Statement by the Prime Minister of Saint Lucia and Chairman of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM, Hon. Dr Kenny D. Anthony
On the occasion of the Opening Ceremony of the 7th Summit of ACP Heads of State and Government, 13 December 2012, Malabo, Equatorial Guinea
“OUR UNITY CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE”
President of the Seventh ACP Summit, H.E Dr. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, President of Equatorial Guinea;
President of the Sixth ACP Summit, H.E Mr John Dramani Mahama, President of the Republic of Ghana;
President of the African Union, H.E Dr Boni Yayi, President of the Republic of Benin;
Chairman of the Forum of Pacific Islands, Hon. Henry Puna, Prime Minister of the Cook Islands;
Secretary General of the ACP Group Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas;
A TREMENDOUS AFRICAN WELCOME
Permit me at the outset to thank you, Mr President, and the people of Equatorial Guinea for the tremendous African welcome and hospitality extended to us. This 7th Summit of the ACP in you unique country, being the only Spanish-speaking nation in Continental Africa, offers yet another opportunity for our ACP Group to herald the diversity from which we gather our strength. I must also, Excellency, convey to you and your people from the people of the Caribbean, our deepest sympathies at the recent passing of that great son of Equatorial Guinea and all Africa, the universally acclaimed artist and sculptor and UNESCO Ambassador for Peace, Leandro Mbomio Nsue. While Don Leandro’s gifted work earned him the sobriquet of the black Picasso, to Equatorial Guinea he was so much more, having served in the cabinet in various other official capacities. May he rest in peace. [NB: He died on 13 November].
A BRIEF BACKWARD GLANCE
Mr President, other Distinguished Heads of State and Government, I have the honour of addressing you this morning, not only in the name of Saint Lucia, but also on behalf of the Caribbean, the “C” in the family of the ACP States. I do so as the Chairman of the Caribbean Community, and the feeling of immense pride and joy that fills me today is reminiscent of similar sentiments which I experiences in 1998 when, again as Chairman of the Community, I welcomed to the shores of Saint Lucia – and indeed the Caribbean – President Nelson Mandela. My dear friends, we cannot assemble here today in Africa, without acknowledging an icon such as Mandela and in so doing, wish him well with his current medical travails.
Let the keynote of what I have to say be our pride as a Region and our determination to revitalize or central role in the triadic international organ that the ACP aspires to be. We will always be proud of the Caribbean’s role in the beginnings of the ACP; so I hope you will allow me, a brief backward glance by the way of reminder, of what those aspirationsa re and as a guide to what we have to do hereafter.
This year marks the 40th Anniversary of Britain’s accession to the Treaty of Rome in May 1972. This decision by the United Kingdom Government, in pursuit of its perceived interests, caused genuine fears among Commonwealth countries about market access for their products. But by far the most vulnerable countries were those of Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific even though the Treaty promised them negotiations with the enlarged Community for a special economic relationship.
The Caribbean was soon convinced that negotiations between separate groups of Africa, Caribbean and Pacific States and the unified EEC would result in severe disadvantage to the developing countries. A particular problem was the distinction the Europeans sought to sustain between the Francophone ‘Associates’, grouped under the Yaoundé Convention, and the Commonwealth ‘Associables’ covered by the Treaty of Accession. A further worry was the negotiating strait-jacket sought to be imposed by the ‘options’ in Protocol 22 of the Treaty, and EEC overtures for a free trade area arrangement involving ‘reciprocal preferences’. There was a strong conviction among all the groups that only a united front by the ACP States could overcome the pressure from Europe.
On the evening of 9th August 1972, in Georgetown, Guyana (at a point almost equidistant from Africa and the Islands of the Pacific) the Foreign Ministers of eight Commonwealth Caribbean and African States met, in the winds of the Meeting of Foreign Ministers of the Non-aligned countries to talk about possible negotiations with the EEC consequent on the enlargement of the Community. That informal discussion signalled the beginning of a process that led eventually to the pooling of the resources of all the African, Caribbean and Pacific States – ‘Associates’ and ‘Associables’, ‘French-speaking’ and ‘English-speaking’, African and Malagasy Associated States (AASM) and ‘Commonwealth Members’ – in the negotiations with the EEC that ended in the Lomé Convention.
The Lomé Convention was not perfect. It did not meet all the aspirations of the ACP as a significant segment of the developing world. But, it was a point of departure in the relations between the developing and the developed Stated. That it is such as innovation and represented such a promise derived in the main from the process of unification I have recalled.
But it did not end there. The experience of unity in the Lomé process inspired the ACP to formalize itself beyond the negotiations and in doing so, to assert its aspirations for unity beyond negotiations with the Europeans – for solidarity with other developing countries and for negotiations between the developed and developing countries. In the Georgetown Agreement of 1975 – now the ACP’s organic document – ACP countries in formally establishing the Group, committed ourselves as being:
– DESIROUS of consolidating and strengthening the existing solidarity of the ACP Group;
– RESOLVED to promote and develop greater and closer trade and economic relations between ACP States;
– DETERMINED to promote effective regional and inter-regional cooperation among ACP States;
– RESOLVED to establish the Group of African, Caribbean and Pacific States to achieve the above objectives as a process towards the realisation of the new international economic order.
