Time to re­shape ACP sol­i­dar­ity

Jamaica Gleaner - - BUSINESS - David Jes­sop is a con­sul­tant to the Car­ib­bean Coun­cil. david.jes­sop@caribbean­coun­cil.org

WHAT DOES sol­i­dar­ity between nations mean in the early 21st cen­tury?

Are the val­ues in­ferred prac­ti­cal or ad­vis­able, in a mul­ti­po­lar world in which self­in­ter­est, over­lap­ping re­la­tion­ships and mul­ti­ple eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal ideas com­pete?

Sol­i­dar­ity sug­gests a com­mon in­ter­est, sim­i­lar ob­jec­tives, and a cul­tural em­pa­thy bind­ing peo­ple and so­ci­eties to­gether. It is an ex­pres­sion that im­plies en­dur­ing mu­tual sup­port between coun­tries.

For the 79-mem­ber African, Car­ib­bean and Pa­cific group of states – the ACP – the ques­tion is far from aca­demic as it works to­wards fi­nal­is­ing a ne­go­ti­at­ing po­si­tion with the Euro­pean Union (EU) on a suc­ces­sor to the Cotonou Part­ner­ship Agree­ment and be­gins to en­gage with the United King­dom on Brexit.

The fun­da­men­tal na­ture of the is­sue for the group was framed re­cently by the chair of the ACP Com­mit­tee of Am­bas­sadors, Len Ish­mael, the OECS Am­bas­sador to the EU, when she asked fel­low In this 2015 photo, sec­re­tary gen­eral of the Africa, Pa­cific and Car­ib­bean States (ACP), Dr Pa­trick Gomes (left) is seen with Ja­maica’s then for­eign af­fairs min­is­ter, A.J. Ni­chol­son. The ACP sec­re­tary gen­eral says the is­sue of sol­i­dar­ity will re­quire care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion by mem­ber states.

am­bas­sadors: “Does po­lit­i­cal sol­i­dar­ity ex­ist for the ACP which will al­low us to face the fu­ture, the EU and the world as one?”

Her ques­tion goes to the heart of how the ACP, as a transcon­ti­nen­tal group, re­lates to the rest of the world.

Does it do so through a post­colo­nial op­tic; do the Car­ib­bean, African and Pa­cific parts of the ACP have enough in com­mon prac­ti­cally to strengthen its for­mal treaty re­la­tion­ship with Europe or to ad­dress trade and de­vel­op­ment chal­lenges of Brexit; and has the or­gan­i­sa­tion the ca­pac­ity to be­come a voice in the global south, as rel­e­vant say to China or the United States, at a time when in­ter­na­tional re­la­tion­ships are chang­ing?

A re­cent ACP work­ing pa­per makes clear the so­cioe­co­nomic sta­tus of many ACP mem­ber coun­tries has changed. While in 2000, us­ing a World Bank mea­sure, there were 40 LICs – low-in­come coun­tries; 30 MICs – medium in­come coun­tries; and one HIC – high-in­come coun­try, there are now 26 LICs, 43 MICs and seven HICs.


It is a trans­for­ma­tion that will re­quire the ACP to re-ex­am­ine the ba­sis and mean­ing of sol­i­dar­ity, and to dis­cover new forms of com­ple­men­tar­ity. It will re­quire a new ap­proach, to quote the doc­u­ment, ‘to in­spire com­mon­al­ity of in­ter­est in at­tain­ing a bet­ter qual­ity of life within a uni­fied po­lit­i­cal frame­work (to en­sure) that no one (is) left be­hind’.

Speak­ing about this re­cently in Brus­sels, in the con­text of the ne­go­ti­a­tions for a suc­ces­sor agree­ment to Cotonou, and in re­la­tion to Brexit, the ACP Sec­re­tary Gen­eral, Pa­trick Gomes, told me that the is­sue of sol­i­dar­ity will re­quire care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion by ACP mem­ber states.

He en­vis­ages an ap­proach that in­volves a new un­der­stand­ing. It will re­quire, he says, “the ACP Group be­ing rein­vented and re­po­si­tioned for a tur­bu­lent 21st cen­tury”.

It will also mean, the Sec­re­tary Gen­eral ob­serves, mem­ber states at very dif­fer­ent lev­els of de­vel­op­ment, in dif­fer­ent re­gions and with dif­fer­ent needs, ac­cept­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of sig­nif­i­cant vari­a­tions in the ar­eas and types of sup­port that might be agreed with the EU.

