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STATEMENT by the Secretary General at the opening of the 32nd session of the ACP Parliamentary Assembly, in Brussels 14 June 2013

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Honourable Madam Joyce Laboso, President of the ACP Parliamentary Assembly,
Honourable Members of the Joint Parliamentary Assembly,
ACP Ambassadors,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
 
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to address your august Assembly for the first time. Allow me first of all to congratulate you, Madame President, for your ascendancy to the Presidency of the ACP Parliamentary Assembly and the Co-Presidency of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly. You also deserve to be congratulated for having won a seat in what I believe to have been highly contested Parliamentary elections on 4 March 2013 under a new Kenyan Constitution. But in congratulating you, I also wish to commiserate with your predecessor, Honourable Musikari KOMBO and wish him all the best in his future endeavors.  As a former parliamentarian myself, I am fully conversant with the joys and travails of elections in all democratic societies.
 
I take this opportunity to mention with gratitude the work done by Hon. Nita Deerpalsing of Mauritius in presiding over the activities of your Assembly as Acting-President of the ACP Parliamentary Assembly and Acting Co-President of the Joint Parliamentary Assembly.
 
Madam President,
Honourable Members,
 
I am particularly pleased to have this occasion to be in your midst because I feel that I am among colleagues. I was a Member of Parliament in my native Ghana from 1997 to 2004. I served in various Ministerial portfolios, the last of which was as Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2005 to 2012. In the 2012 General Elections, I contested and won a Parliamentary seat, which I only relinquished when the Government of Ghana, with the support of the Heads of State of ECOWAS, requested me to come and serve the ACP Group as Secretary-General. 
 
The Secretariat and I will ensure that we provide you with all the necessary administrative support and advice for the efficient execution of your responsibilities. As your Secretary-General, my role is to ensure that you have the best possible conditions for undertaking your work. 
 
Madam President,
Honourable Members,
 
I am humbled to serve our organization, the ACP,  in this capacity of Secretary-General. It is a responsibility that I take in full cognizance of the critical role that the Secretariat plays in the furtherance of the objectives of the ACP Group and of the Cotonou Agreement. In this regard, the work of servicing our internal constituents, that is, our Member States and their relations with our external environment, in particular, our principal partner, the EU, will continue to be the focus of my tenure of office. However, this is a task that I cannot carry out on my own; I will need the support of all our Governing organs, as well as yourselves, our elected Representatives. 
 
I am also glad to have found a team of dedicated staff committed to the same ideals and objectives of the Group that we all hold dear. In their individual and collective capacity, they are the anointing oil that makes the wheels of the ACP turn in such a seamless manner. 
 
My inspiration of course, shall remain the decisions, declarations and resolutions as expressed by all the organs of the Group. As parliamentarians, you have an important role in this regard. As a former Member of Parliament, I acknowledge the role that you play in helping to provide democratic legitimacy to the work of the ACP Group.
 
Allow me therefore to thank, through you, our elected Representatives, the member States of the ACP Group for their trust and confidence in according me the honour of serving you at this particular moment in the history of our organisation. I can simply say that I will endeavor to do my best to justify your trust and confidence.
 
Madam President,
Honourable Members,
 
I would like to take a few moments to share with you my perspectives on the challenges and indeed opportunities that mark our development aspirations. 
 
The influential London-based  Financial Times recently reported that the IMF believes the world economy is running at three speeds, with emerging markets and developing economies still strong, but the US doing much better than the eurozone among advanced economies. 
 
The IMF is also reported to have warned that an “uneven recovery is also a dangerous one” for the global economy as it again downgraded its growth forecasts for 2013, while holding out the prospect of relief late in the year. Slowdown in demand from developed economy could affect mineral and commodity prices, on which much of the growth in developing countries, especially in ACP States, is dependent.
 
The World Bank states that more than four years after the global financial crisis, high-income countries struggle to restructure their economies and regain fiscal sustainability. Developing countries, where growth is 1 to 2 percentage points below what it was during the pre-crisis period, have been affected by the weakness in high-income countries. To regain pre-crisis growth rates, they will need to focus on productivity-enhancing domestic policies rather than demand stimulus.
 
Despite this rather gloomy outlook for the world economy, there is cause for optimism in several ACP countries. Ghana, Equatorial Guinea, Angola, Rwanda, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands have registered positive growth in excess of 7 percent in the last two years.  
 
This shows that although the international economic outlook is fraught with challenges, there are still a number of opportunities which the ACP states could exploit and utilise in order to meet their citizens’ demand for development. For instance, a number of ACP States on the African continent are in the cusp of a commodity boom. Some offshore gas reserves have been discovered off the coast of Mozambique and Tanzania; there is prospect of oil off the Liberian shore, as well in Uganda, and there is also talk of oil in Ethiopia. These countries will soon join established producers such as Angola, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and recent entrants such as Ghana.
 
If we go further beyond fossil fuels and speak of timber and other forest reserves in Gabon, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia to mention but a few, one can trully say that the ACP Group possesses the fuel with which to drive global economic recovery. 
The challenge for ACP States is how to ensure that the exploitation of their natural resources, while driving the economies of developed countries, also assists them to attain the objectives of sustainable development. I am glad to note that there is a quiet revolution and renaissance taking place in ACP States, and a conscious effort to address in a bold manner the major issues that have in the past militated against our development aspirations. 
 
