ACP Journalists in Brussels to cover ACP Council of Ministers Meeting
By: Joyce van Genderen-Naar
The 93rd Session of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Council of Ministers opened on 27 May 2011 in Brussels, Belgium, and finished late Saturday evening, 28 May 2011.
The ACP ministers spent two days discussing trade, political and social issues regarding the ACP Group, the EU and other stakeholders.
They prepared the Joint ACP-EU Council of Ministers which takes place on Tuesday 31 May 2011.
For the first time in ACP history journalists from ACP countries were invited to cover the ACP Council of Ministers meeting in Brussels to increase the much needed visibility of the ACP Group. During a press briefing late Saturday evening the President of the ACP Council, Mrs. Dédé Ahoéfa EKOUE (Minister of Planning, Development and Town and Country Planning of Togo) and the Secretary-General of the ACP Group, Dr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas, told the press that they were pleased with the outcome of the meeting as the ACP Group continues to show solidarity amongst its members and showed renewed commitment to futher imporve the lives of ACP people.
Among the major issues discussed were trade, especially the stalled Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) negotiations with the European Union (EU), where most ACP members expressed their concern about the lack of progress and the difficulties ACP countries and regions are enduring in this process.
"Linked to the lack of progress in the EPAs, is the failure to resuscitate the Doha Round. To all intents and purposes, the international trading regime is not evolving in such a manner as would take on board the development needs of the poorest countries," Dr. Chambas said. "The current stage of poverty in the ACP countries in the 21st century is totally unacceptable. As leaders we are committed to continue the fight against poverty and we recommitted to achieving the MDGs and strongly believe that trade is important for the attainment of the MDGs", he said. Dr. Chambas urged the ACP members to commit to bolder action, especially in light of the recently concluded Fourth United Nations Conference on Least Developed Countries and the upcoming High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness scheduled to be held later in the year in Busan, South Korea.
He acknowledged that rising fuel and food prices pose a major challenge to some of ACP's member countries, in addition to the abiding challenge of climate change, land-grabbing for biofuels cultivation is threatening to undermine food security and the livelihoods of millions of people.
The President of the Council Mrs. Dédé Ahoéfa EKOUE said that on the WTO issues, the ACP Group reaffirms its commitment to a rules base global trading system and recommits to maintaining its constructive engagement to secure, as soon as possible, an balanced development friendly outcome to the round. With regard to the future of the ACP Group, which was also discussed during the ACP Council of Ministers Meeting, she said that "ACP must take the lead in the process and decide on its own future rather than to be caught by surprise in the eve of the expiry of the Cotonou Agreeement in 2020. We look forward to further progress on the issue from the Ambassadorial Working Group that has been set-up", she said.
The Working Group on the Future of the ACP Group was established last year under the Chairmanship of the Ambassador of Mauritius, H. E. Mr. Sutiawan Gunessee.
Furthermore the ACP Council of Ministers debated reports from ministerial consultations and committee reports on banana, sugar, cotton, development finance cooperation and fisheries issues. They will discuss these issues with their EU Colleagues on Tuesday 31 May during the Joint ACP-EU Council of Ministers .