He notes, too, that sol­i­dar­ity will be im­por­tant in re­la­tion to Brexit, an is­sue on which the ACP is in­tend­ing tak­ing a po­si­tion in con­junc­tion with the Com­mon­wealth. Al­though the de­tail is not yet re­fined, and Am­bas­sadors and the Sec­re­tar­iat are un­likely to form a view un­til some­time in 2017, Am­bas­sador Gomes iden­ti­fies a num­ber of com­po­nents.

First, he says, the ACP will be seek­ing to en­sure the UK’s obli­ga­tions un­der the Cotonou Agree­ment are re­tained up to 2020 when it ends, not least be­cause it is legally bind­ing and is an in­ter-gov­ern­men­tal agree­ment.

Sec­ond, the sec­re­tar­iat has be­gun a de­tailed trade anal­y­sis, look­ing by eco­nomic clus­ter at the prob­a­ble im­pact on sec­tors where the ACP will ne­go­ti­ate for con­tin­ued quota and duty

free ac­cess and un­changed non­tar­iff reg­u­la­tions.

He en­vis­ages this work will in­volve the sec­re­tar­iat and am­bas­sadors work­ing with pri­vate-sec­tor in­ter­ests in the UK and in the ACP, and with friends in the UK Par­lia­ment. He also be­lieves it will be nec­es­sary to form a Com­mon­wealth-ACP al­liance to achieve an out­come that en­sures that ACP nations are no worse off in the UK mar­ket af­ter the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment for­mally ne­go­ti­ates its exit from the EU.

Third, he en­vis­ages a dia­logue with the UK’s Depart­ment for In­ter­na­tional De­vel­op­ment to en­sure Bri­tain still in­tends to meet its long term com­mit­ment to spend the equiv­a­lent of 0.7 per cent of GNI on sup­port­ing de­vel­op­ment, and that ACP nations see no short­fall in the 15 per cent the UK cur­rently con­trib­utes to the Euro­pean De­vel­op­ment Fund.

He also ob­serves that the ACP will, in par­al­lel, need to make the case about the im­por­tance of the EU27 fill­ing any short­fall in the EDF, and in en­cour­ag­ing smaller EU mem­ber states such as the Czech Re­pub­lic to see long-term op­por­tu­nity in mod­els that link de­vel­op­ment sup­port to in­vest­ment in ar­eas in which they have in­ter­ests and ex­per­tise.

And fourth, and per­haps for the first time for the ACP, he be­lieves there is an im­por­tant role for its Di­as­pora in the UK, ir­re­spec­tive of which po­lit­i­cal party they sup­port.

The UK’s large Car­ib­bean and African com­mu­nity and the very much smaller num­bers from the Pa­cific will, he says, be en­cour­aged to en­gage with their Par­lia­men­tary rep­re­sen­ta­tives, the me­dia and oth­ers, to have them un­der­stand the con­se­quences for the ACP if tar­iffs were to be in­tro­duced by Bri­tain on their ex­ports.


The UK, he says, has been a lead­ing light in meet­ing its obli­ga­tions for de­vel­op­ment as­sis­tance tar­gets in the EDF and in­ter­na­tion­ally. For this rea­son, Am­bas­sador Gomes stresses, the ACP can­not af­ford to lose such a valu­able ally for trade, in­vest­ment and aid.

To achieve all of this, he be­lieves that the ACP must now plan and act based on sol­i­dar­ity and max­i­mum co­her­ence.

For most in the Car­ib­bean, the idea of the ACP and ACP sol­i­dar­ity comes from a deep cul­tural place. It is rightly emo­tional and re­lates to a sense of one­ness and com­mon ex­pe­ri­ence, par­tic­u­larly, but not ex­clu­sively, with Africa. It runs through slav­ery and in­den­ture­ship, and on to in­de­pen­dence, sub­se­quently be­ing made man­i­fest in a will­ing­ness to work to­gether in bi-re­gional, mul­ti­lat­eral and other ne­go­ti­a­tions.

As this col­umn pointed out last week, re­cent developments sug­gest that there is a new global space and role for the ACP, and that it can bring an al­ter­na­tive south-south di­men­sion to the EU27 and the UK’s in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions. For this to hap­pen, greater clar­ity about the na­ture and prac­tice of ACP sol­i­dar­ity is now re­quired.



David Jes­sop


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