Secretary General of the ACP,
Chairperson of the Committee of Ambassadors,
Members of the Secretariat,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to make my maiden intervention to this august body, the ACP Committee of Ambassadors.
Although I have been in Brussels since January this year, due to challenges of accessibility, I could not attend any of the Committee of Ambassadors meetings to date. Allow me therefore to first of all thank the ACP Secretariat for overseeing the installation of suitable equipment to enable me to join this august body. Now I can finally say that I have joined the ACP family!
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Secretary-General and fellow Ambassadors who kept me informed of pressing issues and also ensured my participation where and when possible in discussions with the EU.
Since South Africa joined the ACP in 1997, my country has always tried to support the ACP countries in their interaction with the EU. As far back as 2001, South Africa played an important part in the preparations for the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiations. Going down memory lane, I remember that in April 2001, South Africa hosted the first ACP Trade Ministers Committee Meeting in Johannesburg, where the EPAs were vigorously debated. Through the years South Africa has been involved in capacity building programmes for ACP experts involved in trade negotiations geared towards building capacity and sharing experiences, especially in dealing with our EU counterparts.
It remains imperative that the interest of each and every ACP country should be taken into account and that the ACP as a group should engage effectively with the EU to support development programmes and to assist the ACP countries most effected by structural adjustments. Development of the ACP remains the key to all negotiations with the EU.
With the date of expiry of the Cotonou Partnership Agreement looming on the horizon, it is clear that the ACP has reached a critical point in its existence. Yet, challenges could be embraced and used to create new opportunities. This critical juncture, not only places us in a position to reflect, but also presents a new scope in which the ACP could reinvent itself, and an opportunity to raise the group’s profile in the global arena.
Indeed the global political landscape changed tremendously since 1975 and it will continue to change, but our goals of eradicating poverty and integrating our countries into the world trade system still remains. This juncture could signify a period of innovation, as it may be the opportune time to look for new strategies to address age-old, yet pertinent issues of common concern. The challenges and objectives are clear, now the task is to use the collective ACP voice in more dynamic ways to ensure growth and development.
On 25 May 2012, South Africa hosted the Global African Diaspora Summit in Johannesburg. The meeting was attended by Heads of State or representatives of the 54 member states of the African Union, the Government of the Caribbean Community, South and Latin America. The Summit has gone a long way in contributing towards the enhancement of South-South solidarity through sustainable partnerships, and I believe that the strengthening of South-South collaboration would contribute significantly to enhance the ACP’s role in the global systems of governance.
South Africa applauds the hard work and dedication by the Secretary General and his staff, as well as by my fellow ACP Ambassadors, to engage vigorously at all levels to reinvent the ACP as a meaningful interlocutor with the EU. We remain convinced that the ACP Ministerial and Summit meetings in June and December, respectively this year, will chart a clear way forward for the ACP.
Thank you for your kind attention.