Welcome speech by Vanuatu’s Minister of Foreign Affairs & External Trade and Chair of the ACP-EU National Task Force at the Opening Ceremony of the 95th Session of the ACP Council of Ministers 11 June 2012, Port Vila VANUATU
Excellency, President of the ACP Council
Excellencies, Heads of Delegation of ACP States
Excellency Secretary General of the ACP Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas
Officials of the ACP States
Hon Dunstan Hilton, Speaker of Vanuatu Parliament
Vanuatu Government Ministers
Members of Diplomatic Corps in Port Vila
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen
It gives me immense pleasure on behalf of the Government and the People of the Republic of Vanuatu to warmly welcome all ACP member delegates attending the ACP-EU meeting in Port Vila this week. Allow me also to welcome you on behalf of the Chief and the People of my village, Erakor, to whom the very customary land this hotel is build upon belongs.
Distinguished delegates, many of you have travelled far and wide, across the great African and European Continent and across the Caribbean Ocean, sparing time from your arduous duties and busy work schedules to join your Pacific friends and especially here in Port Vila, Vanuatu. For that, the Government and the people of the Republic of Vanuatu are grateful and all the more proud to be hose of this august meeting. The entire nation has been looking forward to your arrivals. We have brought in people from many of our islands to be part of this occasion and we hope that through the various cultural presentations during this week, you will be able to appreciate the vast diversity which exists in this island nation. I would like to assure you that we will do everything necessary to assist in making your stay here a memorable one.
My distinguished friends, as we gather here today, we need to remind ourselves of the origin of the ACP which dates back to the Rome Treaty of 1957 and subsequent developments culminating in the Georgetown Agreement of 1975. These were the beginnings of an establishment of an alliance which today has become the largest transregional intergovernmental organisation of developing countries of the great African continent and the Island states of the Caribbean and the Pacific Oceans. The membership of this organisation has grown significantly over the years. And we hope to have an additional membership of South Sudan endorsed during the course of this meeting here in Port Vila.
From 1957 till present the ACP remains relevant and meaningful. The relevance of this institution is shown in the manner in which it has been able to hold together a growing membership at a time when the world is divided over many issues. It is not immoral to have divided opinions over different issues as we often do with the strategic partnership with other member states of the ACP-EU. However, we must ensure that these differences do not tear down the bridge of the strong partnership which we have built together over the years. We must not erect walls which would hinder progress in our common pursuit.
It is important my dear friends, for our meetings to continue to place on its agenda important issues concerning development cooperation, sustainable development, the need for fair trade and also must emphasise the necessity of strengthening political dialogue with our development partners. Should there be any future perspective on the restructuring within the ACP group and its broader partnership arrangements with other institutions, it must not depart from these important pillars of development. This will mean that we will have to be united in our pursuit of common development objectives and speak with one powerful voice of the entire ACP to our partnership.
Distinguished delegates, we meet at a time of monumental challenges. The Global Financial Crisis which began in 2007considered by leading economists as the worst ever financial crisis since the great depression of the 1930’s continues to undermine progress in social and economic development in man of the ACP states, in particular to meet our Millennium development Goal targets by 2015. It is estimated that some 230 million people were living in hunger in the ACP states in 2010 representing an improvement from 2009 estimates. Unfortunately the Global Financial Crisis is contributing to reversing this trend.
Rising fuel and food prices and the devastating effects of climate change merely exacerbate these progresses. At the domestic level, corruption, power struggles and the undermining of the rule of law remain big hurdles to all facets of development in many of our states.
The challenges we are all facing is a stark reminder for the need to reinforce globalism and to force long lasting partnerships, not least the ACP-EU Partnership, to advance our development interests. The ACP partnership with the European Union is crucial and we must continue to find ways to strengthen this partnership. No nation has the means to solve all problems unilaterally. Universal challenges require universal solutions based on solid partnerships. At the national level, these challenges remind governments of the importance of discipline at the highest level.
Distinguished delegates, we have a busy schedule ahead of us, we need not to be reminded. A number of core issues have been discussed during the Committee meetings yesterday and this morning. We must speak with one voice in pour presentation during the plenary and communicate issues of concern to our partners. Deliberations in the next few days will focus on issues of mutual interest amongst the partnership, chief of which is the role of the ACP-EU cooperation and the need to guarantee that Economic Partnership Agreements RPAs will play a role in redoing poverty, driving sustainable development and the assimilation of ACP states, in particular the small and vulnerable, into the global economy. It is my hope that at the conclusion of this meeting, the ACP-EU partnership will become more efficient in dealing with the challenges that lie ahead of us.
Distinguished delegates, the Vanuatu Government stands prepared to ensure a successful outcome of the ACP-EU meeting. I wish you all very fruitful deliberations over the course of the week ahead. Please enjoy the warm hospitality of the Vanuatu people particularly the warmth of the people of Efate.
I hope that during your busy schedules you will be able to explore the true beauty of Vanuatu and particularly Efate while surveying its vulnerabilities. We also hope that you return to your respective homes with some local handicrafts to remind you of your stay in Port Vila.
I once again warmly greet you and wish you a pleasant stay. Welcome long Vanuatu
May God bless you all.
Hon. Alfred Roland Carlot
Minister of Foreign Affairs & External Trade
Chairman of the ACP-EU National Task Force