Caribbean countries looking to take advantage of ACP-EU accord

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Caribbean countries looking to take advantage of ACP-EU accord

Saturday, October 19, 2019

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NIAMEY, Niger (CMC) — As the 79-member African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries negotiate a post-2020 relationship with the European Union (EU), culture is being presented as an untapped sector that can contribute to the further development of the region.

“When you look at the Caribbean, in particular, Caribbean music has had a lot of influence on African music, Caribbean intellectuals are well-known throughout Africa and even outside of Africa,” says Leonard-Emile Ognimba, the ACP's Assistant Secretary General.

Two years ago, ACP culture ministers through the “Brussels Declaration”, recognised the central role of culture as a driver of economic growth and sustainable human development.

The issue is being further discussed at this week's fifth meeting of ACP Ministers of Culture, taking place here, falls within the special context of the negotiations for a new Cotonou Agreement, the accord that links the ACP and the EU countries. The existing agreement expires in 2020.

The four-day meeting, which ends on Sunday, is taking place under the theme “Strengthening and Diversifying Partnerships for ACP Cultures”.

Ognimba told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that the ACP has highlighted the role of culture in endogenous and sustainable development and is insisting that a strong cultural dimension be included in the cooperation strategies and policies.

He said culture is a cross-cutting issue which encompasses new areas, including development issues.

“It is a matter of particular interest to the ACP group of states, which have a vision; that, is poverty reduction and therefore this includes development.”

The senior ACP official said he is speaking about the issue from a development standpoint, noting that in Brussels, ACP ministers of culture, “apart from the artistic aspects of culture have made particular stress on development.

“This is because culture is seen as an essential force for economic growth in our countries. It is an essential factor in job creation, particularly for young people and women.

“In a nutshell culture is an essential and major area of the partnership of yourself and the European Union. And it is on that basis, in fact, that together with the EU we have come up with a new ACP-EU programme on culture,” Ognimba told CMC.

But as the ACP focuses on the economic value to be garnered from cultural expressions, the 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is of the opinion that the Caribbean has a comparative advantage in culture and creativity.

The Programme Manager for Culture and Community Development at the Guyana-based CARICOM Secretariat, Hilary Brown, says the Caribbean “has produced so much and has made its mark on the global arena in a way that is way above our size.

“So we believe that culture and creativity is a very important area for us to advance,” says Brown who is attending the meeting in this West African capital.

She said CARICOM also focus on culture as a means of economic advancement and is using its annual festival, the Caribbean Festival of Arts (CARIFESTA), as a platform to do that.

At the national level, governments have been adopting policies in an attempt to maximise the economic potential of cultural expression.

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism, Information and Broadcasting, Culture and Creative Industries in St Lucia, Donalyn Vittet, said that while her island's tourism sector has been “growing by leaps and bound”, the question remains regarding positioning culture and the creative industries “to be able to actualise the policy decisions and objection of tourism as an economic driver”.

The senior public servant told CMC that she sees the conference as an opportunity for her to able to take home the guiding principles used under the ACP for the development of culture and creative industries and see how they can be used to enhance St Lucia's policy decisions.

The meeting comes at a time when the EU has allocated Euro 40 million (One Euro=US$1.29 cents) for the development of cultural industries in the ACP countries.

Brown tells CMC that CARICOM is particularly interested in taking a regional approach regarding the funding, adding “we feel that there needs to be more equity in the way that resources are distributed and accessed by the three [ACP] regions and so we are really are very keen on advancing available modality for providing resources regionally to the three ACP region.”

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