|The Courier N° 159 - Sept - Oct 1996 - Dossier: Investing in People - Country Reports: Mali ; Western Samoa (EC Courier, 1996, 96 p.)|
This was the subject of a conference which took place in Maastricht from 12-14 June, under the auspices of the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM). It brought together participants from ACP countries and Europe, including representatives of civil society (NGOs, the private sector, etc.). Four major topics were addressed:
· How can a new KU/ACP commercial relationship be constructed?
There was agreement that some form of preferential trade regime should continue after 2000. Some participants stressed the need to Promote 'fair trade', which would contribute not only to growth but also to development. The impact of individual trade preferences is not always clear-cut, but obviously there cannot be a single solution covering all problems in all ACP countries. An analysis of negative constraints demonstrated the difficulties involved in reconciling the rules of the Lomonvention and those of the World Trade Organisation.
· How can the private sector become involved in development?
The most important aspect of this topic is knowing how to create a favourable and business-friendly environment which will enable the private sector to play its part-and the role the European Union could play in this process. The private sector was defined as both formal and informal, encompassing large, medium and small enterprises, whether local or foreign. The importance of a strong local private sector in guaranteeing long-term stability was particularly emphasised. In this respect, the view was expressed that the role of the state and its relationship with the European Commission should be redefined. There was also a call for time to be set aside time for effective dialogue, and to create the space for a partnership between the public and private sectors. It was felt that the role of Economic and Social Councils should be expanded and specified more clearly. As for the specific issue of privatisation, the point was made that this should not be seen as a panacea and that it should be approached on a country-by-country basis.
As regards current instruments, it was noted that their objective is essentially to meet public-sector requirements. The role of the Centre for the Development of Industry (CDI) attracted some criticism. Speakers felt that the private sector should be more involved in the preparation and implementation of cooperation programmes with the European Community. Direct financial support to the private sector was seen as desirable, including backing from the European Investment Bank.
· What partnership?
The partnership concept was seen to have been eroded over the past two decades, with the pretext of efficiency resulting in a more paternalistic approach. Mechanisms needed to be found to enable EU priorities and the prerogatives of ACP countries to be reconciled. Reference was made to the political nature of the origin of the partnership and the need to find a new political raison d'etre for this type of relationship. The problems of cohesion within the ACP group and its relations with the EU were also raised, and there was a discussion about the possibility of giving the Convention a regional character-although a number of speakers expressed reservations about this.
On the European side, two lacunae emerged, namely coordination between donors, and consistency between Lomnd other Community policies (including relationships with the Bretton Woods institutions).
In addition to the principle of partnership, some participants were keen to stress the motives of solidarity and common interest that lay behind cooperation. It was not simply a matter of 'negative' interdependence. The appropriateness of the term 'partnership' was questioned, if this was only to mean financial and technical cooperation. The politicisation of Lomppears to be on the agenda, involving a move from the current partnership to a genuine 'contractual approach' through political dialogue.
As for the role of partnership in cooperation policy management, it was felt essential that civil society and the private sector be involved. There was also a discussion of the debt problem.
· How can financial and technical cooperation be improved?
As usual, reference was made to the need to simplify and differentiate management of Lomonvention instruments, particularly in the context of the programming process. As regards the role of non-state actors, a cautious approach was recommended. Finally, new instruments were called for to prevent conflict.
This conference, coming after several others of the same type, was characterised essentially by private sector and NGO calls for greater participation in Community cooperation policy. Moreover, the need for 'politicisation' of the Lomolicy, shifting from purely financial and technical aid to a genuine cooperation contract, seems to have attracted the support of all participants. These questions are sure to figure in the 'Green Paper' on 'tome after 2000', which the European Commission plans to publish before the end of 1996.