On 15-16th May 2017, Yentyl Williams ACP YPN President and Founder presented at the European Economic and Social Committee’s (EESC) 28th meeting of ACP-EU economic and social interest groups on the panel on ‘The future of EU relations with the ACP group of countries’. The panel was chaired by Brenda King MBE, EESC rapporteur on post-Cotonou and the other panellists included, Geert Laporte, Deputy Director, European Center for Development Policy Management (ECDPM), Chinedu Madichie, Board Member, African Diaspora Network Europe (ADNE), Steffie Neyens, Member of the ACP Working Party, Concord.
Yentyl raised three main points:
Firstly, with regards to trade and regional integration, Yentyl asked whether the Economic Partnership Agreement’s (EPAs) engender the regional integration that would foster the structural transformation that ACP states seek? She highlighted that the EU and ACP states must engage in the constructive criticism that surrounds all EPA debates. For example, the EU and the ECOWAS, EAC and SADC regions have negotiated long and hard to get a goods only EPA agreement, which contrasts strongly from ‘comprehensive’ Caribbean EPA that includes services, intellectual property and public procurement amongst others. However, many critics of the EPAs underline that these newer EPAs were concluded in order to safeguard African regional integration first and foremost, as the foundation for development. In this regard, she recalled the words of Sir Shridath Ramphal, former Commonwealth Secretary-General who aptly highlighted “The challenge that faces developing countries is not merely the challenge of economic development, but the fact that in failure lies the danger of returning to a new dependency – a new kind of colonialism – deriving from economic weakness.” (2014).
Secondly, on development cooperation, Yentyl recalled the critical work on Walter Rodney who identified the ‘development-underdevelopment’ dialectic in his seminal work on ‘How Europe Underdeveloped Africa’ (1972). She asked whether the EPAs are a continuation or an end to the development under-development dialectic and evoked the importance of understanding the current rejection of these agreements by Tanzania in East Africa and Nigeria in West Africa, amongst others. Moreover, she highlighted that these agreements are post-SDGs and may not be aligned with the universalism that the SDGs are based on. Thirdly, Yentyl invoked the relevance of discussing Brexit, which up until her presentation was not mentioned and remained the ‘elephant in the room’.
Yentyl concluded by underlining how ACP YPN is innovating the EU-ACP policy space by implementing the provisions of Article 26 Cotonou on youth issues, and recommended how EU-ACP relations can benefit innovating the structures that already exist:
1. Establish a scholarship for 3 ACP students to complete the College of Europe Masters programme – similar scholarship exist for other regions but not the ACP region (!)
2. Allocate a part of existing budget to finance implementing Article 26 Cotonou on youth cooperation – ACP YPN founded the Youth Forum at the EU ACP Joint Parliamentary Assembly, and despite it’s institutionalization in the Assembly there have been no funds allocated to support young people to attend (!)
3. Include youth organizations as formal members monitoring the provisions of international trade agreements at the level of the EESC – ACP YPN has advocated for this with the EESC, the European Parliament and is observer at the Cariforum-EU Joint Consultative Committee
About the EESC:
The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) organises meetings with the economic and social interest groups in the ACP-EU countries. This role was confirmed by the Cotonou Agreement, which mandated the EESC to organise consultative meetings and informal meetings between EU and ACP economic and social interest groups (Protocol No 1).
In accordance with the role entrusted to it by the Cotonou Agreement, every three years the EESC holds general meetings in Brussels bringing together economic and social interest group delegates from the 78 ACP countries and EESC members, along with representatives of the EU institutions, national economic and social councils, the Secretariat of the ACP Group of States, ACP and EU states’ diplomatic missions, NGOs, international organisations, international socio-occupational organisations and other stakeholders. Aside from these general meetings, regional seminars are organised in ACP regions on average once a year.
These general meetings in Brussels aim to factor the points of view of civil society into the implementation of the Cotonou Agreement.
Link to official photos here.
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