Your Excellency Mr. Phandu Skelemani, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Republic of Botswana, Honourable Ministers, Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my singular honour and privilege to welcome you all to ACP House – your House. As you all know, I only took office in April, following my election at the Extraordinary Session of Council that took place during 25–26 March. Once again, let me say how profoundly grateful I am to have been elected to this position of chief servant of our intergovernmental body. I consider it not only an honour to my person but also to my country Ghana and to the West Africa region as a whole.
In my acceptance speech on that occasion, I committed myself to faithfully serving the Governments and peoples of the great ACP family of nations.
Then as now, I stand behind that solemn commitment to advance our common cause not only with Europe but also on the global arena in general.
The past couple of months have been busy for us at the Secretariat. I had no choice but to ‘hit the ground running’, as the Americans would say. Within the Secretariat, we have continued to service the meetings of the various ministerial groups as well as our key initiatives in trade and development financing, in addition to supporting the work of the Committee of Ambassadors.
We remain steadfastly committed to improving our business processes and to repositioning the Secretariat as a knowledge-based organisation that can better serve the people of the ACP and its Principal Organs.
One of our most important preoccupations of recent has been on the Joint Development Finance Committee (DFC) and the financial programming process for the 11th EDF funding cycle. We are confident that your deliberation in this 97th Session will further advance the process and enable us engage constructively with our European partners in finalising the agreement on the Eleventh EDF financing cycle.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
An innovation we have recently made is to publish a brochure titled, “A Pivotal Year at a Time of Consolidation”. We intend it to be part of our efforts to enhance visibility of the ACP. A few copies are there for your perusal please.
I am also delighted to inform this august body that in the cause of this year we would be launching, for the first time, an ACP Development Report. Our experts have been working with a team of consultants funded by the Commission. A draft report has already been reviewed and a final report is due in the next couple of weeks. This Report will be focusing on how we can harness energy within the ACP space as a catalyst to accelerate growth and development.
You would recall that the preceding year 2012 was declared by the United Nations as the International Year for Sustainable Energy. There is a global consensus that access to energy is a major factor in the social and economic empowerment of the poor. It is critical not only to accelerated growth but also to reducing poverty and expanding economic opportunities and enhancing human welfare.
The Malabo Summit held a high level seminar on the theme of ‘Sustainable Energy for All’. The outcomes were reflected in the Sipopo Declaration which commits our nations to pursuing an inclusive approach to energy development and accessibility. There is wide agreement on the need to maintain a delicate balance between sustainable energy systems and the equally important imperative of food security; between devoting more land to biofuels and protecting agricultural production systems that guarantee food security, especially for vulnerable populations.
Mr. President,
I am happy to report that the ACP participated in the donor conference that was held for Mali in Brussels on Wednesday the 15th May. Pledges raised on that occasion amounted to the sum of €3.25 billion.
You would recall that, following the collapse of the old regime in Tripoli in October 2011, heavy weapons found their way south, notably to Mauritania, Mali, Niger and Nigeria. Terrorist insurgents took over the northern part of Mali in April last year, laying siege to the historic city of Timbuktu; leaving pillage and destruction as their footprints. Thanks to the support of regional bodies such as ECOWAS and the AU, and thanks to the resolve by the international community, decisive action was taken against the insurgents. We feel confident that the territorial integrity of Mali will be fully restored and the country will soon return to normalcy.
In this connection, permit me also to express concern about the activities of terrorist insurgents in the north eastern part of Nigeria. The activities of the terrorist group that is popularly known as ‘Boko Haram’ have led to the death of thousands and displacement of so many more.
Physical infrastructures have been destroyed while the reservoir of social capital that held local communities together is being severely undermined. It is imperative that the ACP and the international community give their optimum support to the Government and people of Nigeria so that they can overcome this menace.
Terrorism is one of the great evils of our time — a scourge for mankind. Our generation has a duty to fight it with all the arsenals at our disposal.
Your Excellencies,
As we face the future, we realise, more than ever before, that our destiny is in our own hands. The Eminent Persons Group (EPG) that was mooted by my illustrious predecessor and endorsed by the Malabo Summit has begun its work in earnest. We will continue to give them every support to ensure that their work is successfully completed.
One of the important initiatives that we have come up with is the proposal to create a Bank for International Trade and Investment (BITI). The technical studies on the feasibility of the project have been completed. An expert consultation meeting involving the EU and experts from ACP countries also validated the results of the studies.
The objective of the bank is to help mobilize local as well as international capital to finance trade and investments in our member countries. It is a highly ambitious project that aims to bring Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific in a new alliance of progress and prosperity, leveraging on our inherent potentials and the opportunities opened up by the new economic powers such as Brazil, India, China and the nations of the Gulf.
The next steps are to have the endorsement of Council for the project to move ahead, in particular, putting together a Technical Implementation Team to take the project to the next stage.
It is clear to us that the success of such a project requires the buy-in of all our key stakeholders. In particular, we need at least three or four countries to champion the project and to be able to sell it to the sceptics and doubting Thomases in our midst.
Also, the issue of where the bank is to be located will soon be coming up. When the current process is endorsed we would soon be inviting countries to submit bids to host the headquarters of the ACP Bank. We would be looking at criteria such as accessibility, existence of a robust financial system, commitment to major shareholding in the organisation, offer of a building, provision of diplomatic immunity and other incentives.
Mr. President, Honourable Ministers, Your Excellencies,
I make bold to say that the future is bright for the ACP Group of Nations. We have to keep the faith. We have to remain strong — firm in our determination to overcome all the odds that we face.
Working together in solidarity and hope, there is nothing we cannot achieve. According to an ancient African wisdom saying, “Cross the river in a crowd, and the crocodile won’t eat you”.
I thank you for your kind attention.