TOPICS : Poor nations assess life at 30

Stefania Bianchi

As the African, Caribbean and Pacific group of states celebrates its 30th anniversary this week, it is also urging the developed world not to forget the challenges its members face. The 79 members of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of states celebrated the 30th anniversary of the group’s creation on Jun. 6 under the banner of cultural diversity and interaction between ACP countries, Europe and the rest of the world. Sir John Kaputin who took over as secretary-general last month says the 30th anniversary marks an opportunity for the group to assess its years of cooperation with the European Union (EU) and for the organisation to raise its profile globally. Kaputin says one of the greatest achievements of ACP-EU cooperation is that it has invented a new type of relations between rich and poor countries.

Kaputin adds that at the beginning of the 21st century, the ACP group is the largest regional grouping on the international scene, and is a force to be reckoned with in institutions such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO). However, Kaputin acknowledges that the achievements of the group have not been realised without a number of challenges. “During the 30 years of our group, our states continue to face numerous development challenges, which are compounded with high poverty levels, epidemics such HIV/AIDS, conflict and natural disasters. These, as we are all aware, require the participation of all relevant stakeholders and development partners to chart out solutions, with the ultimate objective of improving the social and economic well being of our people in ACP states,” he said.

The ACP was created June 6, 1975 when 46 countries signed the Georgetown Agreement in Guyana, confirming their common identity founded on the desire for economic and social development, in cooperation with the EU. They later awarded the group a legal status — the ACP Secretariat based in Brussels. Since then the group grown and now comprises 79 member states. The ACP group has been involved in special cooperation relations with the EU through unique partnership agreements — from the four successive Lomé Conventions which accorded non-reciprocal trade preferences to the ACP countries, to the most recent Cotonou Agreement which links the EU and 77 ACP countries. The latest agreement signed in June 2000 in Cotonou in Benin is designed to fight poverty through political dialogue, development aid and closer economic and trade cooperation.

Armando Guebuza, President of Mozambique and chairman-in-office of the fourth ACP summit of heads of state and government held in June last year says the ACP group should congratulate itself on the accomplishments made since 1975. But he warned of the challenges

facing developing countries and insisted that the conference on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in New York in September must provide “more focus and urgency to the attainment of development priorities.” —IPS