The Right Honourable Prime Minister of the Republic of Fiji, Ratu Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama
Honourable Ministers,
Your Excellency, Secretary-General Gomes,
Your Excellencies, Ambassadors
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
I bring you warm greetings from His Majesty King Letsie III, the Rt. Honourable Prime Minister Dr. Pakalitha Bethuel Mosisili, and the Government and People of the Kingdom of Lesotho. I am indeed delighted to be here, and consider it an honour to preside over the affairs of the 102nd ACP Council session.
From the outset, please allow me to acknowledge the presence amongst us today of the Right Honourable Prime Minister of the Republic of Fiji, Ratu Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama. Your presence here at the ACP House, in spite of your very full agenda in Europe, is testimony to the high priority that you in person, the Republic of Fiji, and the Pacific region as a whole, accord to the ACP Group. You are very welcome, on this cold Brussels morning, Right Honourable Prime Minister.
Honourable Ministers, Excellencies
As you know, the end-of-year session of the ACP Council is usually one for the consideration and approval the Secretariat’s budget for the following year, and this 102nd Council session is no exception. However, we shall also fine time to consider several other important matters as part of the Council’s agenda. So my statement will be very brief this morning, to allow more time to deliberate on the issues at hand.
It would also be remiss of me if I failed to make mention of the recent tragedies that befell Paris, and the unfortunate loss of life. This has also led to the lockdown in Brussels that we have at the moment. Our hearts are with the families of the victims, and I have been informed that the Secretary General has communicated our support to the Government and people of France. Closer to home, on August 22nd, tropical Storm Erica struck the Commonwealth of Dominica, resulting in [more than 30] confirmed deaths, and economic damage equivalent to approximately 90% of Dominica’s GDP. The following month on the 24th September during the annual Moslem hadj in Saudi Arabia an accident occurred that resulted in the deaths of more than 1000 pilgrims, some of whom were nationals of ACP Member States. Most recently, the terrorist attacks and more loss of life occurred in Mali. There have also been occurrences in Cameroon.
I would like to request you to rise in a minute of silence in respect of the departed victims and their bereaved families.
Honourable Ministers, Excellencies
As we continue the fundamental exercise of charting the future of the ACP Group, it is very important that we remain steadfast in adhering to the principles of unity and solidarity that are enshrined in the Georgetown Agreement, which is the foundation of our very existence. I must say that this year in particular, with so many international events, provided the perfect opportunity for the Group to enhance its visibility and initiate beneficial ties with relevant global partners in pursuit of overarching objective of repositioning the Group as an effective global player. In these efforts, we should remain positive in our consideration of the future relations with our traditional partner, the European Union, on which we’ll have an opportunity to exchange views during the course of this meeting.
Related to this, Colleagues, we will be expected to take decisions on administrative issues aimed at enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of our Secretariat. I’d like to ensure that we do this in an objective manner, to ensure that we create a secretariat that will indeed help in leading our group in the right direction, and enable us to claim our rightful place in the global arena. These efforts that we’ll take will culminate in the decisions by our Heads of State and Government during the proposed 8th Summit which, if all goes according to plan, will be held in Papua New Guinea on the 30th May to the 1st June 2016. Let me at this juncture express our gratitude on behalf of Council to the authorities of Papua New Guinea and the Pacific region at large for the kind offer. You will recall that we have been struggling to get a host for this Summit of Heads of State and Government.
Another important element impacting on our effectiveness as a Group, and the Secretariat in particular, is the issue of financial resources. You may recall that when we met here in May this year, only 16 out of the 79 Member States had paid up their statutory contributions. We commend those countries that have paid in full or partially towards the 2016 budget. As at 17 November, the number had increased by 14 to 30 members. This still however means that 49 out of 79 Members are still to pay their statutory contributions. I would therefore like to take this opportunity to join the Secretary General to appeal to Member States to pay their full contributions on time. While acknowledging the financial and economic challenges many of our countries are facing, paying our full contributions takes us one step towards reducing our dependency on external funding.
Honourable Ministers, Excellencies,
Climate change is no longer just a theory. It has impacts and far reaching effects on sustainable development, especially in developing countries. We have ahead of us, one of the major conferences, COP21, taking place in Paris in the next week. It is upon us to ensure that our voice is audible enough to secure the commitment of that Group in seeking to address the challenges of climate change. The Secretary General will represent us at that meeting, and we will recall that during the 101st session of Council, we agreed on the creation of the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) Forum within the ACP Group. This is a commendable effort, and we hope that its implementation will go a long way in enhancing the Group’s contribution towards mitigation of the challenges of climate change.
The apex of this year’s important international meetings is the holding of the 10th WTO Ministerial Conference in Nairobi, Kenya. I’d like to take this opportunity to add that the ACP Ministers of trade, the Secretariat, both the Geneva and Brussels ACP Groups of Ambassadors for preparping for our participation in this meeting. We also wish the Government and people success in holding such a conference.
Mr Prime Minister, Honourable ministers, ladies and gentlemen
In concluding my statement, please allow me to thank the Chair of the Committee of Ambassadors, my own compatriot, Her Excellency Ambassador Mpeo Mahase-Moiloa, as well as the Committee of Ambassadors, for the hard work undertaken to implement the Decisions we made during our last sessions. We also want to appreciate the effort made by the staff of the Secretariat, led by Secretary General, who continue to provide the technical support to the Committee of Ambassadors. I have been informed that the Secretariat has worked informed that once again, they have worked tirelessly to prepare for our Council meeting, and we truly appreciate their efforts.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you very much and at this juncture I would like ot humbly request the Honourable Prime Minister of Fiji to deliver his address. Honourable Ministers, Excellencies, I thank you once again and wish us all successful deliberations.
Hon. Dr. Mamphono Khaketla
Minister of Finance of the Kingdom of Lesotho
President of the 102nd Council of the ACP Council of Ministers