A UNITY FORGED IN IRONS
From all this, I make two points:
First, we must never forget what we have been able to do together. That memory must be a constant reminder of the need to stay together. I accept for the Caribbean, lapses from our high ideals of unity but I pledge, on behalf of our community of States, our utmost to redress them in the way ahead and to work with the Group to secure the future of our Group which we created some 37 years ago. That unification at that time added a new dimension to the quest of the Third World for economic justice through international action. It certainly helped to inaugurate an entirely new phase in the evolution of an acceptable international development strategy. Its significance derives from the methodology of unified bargaining which those negotiations pioneered. The unity forged in those irons must now come to the fore as we look at options in the face of a new EU Development Policy. The travails in Europe and the new EU Development Policy should be viewed not just as causes for concern, but, as a wake-up call to the ACP family that the time has come to look at ourselves and shape our future independent of relationship with Europe.
FIX OUR SIGHTS BEYOND EUROPE
This brings me to my second point. We must fix sights beyond Europe and remember the wider purposes for which the ACP Group exists. At this time of economic distress worldwide, we must look beyond our boundaries for ways in which our unity can make a difference to solutions, and work among ourselves and with other developing countries to bring hope to our people and credit to our Group.
A TECHNOLOGICAL TORCH TO A NEW GENERATION
In so doing and as we look to secure the Group’s future, we should speak of a virtual passing of the torch to a new, younger technological generation, that would utilise the technology which is already an integral part of their lives to not only cement ties among the ACP but also be used to strengthen relationships between the ACP and the other poles that are emerging. The Caribbean is pledged to labour in this enterprise with you.
A TECTONIC SHIFT
Mr Chairman, the global development paradigm has made a tectonic shift that has changed the face of international cooperation. While old players are still vying for centre stage through a display of both hard and soft power, newer players have gained time and effort, influence and recognition as incontrovertible interlocutors.
CHANGE THE DANCE
The historic ties and shared values that link the ACP to our European partners and which are the foundation of our partnership are increasingly being tested. The global scene does seem ominous: Development Assistance flows are not as abundant as before; the pervasive feeling that we may not be on track for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals; the Doha impasse; sand in the international climate change negotiating machinery; the questions that surround aid effectiveness; the recessive effects and other social ramifications of the current financial and economic crisis; and the list goes on. At a juncture such as this, it is useful to remember the old African proverb that states “when the music changes, so must the dance.” Because as my illustrious countryman the Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott said, “The future happens no matter how much we scream”.
TIME TO RE-DEFINE OUR RELEVANCE
In order to be viable in this era of uncertainty, the ACP Group needs to redefine its relevance in the rapidly evolving international environment. Much of the progress that the group will be able to make will be determined by how it sees itself. The ACP Group of States is the largest trans-regional intergovernmental organisation of developing countries. This Group has grown from the original 46 to 79 countries and has remained intact over three decades during which the international global order has experienced radical change in political and economic terms. It has to its advantage decades of inter-regional solidarity on various global issues such as trade, development finance, political dialogue and relations with other international and regional organisations. This curriculum vitae is reason enough to maintain and reinforce the Group at this global crossroads of change and opportunity. The vision of the ACP Group should be that of a strong and dynamic institution, with no apprehension about its future.
A COMPARATIVE ADVANTAGE
The ACP Group has a comparative advantage that it must fully embrace and exploit. It represents a very large development and investment partner. The fact of our Group’s size attests to its potential collective strength. With this in mind, we should be prepared to take on new challenges such as the diversification of our cooperation partners. It is inevitable that our group as a whole will weave closer relations with the other developed and developing countries and groupings, including Members of the G20, BRICS and other global growth generators. But in our search to diversify our partnerships, we must ensure that our priorities are taken into account. Thus, it is essential to continue the reflection process on deepening South-South cooperation.
I am aware that our Group is already reflecting on the possibilities of constructing our own arrangement relating to trade and investment. We all need to call on our collective intellectual strength and political will in support of these initiatives. We should always be seeking to find new innovative ways to ensure the continued relevance of our ACP. We should also be prepared to take on all opportunities to speak with one voice in multilateral fora on all issues of mutual and critical concern.
We face an international environment that is contrary and sometimes even hostile to our objectives for sustainable development. This external volatility and pressure mandate us to strengthen our association and relations with each other. There is a general feeling that the introduction of the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) and consequential division along regional lines of the ACP Group, shook its solidarity. There are other equally disquieting undercurrents such as the issues of differentiation and graduation that target the economic vitality and the future development of some vulnerable Member States.
If ever the ACP must speak boldly with one voice and with shared conviction, it is now. This Malabo gathering should be a call to reaffirm ACP unity and solidarity and send a message to the international community that the African, Caribbean and Pacific States is here to stay.
Let this Meeting here in this cradle of Africa send out a message of hope and of unity.