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close this bookThe Courier N 158 - July - August 1996 - Dossier: Communication and the Media - Country Report: Cape Verde (EC Courier, 1996, 96 p.)
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View the documentBroadening the debate
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View the documentThe effects of corruption on development

Broadening the debate

In issue 156 of The Courier, we announced the launch of a programme by the European Centre for Development Policy Management on the future of KU-ACP relations beyond LomV. Here, we publish an abridged text supplied by the ECDPM reporting on progress.

After 20 years, the Lomonvention is thought by some not to have lived up to expectations and now that East West rivalry is no longer an issue, many doubt its continued relevance. Questioning, as such, is no bad thing, provided it takes place in a fair and unbiased manner and is not used as a pretext to abandon the acquis of more than 20 years of cooperation. This is the rationale behind a number of private and official initiatives to redefine KU-ACP cooperation.

Consultations

The ECDPM's post-tome IV exercise has now been up and running for more than a year. Consultations have been held in more than 20 ACP countries, involving representatives from the private and non-governmental sectors, officials in the National Authorising Offices, EC delegations, regional organisations and research centres. A number of strong impressions have emerged from these interviews. In the first place, the initial comment of many NGOs and private sector representativ was essentially 'what is in it for us?'. This points to a lack of knowledge of the Convention in non-governmental circles and suggests that this complicated instrument is not entirely 'user-friendly'. Its government to government character was also criticised. There were calls for ACP-KU relations to be opened up to the private sector and civil society. In this context, experience with decentralised cooperation was seen as encouraging.

Second, the benefits of the Lomrade provisions were highlighted with fears being expressed about what would happen after the year 2000. It was felt that at a time when many ACPs are undergoing structural adjustment, and the private sector is getting its act together, a clearer European commitment in this area would benefit both sides.

Various actors from the private, NGO and research communities indicated a willingness to engage in debate on redefining mutual ACP-KU interests and on the design of a new cooperation contract. Some of them had an opportunity to present their views at an ECDPM conference on the future of KU-ACP relations held on 12-14 June.

It is clear that the process of reflection is now firmly under way. At the institutional level, the Joint Assembly began as far back as February 1995, when it launched an action plan to revitalise KU-ACP cooperation. This year, it asked Senator Jean-Louis Firmin of Haiti to draw up a report on the future of the Lomonvention. It also requested the Social Partners to tackle the issue at their next annual meeting in November 1996. On the European side, the Commission will present a Green Paper later this year while the ACPs are also studying the question. Last November, the ACP Council resolved that Heads of State should meet before the end of 1997 to agree on a joint position.

Obstacles

All this activity suggests a real awareness of what is at stake. Many obstacles have to be overcome, however, if a new type of partnership is to emerge. The main pillars of Europe's commitment to the ACP countries - aid and trade - both appear under threat. It will be necessary to redefine mutual interests - beyond the negative interdependencies - so that they can serve as a basis for a more modern and effective partnership. Greater creativity will also be required to find new forms of EU support on ACP trade issues that are compatible with World Trade Organisation obligations.

An in-depth rethink of ACP-KU cooperation will significantly benefit from inputs by actors traditionally excluded from the discussions - who are anxious to participate in redefining cooperation ties. For instance, in Namibia, NGOs called for formal consultation mechanisms for non-governmental actors. Similarly, economic operators meeting in Trinidad in November called for a new Europe-Caribbean partnership. There should also be a role for applied research conducted in ACP centres. There is already a joint research project on the future of West Africa Europe relations and similar initiatives are being formulated elsewhere.

The plea for a debate that is open to the key ACP actors should be taken on board by decision-makers and negotiators - and thus far, they have proved receptive. However, two conditions are needed to maintain this fruitful exchange. First, ACP stakeholders need to be able to base their views on full knowledge of the facts and issues. It is essential that the Convention's authors make a major effort to provide more and better information. The ECDPM is willing to play a part in this. Initiatives already under way include the development of EUFORIC - a Forum on the Internet for specialised information on European development cooperation - and the preparation of practical guides to the Lomonvention. Enhanced access to information can help all partners move towards a real dialogue. Second, forms and channels for dialogue. need to be devised to ensure that an open debate is sustained beyond the initial reflections taking place within the EU and ACP groups.

ECDPM