Let me first of all welcome you once again to ACP House for another series of engagements in your role as legislative collaborators for intra-ACP and ACP-EU relations. I take this opportunity to offer my apologies for not being personally present at the last session of your Assembly. As was explained, I had to leave earlier to represent the ACP Group at the UN Summit on the Sustainable Development Goals held in New York from 25 to 27 September 2015.

I am reliably informed however of the fruitfulness of the discussions that took place at your 39th Session.

Mr. President,

Honourable Members,

The period since your last meeting has been a very busy time for the ACP Secretariat. Our main preoccupation has been preparations for the 102nd Session of the ACP Council that was held in Brussels on 24 and 25 November 2015. The breadth and depth of the deliberations of Council demonstrated keen concern on the part of our Member States regarding the challenges and in some cases upheavals that currently characterize global governance. These include the migration crisis in Europe and the escalation of terrorist attacks in some ACP and EU Member States. This is in addition to important discussions on climate change, which have been the pre-eminent topic in the lead up to COP21.

The ACP Group’s efforts must be embedded in a narrative that is even more relentless, strategic and strenuous in carving out a space for ourselves. This is to ensure that our own long-term development interests and concerns are not overwhelmed by other competing or more immediate and emergent issues with which the international community is preoccupied.

Mr. President,

That session of Council was also an occasion for some very important decisions that affect the functioning of our Group. One of the key decisions of Council pertains to the hosting of the 8th Summit of ACP Heads of State and Government. Following the withdrawal of Suriname from hosting the Summit due to unfavourable circumstances, the Government of Papua New Guinea has stepped forward and offered to host the Summit from 30 May to 1 June 2016 in Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea. We extended our deep appreciation to Prime Minister Peter O’neill on that great gesture by Papua New Guinea.

The ACP Council, in accepting the offer from Papua New Guinea, emphasised the need for the Committee of Ambassadors, the Secretariat and the host country to undertake all the necessary measures including publicity and sensitization to ensure the highest possible attendance of Heads. I therefore urge and appeal to each Honourable Member of this Parliamentary Assembly to support this highly significant event by making efforts to ensure that your Head of State or Government attends the 8th Summit. This is the Summit to signal a definitive and decisive turning point in the march towards a revitalized and transformed ACP Group of States.

Preparations at Secretariat and Ambassadorial levels have already started in earnest. The Summit will also be a momentous occasion for the ACP Group, as the Heads of State and Government will be called upon to take some critical decisions with regard to the strategic domains of the ACP Group. The Summit will also mark the culmination of the work of the Eminent Persons Group.

The theme for the Summit as approved by the Council will be ‘Repositioning the ACP Group to respond to the Challenges of Sustainable Development.’ The theme is deliberately futuristic, and takes into account the need for transformation of the ACP Group, and the global development agenda as defined by the recently adopted SDGs.

The Summit will also be an occasion to reflect on the future ACP-EU relations beyond the expiry of the current Cotonou Agreement in 2020.

Our approach as Secretariat with regard to Cotonou is that the expiry of this particular contractual obligation between ACP States and the EU does not signal the expiry of the relationship; rather, it offers the parties an opportunity for reflection on the way forward in terms of enhancing, improving and indeed making ACP-EU cooperation adaptable to new ideas and challenges at global, continental and regional levels. We must find the impetus to speed up the realisation of our common ambitions for the eradication of poverty and the attainment of sustainable development for all the peoples of the ACP who are the ultimate constituents of the ACP-EU partnership.

While we are optimistic about ACP-EU relations post 2020, we are alive to the concerns and questions that our partners and other stakeholders have been raising.

The European Commission and the European External Action Service in October this year released a Joint Consultation Paper entitled Towards a new Partnership between the EU and the ACP countries beyond 2020.

The Secretariat is carefully studying the document in order to situate a fitting response in the framework of a more mutually beneficial trade and economic cooperation with common political interests. We shall in due course advise the ACP governing organs on key elements of the way forward for the ACP Group.

Mr. President,

I wish to take this opportunity to inform this Honourable Assembly of an important milestone in our on-going cooperation with the European Union. On Thursday, 26 November 2015, the European Commission and the ACP Group signed an Agreement for the implementation of the Intra-ACP Programme with funding from the Commission of approximately €3.6 billion for the period 2014-2020, of which some €900M euros will be for the African Peace Facility.

This was the culmination of almost two years of negotiations between the ACP Secretariat, Committee of Ambassadors, and the European Commission. The Intra-ACP Programme is the cornerstone of broader cooperation between the ACP states and the EU and is aimed at addressing the shared challenges facing all ACP States, as opposed to the geographical focus of regional indicative programmes or country specific national indicative programmes.

