Foreword: side by side 1

Sir John Kaputin, ACP Secretary General

The Courier’s importance

There is a strong historical association between ‘The Courier’ and the ACP Group. It is a viable showcase for ACP-EU cooperation, particularly its development dimension. As such, it constitutes a primary reference for a wider readership vis-à-vis the ACP Group. Therefore, it is essential that this instrument is re-launched due to its usefulness, and indeed the promotion of the visibility of the Group.

The Courier’s role

It is hoped that ‘The Courier’ will be a sounding board to establish interactive dialogue and structured exchanges with our readers. The magazine will relay to our readers ACP activities and positions with regard to various undertakings. Ideally, ‘The Courier’ should also become an interactive tool par excellence due to the online version which will be updated regularly and will include feedback from our readers.

Public awareness of the ACP-EU partnership

It would be difficult to gauge this given the geographical size of the ACP-EU partnership and membership on both sides. But for a partnership that has existed for over three decades, it would be in honour of what this partnership stands for that the ACP and EU sides should endeavour to ensure that our goals and objectives are made known to our Member States more than ever before. The magazine may not become the panacea in this awareness drive, but at the very least, one may appreciate and understand the critical role that it would play.

In that vein, ‘The Courier’ has been designed to capture a wider readership. It is hoped that the appeal and wider circulation of the magazine would be boosted by the fact that the presentation would also be done in Spanish and Portuguese – in addition to French and English.

Greater knowledge of the partnership and growth

One of the main innovations of the Cotonou Agreement is the direct involvement of civil society and the private sector, particularly in ACP States. When the social partners know the specificities of the EDF procedures and maintain good relations with National Authorising Officers and EC delegations, they can participate more actively in the development efforts with ACP Governments. In a general sense, both the ACP and EU sides must continue to live up to the spirit of the Cotonou Agreement to jointly promote its objectives. If the ultimate goal is poverty alleviation, that can only be met successfully through the promotion of economic, social and cultural growth in ACP countries.

The partnership and other groups

The ACP side at least is not oblivious to global changes that necessitate different configurations be that at regional levels or for specific political, economic and related interests. We live in a fast-changing world. Trends such as globalisation and security concerns are real and unavoidable. Hence, the way forward is to adapt and innovate ways to remain relevant and indispensable.

If we think along this line, it means that the ACP Group should be open-minded about the mandates of organistions and what they represent. In fact, we are moving in tandem with several organisations whom we have established relationships without mutual interests. Besides, the ACP Group really believes in its solidarity and is coerced to endure challenges by working towards common interests that are intricately woven to its association with the European Union.

Priorities for this crucial year

The top priority on the ACP Group’s agenda is the conclusion of the Economic Partnership Agreemens (EPA) negotiations by the end of 2007. There is also the 10th European Development Fund (EDF), to come into effect by January 1, 2008, and the programming that comes with it. However, that would only be so with ratification of the revised Cotonou Agreement by two-thirds of the ACP States and all the European States by the end of this year. The ACP Group is also monitoring developments on the WTO front especially in relation to the Doha Negotiations and certain commodity talks where the WTO negotiations have a direct bearing on their respective statuses.

The ACP Group is also focusing on several other essential matters, including the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals and the nexus between migration and development. Finally, changes in the international order, including the EU, has caused the ACP Group to pursue an in-depth consideration of its future and how it can re-position itself beyond 2020 – the expiry year of the Cotonou Agreement.

Debra Percival

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