Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Seminar on the future of the Cotonou Agreement

The seminar "The future of the Cotonou Agreement" gathered on December 4th in Paris around 50 participants from civil society organisations and national platforms of Development NGOs from a wide range of ACP and European countries. Participants discussed the perspectives and the challenges ahead of the ACP-EU partnership in the context of the rapid changing nature and context of the ACP-EU relationship. A final declaration was agreed upon and was presented to the French Presidency and the EU and ACP institutions.

Final Declaration

A. Having discussed the perspectives and the challenges ahead of the ACP-EU partnership in the context of the rapid changing nature and context of the ACP-EU relationship;

B. Recalling that the review of the Cotonou Partnership Agreement will take place in 2010; that the mid-term review of the Country Strategy Papers of the 10th EDF will start in 2009; that the Cotonou Partnership Agreement has a 20 year duration and will therefore come to an end in 2020;

C. Recalling the spirit and the fundamental principles of partnership, participation, and ownership entrenched in the Cotonou Partnership Agreement;

D. Considering the transformations affecting European official development aid following the adoption of the Paris Declaration, with commitments to pursue new practices and policies, particularly the increased use of budget support and the implementation of the Governance Initiative;

E. Considering that regional integration is a long-term process, which requires adequate means respecting partner countries ways of living, values and specificities, and avoiding the undifferentiated replication of existing Northern models;

F. Recalling the Kigali Declaration for development-friendly Economic Partnership Agreements, adopted by the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly on the 22nd of November 2007; recalling concerns voiced by the African, Caribbean, Pacific and European Civil Society Organisations on the continuation and outcome of the EPA negotiations;

G. Recognizing the evolving nature of the relationship between the European Union, Africa, the Pacific and the Caribbean with the adoption of regional strategies: the Joint EU-Africa strategy, the Pacific strategy and the Caribbean strategy;

H. Affirming that the issue of the future shape of the relationships between the two groups of signatories of the Cotonou Partnership Agreement should be analyzed and approached in a proactive way; that the second review of the Cotonou Partnership Agreement will be the occasion to measure the importance attached by each partner to the agreement as such but also to its spirit and fundamental principles;

We, representatives of platforms and networks of ACP and European civil society, having met in Paris on 4th December 2008 in the context of a seminar organised by the CONCORD Cotonou Working Group, urge:

Regarding regional integration

1. ACP countries to define their own integration mechanisms primarily based on the interest of their people, and valorising local resources and indigenous processes;

2. European institutions to guarantee access to funding, resources and means that are necessary to carry out a regional integration process based on a clear agenda, while avoiding encouraging competition between the various stakeholders involved in particular on governance issues;

3. European institutions to abstain from creating situations of competition between States, to make sure that their integration process promote peace, unity and cohesion;

4. Governments and civil society to facilitate and encourage an integration process coming from and for the people at national, sub regional, continental and international level, while condemning discriminatory or xenophobic policies, including the concept of « chosen migration »;

Regarding governance in ACP-EU relations

5. The European institutions to launch a transparent, inclusive and participatory review of the Governance Initiative with a view to ensure that governance profiles are elaborated through democratic processes and excluding criteria based on European short-term interests;

6. The European and ACP institutions to carry out an ambitious midterm review of the Country Strategy Papers including the evaluation of the Governance Initiative; the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly, ACP national parliaments and the European Parliament to play an central role in the follow up and monitoring process of the Governance Initiative;

7. The European institutions to refrain from promoting their short-term interests in the framework of the political dialogue with ACP countries;

8. The European institutions and ACP decision-makers to create an independent mediation mechanism in charge of overseeing the implementation of the Cotonou Partnership Agreement;

9. Members of ACP National Parliaments to get involved in the ACP-EU dialogue around governance and ACP governments to create the conditions for parliamentary participation;

10. ACP and EU Civil Society Organisations to work together in a coordinated way to develop their own democratic governance approach as a counterproposal to the governance criteria developed by the EU;

Regarding the use of budget support in the 10th EDF

11. The European institutions to consider other alternatives to budget support in order to maintain a variety of aid modalities that take into account the diversity of contexts among the ACP countries;

12. The ACP group to ensure that budget support is genuinely used with a view to achieve the Millennium Development Goals; that the priorities identified are clearly owned and oriented on people’s needs;

13. The European institutions and the ACP countries to enforce the principles of the Paris Declaration on Aid effectiveness, by creating the necessary conditions to democratic ownership and mutual accountability;

14. The European institutions and the ACP countries to facilitate full transparency at every step of the process, from the political dialogue between the EU and recipient States to the evaluation of the impact at the level of beneficiary populations;

15. The ACP group and Civil Society Organisations to reinforce democratic control mechanisms, by parliamentarians and elected local representatives, in particular on the implementation of budget support;

16. The ACP group and Civil Society Organisations to recognize that capacity-building and awareness raising of Civil Society Organisations is critical in order to ensure that they can play their watchdog role vis-à-vis both donors and recipient governments;

Regarding the future of the ACP group

17. The European institutions to be more transparent and coherent with regard to the multiple dialogue processes and relationships that they establish with regional bodies within the ACP group;

18. The ACP group to reaffirm itself as a political group of countries sharing a common vision on key international issues beyond the restrictive framework of the Cotonou Partnership Agreement and their relationship with the EU;

19. The ACP States to promote dialogue and cooperation between their regional institutions with a view to join forces within international foras and negotiations;

20. Representatives of Civil Society Organisations from the three regions to establish a regular dialogue supported by inclusive communication and exchange of information mechanisms in order to develop ACP Civil Society common positions and to engage in an in-depth dialogue with their governments. This dialogue process could be launched with the organisation of an independent Forum of ACP Civil Society Organisations, with the support of the CONCORD Cotonou Working Group, in the perspective of the midterm review of the Cotonou Partnership Agreement.

Regional and national platforms of ACP Civil Society Organisations and CONCORD and its members commit themselves to communicate this declaration to their representatives in the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly, to the ACP-EU Joint Council, and to the ACP and EU Member States and institutions.

download declaration

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