Indeed, at the same occasion, the Authorities of Mozambique and the European Commission signed the National Indicative Programme for Mozambique under which the European Commission will provide €734 million worth of development support to Mozambique.

We ned to build on the momentum and good practices demonstrated over many years of EDF programming at ACP and national levels as we aim to take this cooperation beyond the two decades of this century.

Mr. President,

While we await the pronouncements of the Heads of State on the core policy directions of the ACP Group, the Secretariat has embarked on intensifying the Group’s engagements in international meetings. This is meant not only to increase the visibility of the ACP Group, but also to enhance our role and impact in global governance and the fight for economic and social justice.

In this regard, the Secretariat in collaboration with the FAO and the CTA organised a very succesful side event at the 3rd International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis- Ababa in July 2015 on the theme ‘Financing Investments and Agribusiness for Food and Nutrition Security: Public and Private Sector.’

The Secretariat has also been facilitating preparations and consultations among Member States by a meeting of ACP Ministers of Trade to provide political guidancefor the 10th WTO Ministerial Conference that will be held in Nairobi from 15 to 18 December. Ministers adopted a Declaration on the key areas of concern for the ACP Group to ensure the Doha Development Agenda continues and arrives at a balanced, non-discriminatory, development-centered Multilateral Trading System.

Similarly in 28 and 29 October, the Secretariat convened a meeting of ACP senior officials and experts on climate and environmental issues in preparation for the COP 21 meetings in Paris. The major outcome of the meeting was an issues paper that covers key areas of convergence for ACP states to serve as negotiating points for COP21. These address at least 1.5°C for GHG above pre-industrial levels, a legally binding agreement on all countries, funding for loss and damage, the principle of common but differentiated contributions in keeping with one’s capacity.

Aside from such initiatives, we are cognizant of the need to raise the profile of the ACP Group at the premier centre of global governance – the UN Headquarters in New York, and to seriously consider the establishment of a physical presence, however modest. This is a matter that has been brought to the attention of the Committee of Ambassadors, as well as Council.

I have mentioned my participation in the UN Summit on the Post-215 Development Agenda, during which I addressed the UN General Assembly on the ACP Group’s perspectives on sustainable development.

The Secretariat aims to enhance its participation in Summits and other high-level convocations in ACP regions, and even beyond as part of the broader objective of enhancing South-South and Triangular cooperation.

Mr. President,

Despite the financial constraints it often operates under, the Secretariat is committed, to improving on its delivery of services to the governing organs and Member States. I therefore call upon Honourable Members to closely engage your ministries of finance to ensure that membership contributions are received by the Secretariat on time. We would like to become a more dynamic and instrumental collaborator not only within the intra-ACP framework, but for cooperation with the EU, ACP regional integration bodies and other international partners as well.

In recognition of the very real challenges Member States are facing in meeting their financial obligations to the ACP Group, and in a bid to reduce the dependence on EU funding for the Secretariat’s core activities, the Secretariat is actively exploring complementary funding possibilities, such as the establishment of the Endowment Trust- Fund with a long-term Development and Investment window.

Our vision for the Secretariat is to also become a knowledge generating and management institution – a hub for catalyzing the enormous wealth of resources, knowledge, skills and potential in various sectors in our countries and regions, into actual services, goods and products for the well-being of our peoples. For this purpose, we are in the process of elaborating a strategic management plan to guide and inform our thinking, approach and working methods for the period up to 2020.

The Secretariat shall continue to count on the support of all our member States and governing organs, including your Assembly, in order to realise our ambitions to serve them better.

Mr. President,

You have already alluded to the reason why the current Session of the JPA is being held in Brussels. It is a matter of serious concern for the Secretariat that offers to host institutional meetings are not as forthcoming as they used to be. Again I would like to call upon Honourable Members to play an even more active role towards ensuring that the statutory meetings of the ACP Group are able to be hosted by our Member States. We need to be in our regions – our people expect us to be there.

I therefore wish to appeal to the Central African Region, whose turn it is to host the 32nd Session of the JPA in November 2016, to inform the Secretariat at the earliest opportunity of their nomination of host country for the meeting.

Given that the current Session of the JPA should have been hosted by Southern Africa, the region still has the opportunity to host the 31st Session in June 2016, if they so desire.

Mr. President,

With these few remarks, I wish to thank you for your kind attention and wish you success in your deliberations.

Dr. Patrick Gomes
ACP Secretary General