The African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group was founded by the Georgetown Agreement of 1975 to promote the solidarity and cooperation amongst its member states as they jointly brokered a partnership framework with the European Union. Before then, most ACP member states were former colonies of European powers that were brought into association status with the founding of the European Community in 1957. Since the Group’s creation, nearly four decades of regular and consistent exchange amongst ACP governments has over time fostered a sense of solidarity in their shared struggles in terms of economic and social development. Today, boasting 79 members and a total population of over 900 million, the ACP Group is one of the most unique and longstanding entities on the landscape of international relations.
However, key shifts and new challenges have emerged on the global stage since the Georgetown era. Not least amongst this, is that the ACP Group’s framework for cooperation with the European Union (the ‘Cotonou Agreement’) soon expires in 2020. Some uncertainty regarding the future of ACP-EU relations has arisen in light of Lisbon Treaty’s entry into force, the EU’s shift towards a multilateral development cooperation policy and its enlargement to include countries that do not have strong historical ties with ACP countries. The stalemate of ACP-EU Economic Partnership Agreement negotiations is also a stumbling block for the relationship.
Moreover, the world financial crisis, the rise of emerging economies such as the BRICS, fuel, food and security crises as well as climate change has intensified the need for renewed global collaboration. Multilateral trade talks at the WTO, development financing, including aid effectiveness are key concerns for the ACP Group, perhaps more than any other entity. The Post 2015 agenda compels ACP countries to review its progress in development and propose innovative solutions.
Given such a combination of challenges, as well as opportunities to work together for global solutions, what role can the ACP Group – the so-called “coalition of the poor” – play in contributing to poverty eradication and sustainable development of its communities? Can the Group bring any added value to the debate as a platform for a united voice for developing and vulnerable countries and what kinds of structures need to be set in place for this to happen? How can intra-ACP cooperation improve amongst member states, and partnerships be diversified beyond the European Union? It is clear the ACP Group can no longer operate “business as usual”. The work of the Eminent Persons Group will feed into these seminal discussions, as the ACP examines its potential to reposition itself as a relevant and effective global institution to tackle these issues.