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close this bookThe Courier N 185 - March - April 2001 - Dossier: Cinema - Country Reports: Angola (EC Courier, 2001, 76 p.)
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ACP Group adapts to meet global challenges

by Dr Pa’o LUTERU*

* Assistant Secretary-General of the ACP Group

At the first Summit of the ACP Heads of State and Government held in Libreville, Gabon, in 1997, a commitment was made to adapt the structure of the ACP Group to meet new challenges and opportunities arising in the global environment. The second ACP Summit held in Santo Domingo in 1999 confirmed the need for the Group to develop a higher profile in international fora. It also had to strengthen regional cooperation and integration as a means of ensuring better cohesion within the Group.

As for the Secretariat, the main goal was to transform the organisation into a more proactive and dynamic executive body. It had to be capable of responding promptly and effectively, not only to the traditional concerns of member states but also to emerging new challenges.

The product of this reform is the Department of Political Affairs and Human Development, one of the two technical arms of the organisation with the task of assisting the Group in its mandated areas of responsibility.

Emphasis on conflict prevention

The political dimension of the ACP Group’s interests and activities will assume a more prominent place than it did during the Lomra, given the realities of globalisation and the increasing interdependence of states. Inevitably, this makes political dialogue vital among the members of the Group and between the Group and its interlocutors, especially the European Union.

The framework and modalities for conducting such political dialogue are currently being drafted for wider consideration and eventual formal adoption by the ACP Group’s decision-making bodies. Within this framework, due emphasis will also be placed on conflict prevention and resolution, peace-building measures, and relations with relevant regional and international organisations. Respect for human rights, democratic principles, the rule of law and good governance also falls within the Group’s renewed political mandate.

Recognition of civil society

The Cotonou Agreement negotiators recognised the importance of an active, dynamic and more participatory civil society in ACP-EU cooperation. They drew up the agreement to encourage these aspects. Recognising the complementary role of civil society in the development process, and the need for greater equity and inclusion of the poor in sharing the benefits of economic growth, the ACP-EU Partnership is now more accessible to a wider range of non-state actors. The measures envisaged to achieve this include: participation in consultations on cooperation policies and strategies; access to the financial resources of the European Development Fund; involvement in and ownership of project and programme implementation; and access to institutional development and capacity-building support.

Bringing these measures into effect, the Department of Political Affairs and Human Development is now consulting civil society representatives. The outcome of this process will form the basis of a work programme to guide the activities of these actors within the framework of ACP-EU cooperation over the coming years.

Areas of opportunity and challenge

The Department’s work, however, is not confined to these two priority areas. It also has the specific mandate of monitoring, co-ordinating and implementing activities relating to education and training, environment, information society, science and research, food security, rural development, migration, demography, urbanisation, technology, health, social protection, employment, humanitarian and emergency matters and management of natural resources. These are all areas of opportunity and challenge for the ACP Group.

As the organisation enters the new millennium, it must continue to be proactive in its approach, focusing on areas of real priority, and above all, be committed and single-minded in its mission to eradicate poverty, thus improving the living standards of the population of its member states. This puts the Department of Political Affairs and Human Development at the heart of current reforms. The organisation’s future success will depend, to a significant degree, on how successfully the Department carries out the tasks entrusted to it.