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Johnson-Smith urges closer collaborations to deal with “challenges” facing ACP grouping

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

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LOME, Togo (CMC) — African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) ministers are meeting here amidst concerns over several serious challenges including security issues, migration as well as the devastating effect of climate change.

Addressing the 107th session of the ACP Council of Ministers, Jamaica's Foreign Affairs Minister, Kamina Johnson Smith, said these challenges “pose serious threat to the achievement of growth and development goals we have set ourselves as well as to those we have subscribed.

“Elsewhere, significant fluctuations in the world market price for oil and other commodities exported by ACP countries have resulted in revenue shortfalls and budget deficits that threaten the stated development objectives of our member states in the short and medium term,” Johnson Smith, told the meeting that will end later today.

Johnson Smith, who is serving as President-in-Office of the ACP Council of Ministers, said many of the countries are facing the daunting task of employing their large number of young people “so as to maximise their contributions towards society as well as to address the urgent need to fight the scourges of radicalisation and terrorism in all their manifestation.

She said notwithstanding “these indisputable challenges” the ACP grouping must have good reason for hope and optimism.
She said on the political front, many countries within the grouping have successfully held elections at all levels “effecting stable democratically transfer of power” while on the economic front many countries were engaged in implementing reform strategies.

The meeting is taking place amid what ACP officials have described as “a very crucial time of the ACP-European Union relations”.

The ACP Council of Ministers is the main decision-making body of the ACP Group under the Summit of Heads of State and Government and it is hoped that the 79 countries from Sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific will speak with one voice as they prepare to adopt a negotiating mandate between the ACP and the EU post -Cotonou Agreement.
The Cotonou Agreement is a treaty between the European Union and the ACP that was signed in June 2000 in Cotonou, Benin's largest city. It entered into force in 2003 and was subsequently revised in 2005 and 2010.

It is regarded as the most comprehensive partnership agreement between developing countries and the EU and in 2010, ACP-EU cooperation has been adapted to new challenges such as climate change, food security, regional integration, state fragility and aid effectiveness.

The fundamental principles of the Cotonou Agreement include equality of partners, global participation, dialogue and regionalisation. The agreement is re-examined every five years.
Johnson Smith said the meeting here is “critical” as the group “is poised to take major decisions regarding its future.

She said reflections on the EU-ACP relations in the context of the Cotonou Agreement have been ongoing since 2012 and that the meeting is expected to give approval to the latest efforts to finalise the ACP's position ahead of the start of negotiations in August this year.
The meeting here is also expected to discuss the revision of the Georgetown agreement including the examination of provisions such as the preamble of the Agreement, the criteria and categories of membership in the organisation, paying close attention to the call of ACP

Heads of State and Government at their Seventh Summit in 2012 for “contacts and relations with other States and groups of States” to feature prominently.

Johnson Smith said of particular importance will be the need to reinforce cooperation among the grouping members “diversifying our partnerships in the European Union, opening possibilities for new like-minded members, enhancing our self-reliance and making our institutions leaner and more efficient”.

Other key items on the agenda include commodities and trade issues, sustainable economic development, and development finance.

In his address, ACP Secretary General Dr PI Gomes said that the restructuring and repositioning of the grouping “provides opportunities to deepen our engagement at the global level and join forces with like-minded organisations in the advancement and reforming of the UN reform and of all multilateral institutions”.

He said going forward, south- south cooperation among ACP member states “must be the order of the day while leaving room for complementarity with opportunities for triangular cooperation”

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