities for local populations as the primary concern. The overall message is that the world needs a coherent and consistent way of dealing with issues of development.
Equally important is ensuring that ACP States and their populations benefit from their engagement in world trade by making national governments and multinational companies more transparent and accountable for their exploitation and use of mineral resources, foreign direct investment, and market opportunities in ACP States. For instance, statistics reveal that capital flight has significantly undermined Africa’s growth and development – through the siphoning of potential investment capital out of the continent.
The British non-governmental organisation Christian Aid has calculated that just two forms of tax evasion – transfer mispricing within multinational corporations (MNCs) and falsified invoicing between apparently unrelated companies, cost the developing world US$160 billion a year in lost revenue.
That is why we support efforts by African leaders for the creation of the African Continental Free Trade Area, not only to facilitate deeper economic relations among African countries, but also to leverage their engagement with the rest of the world in order to obtain farer terms of trade, investments, and financial cooperation.
Let me take this opportunity, to address once again, our concerns about the EPAs, which have been an issue dear to the heart of this Assembly.
It must be stated very categorically that ACP States entered into these negotiations in good faith, despite many well founded misgivings in certain quarters. The concerns of ACP States on EPAs have been stated many times before by several development actors, but they are worth recalling.
Without a comprehensive package to address the nascent and sensitive nature of many ACP economic sectors, EPAs will expose ACP States to devastating EU competition.
ACP States will face substantial adjustment costs when opening up their markets. This is the reason ACP States have been arguing for emphasis on the development dimension of EPAs. The exposure to competition with EU imports will require significant funds for investments in ACP production and supply capacities, and for social and other accompanying or compensatory measures. The resources for these kinds of measures are not available within the ACP States as they have already been weakened by commodity crises, structural adjustment, debt, HIV/AIDS and armed conflicts.
Related to the above, is the loss of Government revenues as a result of reduced or eliminated tariffs, which will severely compromise governments’ abilities to provide social services and safety nets, especially in economic sectors which will be negatively impacted by EPAs. In this regard, we must address the issue of how the EPAs will contribute to the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Before the advent of EPA negotiations, there had been several regional integration initiatives in ACP States which had gone quite far in addressing regional development needs. Some of the regional integration organs have made a lot of progress towards becoming customs unions. It is hoped that EPAs will support and enhance regional integration in ACP regions. However, it is to be noted that EPA negotiating configurations have already caused fissures among some ACP regional integration organs and could weaken existing processes of regional co-operation and integration.
The external implications of other EU policies might erode the value of existing trade preferences for ACP States through WTO led liberalization and other bilateral schemes between the EU and third countries and regions, which could result in trade erosion or diversion for ACP trade.
Migration is another subject that we shall be discussing. This is a topical issue in ACP and EU countries at the moment, and is one of the key factors influencing the UK referendum campaign. Thousands of migrants escaping the conflict in the middle east have been trying to get into Europe in recent years. They continue the long drawn-out phenomenon of migrants from Africa trying to cross into Europe, traversing the difficult terrain of the Sahara and Mediterranean Sea. Thousands have perished trying to make the attempt. But nothing will deter those that believe that the risk of death, sexual and other forms of exploitation are nothing compared to the promised riches of Europe, or the conditions they are trying to escape at home.
The biggest push factor for migration is of course war, armed conflict and political instability. The other significant driver of migration is lack of development in countries of origin, and in this, EU policies could have a role to play to address the issue.
For instance, some of the EU’s trade policies and the investment practices of multinational companies undermine local production capacity and agricultural potential. These could lead to loss of employment opportunities for young people in ACP states, who would have no choice but to seek opportunities elsewhere in Europe.
ACP States are also often confronted by exogenous shocks that reveal the fragility of their economic bases. The recent drop in oil and commodity prices has affected a number of ACP states, which in turn will affect their ability to finance development and social projects in their countries. The ACP Group has always spoken about the dangers of overreliance on Gross National Product as an accurate indicator of countries’ state of development. Good performing economies which depend on commodity exports, and which have scored very well on human development indicators, can easily suffer setbacks, as has been the experience with a number of ACP oil exporting countries. This demonstrates the importance of caution with regard to policies of differentiation in financial and development policies.
The JPA also continues to be concerned by issues of governance, democracy, peace and conflict. Some of the conflicts in ACP States are caused by differences over electoral processes. Electoral cycles are a fundamental feature of democracy.
However, I must hasten to add that elections should not be seen as an end in themselves, but as part of wider a process of institutional building and strengthening that promotes effective political participation, good governance and respect for human rights.
Peace and stability are the most important pre-conditions for sustainable development and growth. Africa, for instance has lagged behind the rest of the world in development due in large part to the civil wars and political crises that have plagued most of the continent for the last four decades. Although there have been significant developments in resolving conflicts in the last decade, these are still a number of unresolved and simmering conflicts that have the potential to undermine any past developmental gains.
In the last few years, terrorism has further complicated the peace and security dynamic. It is a menace that affects ACP and EU Member States alike. The destabilising effect on the social, political and economic fabric of countries is enormous. May I take this opportunity to offer condolences and messages of solidarity to those countries and governments that are at the forefront of battling this scourge. Only effective international cooperation can defeat terrorism, and I am glad to see movements towards greater collaboration among all affected countries. Terrorism, in addition to cybercrime, as well as human, drugs and arms smuggling all point to the changing nature of global security threats, in which the protagonists are not just nation states but other entities whose influence and operations transcend national boundaries.
Apart from these broader issues of governance, the JPA is also concerned about social issues such as the situation of women and children. Official and anecdotal evidence shows that women and children suffer the most during armed conflict.
The most pernicious activity in times of war is the rape and violence against women and children. We shall be speaking out against this scourge during this session, and call on the international community to take active measures of support for countries and communities working to prevent these crimes, and to support the physical and psychological rehabilitation of victims and their reintegration into society.
Distinguished invited guests,
As I end, I wish to thank you once again for this opportunity to address this august gathering. I have no doubt that the reasons that have brought all of us here, from diverse backgrounds and cultures are worthy of due consideration – we have a common goal; and let us pool our resources to make our planet a better place for all inhabitants. I therefore wish all of us success as we endeavor to deliberate on these matters.
I thank you for your kind attention.