Statement by the Secretary General at the 37th session of the ACP Parliamentary Assembly, 18 March 2015, Brussels
Thank you for the opportunity you have given me to address you for the first time as Secretary-General of the ACP Group of States. As the President has stated, I have been keenly following the work of your Assembly and the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly for the past 10 years that I have been Ambassador of Guyana in Brussels.
As I stated when I made my inaugural address to the ACP Committee of Ambassadors 2 weeks ago, 2015 marks a momentous milestone in the life of the ACP Group; it is the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Group on 6 June 1975 in Georgetown, Guyana.
As if by the irony of history, it is to Guyana and the Caribbean that falls this responsibility to embrace the challenges of our Group at this critical moment in our history. I wish to submit, however, that my role is to build upon the pillars of the founding fathers and mothers of the organization and others who through the last four decades, have helped shape our orientation as well as our relations with the European Union.
We have had the privilege to be led by illustrious men and women, Heads of State, Ministers, Ambassadors, and Staff of the Secretariat in forging our solidarity from the initial 46 countries in 1975 to the 79 that we are today. That number will soon be 80 with the imminent accession of South Sudan. It is no mean achievement to have experienced this kind of growth during a time of major political upheavals as well as financial and geopolitical constraints which could have so easily led along a path of disintegration. In the same span of time, the membership of the EU, our principle partner, has grown from the 9 that signed the first Lomé convention in 1975 to 28 Member States today.
The EU has also witnessed several structural transformations as it reformed its decision making structures, processes, competencies and legal personality, which have also had implications on relations with the ACP Group. If we have weathered so many challenges in the past, I am equally certain that the Group is capable of doing so much more now and for the future.
Our 40th anniversary should therefore be a time of reflection and introspection about where we have come from and the direction we should take for the future. The process of reflection began as far back at 2006, when a number of initiatives were discussed with regard to the reform of the Secretariat and the future of the ACP Group. You have been regularly updated on the work of the Ambassadorial Working Group on the Future Perspectives of the ACP Group and the Eminent Persons Group.
In view of the above, my tenure of office will essentially be a transitional and reorienting preparatory period for the future of the ACP Group post 2020. However, even as I say this, we must remember that the Constitutive Act of the ACP Group – Georgetown Agreement, has its own life outside of ACP-EU relations. This should help us put the expiry of the Cotonou Agreement into proper perspective. Indeed, the EU has indicated, as have indeed the ACP Council of Ministers, the desire to continue and strengthen this relationship. However, we also recognise that it is imperative for the ACP Group to widen its partnerships beyond the EU.
I am well cognizant of the fact that the ambition of the Group must take into account ever evolving global dynamics. There are other international organisations pursuing similar objectives to us. But I wish to submit that in many respects, we have a comparative institutional advantage, one that has been successful in converging disparate geographical, cultural and linguistic and historical differences into a Group bound as we are by common notions of solidarity.
This should give us the conviction to speak with one voice in the global community of nations and to demonstrate the maturing self-confidence and self-determination that we possess.
Based on the deliberations we have had on the future perspectives of the Group, certain elements stand out. First of all, in terms of strategic policy domains, the focus will be on the following: promoting trade, industry and regional integration; building sustainable, resilient and creative economies; supporting global justice and human security; advancing the rules of law and good governance; and financing for development.
In order to achieve these ambitions, our institutional architecture will have to be transformed based on the following premises and needs:
First, we need to re-orient our Group and the Secretariat as a knowledge management institution that shall nourish the understanding and conceptualisation of our development programmes.
Second, we are aware of need to avoid duplication with other like-minded ACP organisations, and that is why I would like to see the ACP Group become an inter-regional organisations coordinating hub.
Third and related to the above point, the ACP Group will build on its experience in ACP-EU development partnership to become a facilitator for international development cooperation.
Fourth and even more critical to the success of all the other elements is the issue of finance. For this purpose, we shall pursue the idea of an ACP Trade Finance and Investment Facility and a long-term Development Fund-here an endowment or endowments from wealthy citizens and companies in the ACP family will be called upon.
I should hasten to add that in the above transformative agenda that I have outlined, we shall seek to preserve and enhance the participatory nature of our governance mechanisms to ensure that we not only remain relevant and accountable to our people, but that we also increase the democratic legitimacy of our actions. In this regard, there is need to enhance the role and impact of the ACP Parliamentary Assembly and the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly, which is already part of the institutional architecture of the Group.
The main trust of the ACP Secretariat is serving the ACP Member States through the ACP Group organs and the ACP-EU Joint Institutions in order to preserve the interests of the entire Group. A cost-conscious and highly accountable Secretariat is indispensable to the maintenance of ACP solidarity, which in turn is a prerequisite to making joint action possible for efficiency, effectiveness, visibility, political relevance, regional development and advancement of the interests of the ACP Group in an evolving global context.
After I have completed constituting the Senior Management team, I will, in your subsequent meetings keep you informed of the elaboration of the strategic management plan for the next 5 years.
With these few words, may I once again thank you for the opportunity to address you, and I wish you success in all your deliberations.
Dr. Patrik I Gomes