On the political front, we feel confident to say that democracy is being consolidated in our countries and regular elections are becoming the norm rather than the exception. 
 
In the case of Mali, member States from the Region and the African Union were resolute in their condemnation of the military coup in March 2012. The stance taken by member States from the East African Region, and the leading role taken by countries such as Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia, has begun to bear fruit in Somalia. It is hoped that this same sense of urgency will be applied to the emergent problem in the Central African region and Guinea Bissau. 
 
The many other examples of positive intervention reinforces my optimism that if we are committed to peace and stability and the prevalence of the rule of law, this will drive the process of rapid growth and social transformation. 
 
Madam President,
Honourable Members,
 
I pleased to inform you that such and many other issues affecting the sustainable development of our States are a constant pre-occupation of the ACP Council of Ministers. During its 82nd Session held from 3 to 5 June this year, the ACP Council discussed a range of issues in the political, social, economic and financial spheres in terms of intra-ACP and ACP-EU relations.  
 
The Decisions of the Council will be distributed to you, or you may already have them. Time does not permit me to go into the details of the Decisions, Resolutions and Declaration, suffice to say that most, if not all of the major pre-occupations of the Group were addressed, either substantively as agenda items or as matters mentioned in the Reports of the Committee of Ambassadors and the Secretary-General. 
 
Madam President,
Honourable Members,
 
In terms of our relations with the EU, the 38th Session of the ACP-EU Council of Ministers held on 6 and 7 June this year adopted the financial protocol for the 11th EDF for the seven year period from 1 January 2014 to 31 December 2020, with a resource envelope of € 29.089 billion. Of this amount, €24. 365 will be for National and Regional Indicative Programmes while €3.590 billion will finance intra-ACP and inter regional cooperation. 
 
This is a significant development, because of the concern that had been expressed by the Group during negotiations for the 2nd revision of the Cotonou Agreement at the absence of a multi-annual financial protocol. The amount agreed represents an increase of about €7billion over the 10th EDF, and in light of genuine concern at the possible impact of austerity measures in EU Member States on aid budgets, this represents quite an achievement. This is due in part to the role that you played in keeping this issue alive during your meetings with your EU counterparts in the JPA.
 
 
Madam President,
Honourable Members,
 
The conclusion of the multi-annual financial framework puts to rest just one aspect concerning our immediate relations with the EU. However, the work of the Group in discussing possible scenarios for the future of the ACP Group beyond 2020 becomes more urgent than ever, and I am glad to see that this question has had the attention of the highest organ of the ACP Group, the Summit of the Heads of State and Government. 
I am informed that you have been provided with regular updates on the progress of the work of the Committee of Ambassadors Working Group on the Future Perspectives of the Group which is under the sterling leadership of the H.E. Patrick Gomes, the Ambassador of Guyana.
 
During the 82nd Session of the Council of Ministers, Ambassador Gomes reported on the progress of the working Group so far. I think it is already clear that this Group is already committed to stay united under a reinvigorated ACP Cooperation Framework anchored on the ideals and objectives of the Georgetown Agreement, and going even beyond to embrace other partners and entities. I hope that at your next session in September 2013, Ambassador Gomes will brief you on the state of play of the work of the Working Group.
 
Madam President,
Honourable Members,
 
I wish to submit that in our discussions on the Future Perspectives, and every other activity we undertake within the ACP Group or jointly with the EU or indeed in other fora, we must never lose sight of what is our ultimate objective: That is, to lift our people out of poverty and the attainment of sustainable development. Currently, the international community is engaged in discussions on the post-2015 development framework, because the deadline for the attainment of the MDGs is only one and a half years away. Although there has been some progress on some goals, most countries are way behind the targets. 
 
However, the imperative to attain those goals is still as strong as ever. The MDGs, despite all the difficulties involved in certain indicators, are still the only widely accepted and objective measurement of progress for sustainable development. 
The 82nd Session of the ACP Council of Ministers mandated the Committee of Ambassadors to organise and coordinate consultations in order to further elaborate critical elements that would, from an ACP perspective, be relevant to the process of developing the Post-2015 Overarching Framework. 
 
However, the implementation of MDGs is by and large the responsibility of national governments. The challenge I would like to address to you, our elected Representatives, is to initiate and keep the debate alive within your own Parliaments and Government institutions on how to domesticate this process and ensure the widest possible participation of all stake-holders.
 
Madam President,
Honourable Members,
Madam President,
Honourable Members,
 
In concluding this address, permit me to introduce to your our new ACP Anthem and ACP Flag which was recently endorsed by the Council Ministers at their June meeting in Brussels. 
 
Our flag consists of three diagonal bands of colour green, gold and blue. Green represents fertility and natural beauty and resources of our countries, gold symbolises the sun and the warmth of our people and blue symbolises the bodies of water that surround many of our nations, as well as the peace we all strive for. 
 
As for the anthem, it is the result of an open competition launched last year, which invited submissions from artistes from all ACP regions. A team of musicians from ACP countries met in Brussels for a blind judging process and unanimously chose this particular composition. Now, it just so happens that the winning entry was composed by one of your own peers present here with us, Senor Manuel Jimenez of the Dominican Republic. 
 
We believe that the rhythm and the wordings convey both the spirit and vision of the ACP family of nations, and it is with much joy and pride that I commend it to you.
 
I thank you for your kind attention and wish you success in your deliberations.
 
****
 


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