Brussels, 29 April 2017/ ACP: The Ambassador of Ethiopia to the Benelux countries and the European Union H.E Mr. Teshome Toga Chanaka presides over the Committee of Ambassadors of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group for the period 1 February 2017 – 31 July 2017. He shares with ACP Press priority issues for the coming months in his tenure, including discussions on the future of the ACP Group, including ACP-EU relations.
ACP Press: As Chairman of the ACP Committee of Ambassadors, what are some of the priority issues on the table over the coming months of your tenure?
Amb. Teshome Toga Chanaka: I believe and my colleagues at the Committee of Ambassadors also believe that we are in a critical time of our partnerships, particularly the ACP-EU partnership, and this is because the Cotonou partnership agreement that we signed with the EU in 2000 will expire in 2020. The current preoccupation of all the organs of the ACP Group of States, is really what would be our partnership beyond 2020 or ACP beyond 2020.
There are two things to it: one is would ACP as a Group continue as a solid united group and I think that is the current spirit, that we saw from the Sipopo Summit [7th Summit of ACP Heads of State and Government in 2012] in Equatorial Guinea and that is also the spirit reflected and of course decided in the 8thSummit of the ACP Heads of States in Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea [in May 2016].
That’s one thing, then most important aspect would be: what would be our future partnership with the European Union? This is a topical issue for all decision making bodies of the ACP. We have done quite a bit of work. Initially we established Ambassadors Working Group on the Future Perspectives of ACP, which actually did very important work indicating what the future of the ACP should look like.
Secondly, in the wisdom of one of the previous Secretary Generals, we had an Eminent Persons Group which also did a study on behalf of the ACP Group. The purpose was to solicit views from our constituencies in the three regions – Africa, Caribbean and Pacific. In that Eminent Persons Group study, consultations were made with civil society organisations, private sector, parliamentarians, media, and of course governmental bodies.
So that is one set of documents that we have. Then Ambassadors in the Committee of Ambassadors also held a number of retreats in digesting, analysing and setting a vision for our future. So that is a bit of preparation we have made so far. We are hoping that the Council of Ministers will take a concrete decision on the matter.
Now the work we have done, actually focuses on the nature of the partnership. We have identified three major pillars for our future partnership with the [EU], Intra-ACP cooperation and also the South-South and Triangular cooperation.
· The first pillar focuses on issues related to trade, investment. In that of course the role of private sector is also identified.
· The second pillar deals with development cooperation, which is an important part of our partnership, and in it we would like to see science and technology. That has several elements in it but that second important pillar of development cooperation is not in terms of the old narrative and the old paradigm, but with a “new” development cooperation in which we would like to see that cooperation will ensure progress and development in our own social and economic settings, where the partnerships we have, the European development cooperation we have helps us to trade more, to export more and to industrialise and make transformation in our economies.
· The third of course, such an intergovernmental organisation will always have a political dimension in his relationships, and we have identified political dialogue and advocacy on our values as the third pillar.
We wish that the Council of Ministers will give us guidance and negotiation modalities because we will be entering into the negotiations with the European Union in September 2018. That is what the Cotonou Partnership Agreement requires us to do. So in order to spearhead negotiations, we are looking at our principles, positions, values, visions, and negotiation modalities and negotiation team.
You mentioned a “new paradigm” of development cooperation. What exactly does this mean for ACP and its partners?
Frankly speaking, I think the relationships in the past were framed by what we call “donor-recipient” relationship. Since 1975, since we initiated the EU-ACP partnership under the Lomé Convention, a lot has changed. We are in 2017, and that relationship was started in 1975.
Now, 42 years later, there have been major changes globally, there have been major changes in the ACP countries. Many of the ACP countries are now Middle Income Countries, there are still Least Developing Countries, there are Small Island Developing Countries within the ACP. Now, given this diversity, given the progress we have made, I think in many ACP countries – even if you look at democratisation in ACP countries, peace and stability in ACP countries – I think we have made significant strides. The new partnership, we believe, should take that into account.
