Ethiopia hosts the 26th Session of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly

The 26th Session of the African, Caribbean and Pacific-European Union Joint Parliamentary Assembly (ACP-EU/JPA) was held in Addis Ababa this week, November 25-27. The joint plenary sessions were preceded by meetings of the three standing committees, the Committee on Political Affairs, the Committee on Social Affairs and the Environment and the Committee on Economic Development, Finance and Trade, on Saturday, (November 23); and by two workshops and a meeting of the Bureau on Sunday (November 24). The meeting brought together elected representatives of the African, Caribbean and Pacific states and the European Union, with MEPs and MPs from the 78 signatory states to the Cotonou Agreement that is the basis for the ACP-EU partnership. The focus of the Joint Parliamentary Assembly was on how to promote the partnership and interdependence of North and South.

The session was opened by Hailemariam Desalegn, Prime Minister of Ethiopia and Chairperson of the African Union; Abadula Gemeda, Speaker of House of People’s Representatives of Ethiopia; Joyce Laboso, the ACP-EU/JPA Co-President; and Patrice Tirolien, the Vice-President of the JPA. Prime Minister Hailemariam welcomed the guests and stressed that ACP member countries should be guided by the principles of equality and mutual benefit in their engagement with development partners, including Europe and other advanced economies. Since the ACP member states rely on Europe’s Foreign Direct Investment and Overseas Development Assistance to help finance their development projects, he urged Europe to work closely with ACP member countries in investment, trade, human development, and capacity building in order to create an environment that is suitable for development, democracy and good governance.

As the EU and its member states are major providers of assistance, financing development is absolutely central to the EU-ACP partnership, he noted. He suggested that financing for development should be based on the principles of ‘complementarities,’ ‘comparative advantages,’ ‘transparency’, and ‘accountability’ to bring about inclusive and sustainable development. The planet, he noted, faces ‘serious’ threats that endanger the survival of humanity regardless of economic levels and geographic settings. He therefore urged that partnership in ‘green’ development should be emphasized in order to collectively tackle global warming. He pointed out that many ACP member countries have made meaningful advancement, committing themselves to democracy, good governance and the rule of law to help improve the lives of their people. He therefore underlined that the partnership between ACP and EU member states “should not in any sense be based on the rather obsolete assumption that one side is the ultimate provider and the other the perennial receiver of resources, whether the object of the relationship be economic or political.”

The Speaker of the House of People’s Representatives, Abadula Gemeda, in his remarks to the assembly noted that Ethiopia’s Constitution is the foundation for the ability of Ethiopia’s nations, nationalities and peoples to live in peace and stability. It helped Ethiopia and Ethiopians grasp the aspiration of a single political and economic society which still had room for diversity, on the basis of equality, democracy and rule of law. He noted that the ACP-EU/JPA had been a mechanism for parliamentarians to work together in order to overcome the impediments to development in member countries as well as advance the universal values of humanity, democracy and human rights. The values, cultures, traditions, and beliefs of member countries must, he said, be recognized and appreciated in order for democracy to blossom and flourish. He emphasized that the ACP-EU partnership, based as it was on the principle of sovereign equality for the sustainable future of humanity, was of critical importance in countering contemporary threats in the world, which he itemized as: “climate change, desertification, agriculture and food security, terrorism, human trafficking, and economic crises”.

Dr. Joyce Laboso, Co-President of the ACP-EU/JPA, told the assembled that Addis Ababa had shown a “remarkable” transformation compared to the year 2004, when the 7th JPA had been held there. This underlined the robust economic development and impressive growth rate over recent years. She said an economic boom in some sectors encourages other sectors to grow and also attracts private and public investment from both local and foreign investors. She also emphasized that what was remarkable “about this growth is that it is not being driven by mineral resources.” She further pointed out that Ethiopia’s positive developments had been encouraged by “institutional, political and social reforms, and are beacons of hope and sources of inspiration” for other member countries. More generally, she noted that instability and conflicts still posed challenges in some areas of Africa, especially in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but even there was a reappearance of peace in the east of the country with the defeat of the M23 rebels and this would help turn the Great Lakes region into a more stable area.

Dr. Laboso said that development cooperation should no longer be considered only in terms of the flow of financial assistance from developed countries of the North to the less developed countries of the South. She said “we know now that there is enormous social, political and indeed economic capital to be shared among less developing countries themselves.” She called for new tools and methods of development financing to bolster South-South and Triangular cooperation. Development finance, she said, can flow from people to people and from private companies to various recipients or governments in addition to the traditional methods of government to government. Another new financing tool was the World Bank’s program-for-results which would be disbursing a US$100 million zero-interest credit to Ethiopia to directly bring about positive results in health, particularly in maternal and infant programs. She also noted the progress of ACP states in ensuring strong and impartial judiciary systems under the rule of law and providing protection of human rights, civil and political rights, and property rights. In conclusion, Dr. Laboso called for a concerted effort and integrated action to stop all gender-based violence, including female genital mutilation (FGM) emphasizing that this must be seen as a serious violation of human rights.

In its sessions, the Assembly addressed issues focusing on South-South cooperation and triangular cooperation, the rule of law, institutional cooperation between the African Union and the European Union, the social and environmental impact of pastoralism on ACP countries, new structures for the financing of development, and green growth economy for ensuring sustainable development in Ethiopia. It adopted decisions covering these and other issues including opportunities and challenges for ACP countries including respect for the rule of law and the role of an impartial and independent judiciary. Week in the Horn 29th November 2013