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
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.
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
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.