Secondly, in terms of transforming our economies, I think we would like more to rely more on partnerships than the donor-recipient equation. What do we mean by partnership? I think we would like to trade more with Europe, to industrialise our economies, to change the structure of the economy. So any partnership in development should help the ACP countries to trade more than to depend on aid. Aid should help our capacity – so we can trade more, so that we can industrialise, so that we can build our own capacity, so that we can be competitive in global markets. Thanks to globalisation we have a huge global market, but the capacity – the competitive capacity, the competitiveness of our economy – is still very weak. So it is that element that we would like to change.
We should not depend only on what we get an aid from European Union, as ACP countries. We are not undermining the importance and significance of aid – it is important. But definitely, there should be a paradigm shift in our development partnership.
So the change must come from first and foremost within the ACP, and significant changes have been made – we should recognize that. I think the partnership is, even in terms of spirit, I think we in the ACP would like to view this as a mutually beneficially partnership. We know that Europe needs ACP; ACP needs Europe. It is in that spirit that we like to come as partners – partners based on respect and mutual interest and equality. Equality is the sense that we still know that EU is huge in terms of economy, EU is huge in terms of technology, but we like to approach our partnership based on equality, based on mutual respect and mutual interest. That would be the governing principle of our new partnership, and development cooperation I think.
There are global issues that need to be taken into account including the Sustainable Development Goals, climate change, terrorism, counter terrorism, migration, mobility – these are all issues that we have to address collectively. We know that EU alone cannot manage these issues; ACP cannot do it. It is only through partnership that we can address such enormous challenges for both the ACP and the EU.
With such a diverse membership from Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific, how does this diversity affect talks about the future?
We do recognize that we have diverse interests, we have diverse cultures, we have diverse social and economic backgrounds. But despite the fact, and not withstanding our diversity, we have come a very long way, in the spirit of solidarity and unity. It is true that when we interact as ACP Group, we have been focusing on our partnership with the EU, and we all know why. But there is realisation, I think, that there should be intra-ACP, or if you like, South-South and Triangular cooperation.
Now there is another important dimension to it, in global politics and multilateralism. You mentioned the membership – 79. At the same time, you have the 28, and of course now that we are talking about the BREXIT, it would be 27 European [countries]. Together, it’s a very large bloc. It’s the largest bloc actually, within the United Nation system. So if you wish to promote a given interest, as a bloc, I’m sure we would make a very important difference in global politics, in global decision making and multilateralism.
So we would like to see that diversity as supporting and complementing each other, and not as a source of weakness. Yes, we do understand the diverse interests of the Group, but we have common interests also, and that’s where we are trying to focus – on our mutual and common interest.
How will the ACP Group relate to the regional groupings or regional organisations in the future?
Definitely we have our regional forums – the CARICOM, the Pacific Forum and the African Union – but when it comes to the ACP we have six regions [West Africa, East Africa, Southern Africa, Central Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific]. So yes, reference is made made several times to the regional groupings. The relationships between ACP and the regional groups is something that we like to strengthen actually, because regional groups play a very important role. There are some subjects that are very far and remote to ACP, but very pertinent problems into the regional groups.
I give you just one example. For instance, when it comes to peace and security, the AU, and even within AU, the regional economic organs or communities are much more important and pertinent and relevant. But that does not necessarily mean that there is not a sort of link between what we do in the regions and within the ACP.
The concept of complementarity and subsidiarity and proportionality I think is the guiding principle when it comes to the relationship between the ACP and our various regional groups. So they are there – whenever we have a comparative advantage working with a regional organisation, there’s no need for ACP to duplicate that. The line of our engagement is very clearly defined so we will continue in that way.
Without duplicating what is done by the regional organisations, where would ACP bring an added value as a group of 79 countries?
Well the added value would be [that] we can play a very important role in global forums. For instance, I think one recent and good example we can say, is our contribution to the COP21 Agreement in Paris, where the ACP as a group played a very important role. We also agree that our group can play an important role come COP23 for instance, because we have Fiji, one of our [members], in the [UN General Assembly] Presidency and also chairing COP23, so we are mobilising our support.
There are by the way best practices in ACP countries that we don’t share among ourselves. We always look to different parts of the world. But there is a very increased realisation that I think there are important best practices that we can also share with each other.
So there are things I think that we haven’t identified, but we have now realised that there are things we can give and take within the ACP itself.
But in global politics of course, if we are determined, if we are committed, I think this is a bloc that can make a lot of difference in the global decision making process.