Reviving solidarity and re-inventing the ACP for global leadership
When the Seventh Summit of Heads of State & Government of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States was concluded in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, December 14, 2012 a sense of new life and renewed hope was expressed among the 79 developing countries, soon to be 80, as the Republic of South Sudan completes accession to this unique, tri-continental grouping that was established 37 years ago in the Georgetown Agreement of 1975.
The outcome document of the Summit, The Sipopo Declaration identified the major issues and areas for action as consisting of seven themes: Peace, Security, Stability and Good Governance in ACP States and Regions; the Future of Development Finance and the Post-Busan Global Partnership; Future ACP Trade and Development; ACP-EU Trade Relations including Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs); Sustainable Development, Climate Change, Food Security and Rural Development; Energy and Sustainable Development in ACP States; and Status of the ACP Group towards 2015 and Beyond.
Of great significance was the unambiguous commitment of the Caribbean that all such concerns and any future plan of action must be based on a consolidation of unity and solidarity. This was eloquently expressed at the Summit by the Prime Minister of Saint Lucia, Dr. The Honourable Kenny Anthony as Chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), who further underlined the Caribbean’s “pride as a region and our determination to revitalise our central role” in what the ACP Group “aspires to be.”
That role is derived from the very origins of the ACP Group in August 1972 in Georgetown, Guyana, where informal discussions amongst Commonwealth Caribbean and African Foreign Ministers in the margins of the NAM meeting, expanded in time to include Pacific, francophone and Anglophone nations. Finally, it resulted in the successful negotiation of the Lomé Convention between ACP countries and the European Economic Community (EEC). Inspired by the success of solidarity in negotiations, the countries institutionalised their relations, formally establishing the ACP Group of States on June 6, 1975 in Georgetown, Guyana.
The Option to Deepen & Diversify Partnerships
Prime Minister Anthony stated that “the time has come to look at ourselves and shape our future independent of a relationship with Europe.” This was a call to “fix our sights beyond Europe and remember the wider purposes for which the ACP Group exists.” His inspiring remarks were very much the sentiments echoed by other Heads of Government and were a strong current in the debates among Ministers.
But most uplifting, in my view, was the growth in self-consciousness displayed in the Summit’s deliberations, marked as they were by repeated statements that the ACP Group, as the unique bloc of developing countries, from the continents of Africa, Asia and the Americas, must be prepared to take responsibility for repositioning the organisation globally.
Hence the consensus has emerged that the preferred option of the Group’s future lies in “deepening and diversifying partnerships”. For this to be accomplished, a re-invented ACP Group will critically deepen its longstanding partnership with Europe, enshrined in the Cotonou Agreement, which will have its final 5-Year review in 2015 and is currently being addressed in an Ambassadorial Working Group on Future Perspectives for the ACP Group.
Simultaneously, by the priority attention the Group has given to developing “South-South and Triangular Cooperation”, a process for “diversified partnerships” is being pursued. In this way, the ACP has consciously assumed the responsibility of its founding fathers to contribute to what has been so recently endorsed in the United Nations Resolution on a “New Global Human Order (NGHO)”.
The challenges ahead are enormous and complex, but the Malabo Summit has stimulated considerable momentum and provided a solid platform on which to advance the transformation and reinventing of the ACP Group. A clear and unambiguous endorsement at the highest political level is clearly expressed in the Sipopo Declaration. By its history and heritage of such distinguished leadership by Shridath Ramphal and Percival J. Patterson to the ACP, one can expect no less than a central and creative role by today’s Caribbean, without apprehension, in transforming the ACP Group while “managing change and continuity in a spirit of unity and solidarity.”
*This article is abridged and republished with permission from the author. It first appeared in Business Journal Online.
The views expressed are entirely those of the author. They do not necessarily represent the views of the ACP Group or any of its member states, the ACP Secretariat or the ACP Eminent Persons Group.