ACP revisits development vision

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AT the 8th Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Summit held recently in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, President Robert Mugabe, did not only represent Africa, but was the voice of all the downtrodden of this world.
The meeting of a group made up of 79 countries, almost half of the nations of the world, can arguably be described as one of the most important gatherings of developing nations in recent times.
The ACP Group is an organisation created by the Georgetown Agreement of 1975, a partnership agreement between the ACP and the European Union (EU), officially known as the ‘Cotonou Agreement’.
The ACP was borne of the need to strengthen relations with former colonial powers and with their help, establish ACP member-states as independent economic and political actors.
One of the major objectives of the agreement is sustainable development of member-states and gradual integration into the global economy to reduce poverty and establish a new, fairer and more equitable world order.
In 2020, the Cotonou Partnership agreement comes to an end and members of the group are calling for a new framework to govern the relations between the developing nations and the EU.
In Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea, the ACP group gathered to review strides made thus far in re-defining the group’s vision of development and its relationship with the EU ahead of 2020.
It was not a talk show or a gathering to pat each other’s backs.
“The question that confronts us today is: Have we lived up to that vision as an ACP family and what impact has the ACP-EU partnership on our well-being?’,” asked President Mugabe.
The gigantic and resource rich ACP group economically and socially lags behind its ‘partner’, the EU made up of only 27 countries.
President Mugabe did not mince his words at the summit and Africa made its position clear.
“The foremost task is to clearly re-define the Group’s core principles and align its objectives and even perhaps, arch a new framework altogether,” said President Mugabe.
“As we all witnessed with the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty, the EU has embarked on fundamental institutional transformation to strengthen its position as a global player.
“Against a backdrop of enlargement, the EU has shifted its strategic interests to focus on its immediate neighbours in Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean.”
The Treaty of Lisbon, 2007, Chapter 1, Article 10 A (2d) states that: “The Union shall define and pursue common policies and actions and shall work for a high degree of co-operation in all fields of international relations, in order to: [d)] foster the sustainable economic, social and environmental development of developing countries, with the primary aim of eradicating poverty.”
But the EU has not worked towards or extended support towards eradication of poverty in developing nations.
Although the EU has set itself an agenda to support developing countries, it has not done so as developing nations, particularly Africa, continue to sink deeper into poverty.
President Mugabe emphasised the need to strengthen South-to-South relations to eradicate poverty and ensure sustainable development.
“The fight to eradicate poverty remains protracted, daunting and demanding,” said President Mugabe.
“The hard lessons learnt from the ACP-EU partnership, as a North-South development model, require that the ACP’s desire to diversify its forms of co-operation and partnership be pursued vigorously within the South-South framework of co-operation, as well as through a deeper economic interface.”
Papua New Guinea Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, who chaired the three-day meeting, echoed President Mugabe’s sentiments saying the ACP vision was no longer relevant and needed re-defining to meet the needs of the peoples of the grouping.
“As one of the biggest international groupings, it is frustrating to see that ACP economic relations have not fundamentally changed and that the political significance of the ACP Group is still marginal,” he said.
“We lack trade and investment vertically and horizontally within the Africa-Caribbean-Pacific region.
“The group should seriously embark on greater intra-ACP co-operation among ACP member-states, starting within the six sub-regions of the ACP.
“If ACP is to be relevant and responsive to its members, given the rapid rate of globalisation, it requires a major restructure in order to change its core business to one that is trade and investment oriented.”
Presently, trade relations are skewed in favour of the EU.
The EU has over the years, by claiming to be the biggest donor of international aid, ‘forced’ poor nations to sign exploitative deals while posing as a saviour.
But the aid has come at a cost.
In return for aid, the EU has, for example, demanded to fish in African waters using methods that have impoverished entire coastal communities by overfishing.
Another condition for getting EU aid is selling off resources and economic potential to foreign banks and multinational companies.
The EU then uses the large assets foreign investors have in African markets to push for even more aggressive trade deals, to give more access to those markets to foreign companies, who in turn gain an advantage over domestic business.
Also, the EU has appointed itself ‘judge’ in any trade disputes under Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) and uses its role as an aid donor and major investor to get its way.
The EU uses divide-and-rule tactics in negotiating with regional groups such as COMESA or ECOWAS, by pitching one group of countries against another.
“The EPAs which we have negotiated with the EU should reinforce, not negate, regional integration in the ACP,” President Mugabe said.
“Taking cognisance that the EU has taken the position that it will use the EPAs as a basis for a future EU-ACP partnership, it therefore becomes most imperative for the ACP to ensure that the EPAs fully embrace the needs and interests of our countries and peoples.”
Weaker and poorer nations have been made to sign trade deals which have exploitative terms and conditions that stronger nations would not agree to.
According to the Institute for Direct Democracy in Europe (IDDE), 200 years after the abolition of slavery, a new era of neo-colonialism is blossoming.
The gathering at Port Moresby made it clear they do not want to remain in the colonial trap of being viewed simply as raw material exporters.
But their efforts to add value to the materials continue to be frustrated by existing EU policies.
Take the example of coffee.
In 2014, Africa —the home of coffee— earned nearly US$2,4 billion from the crop.
Germany, a leading processor, earned about US$3,8 billion from coffee re-exports.
“The new ACP should avoid duplicating activities that are being carried out by other regional and international organisations, which our countries are already party to,” said President Mugabe.
“The new ACP, post-2020, should buttress our regional integration efforts by actively recognising and supporting the roles and objectives of the Regional Economic Communities (RECs).
“We believe that, focusing on trade, investment, industrialisation, development co-operation, science and technology and research and innovation, would help the ACP to capitalise on its numerical strength and geographical spread, in promoting equitable and sustainable development for the benefit of our people.”

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