Delegates at the 10th regional seminar of ACP-EU economic and social interest groups organised by the European economic and social committee (EESC) in Gaborone, Botswana, on June 28-30 debated the EPA negotiations with the SADC region. The seminar also debated the impact of the financial and economic crisis on Africa, food security and the role of non-state actors in implementing the Cotonou Agreement.
The delegates stressed that the negotiations towards comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with the fifteen countries of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) should continue, but at the appropriate pace for the capacities of SADC countries and under certain conditions.
It was argued that the negotiations should be accompanied by measures to restructure SADC industries, encourage product diversification, the development of infrastructure and the modernisation of agricultural sectors so as to enable SADC countries to benefit fully from the opportunities of the EPAs.
Delegates also called for social and environmental chapters to be included in the future comprehensive EPAs and for institutional provisions for the involvement of non-state actors to be integrated into the agreements, following the example of the CARIFORUM-EC EPA.
Regarding the impact of the financial and economic crisis on Africa, participants stressed that the priority was damage control. Delegates regretted that the poorest and most vulnerable would suffer most and that Africa’s progress towards meeting the millennium development goals would be seriously undermined.
Participants called for existing aid commitments to Africa to be fulfilled and for possibilities of additional funding to be explored. The ACP-EU economic and social interest groups stressed the need to implement the ILO Global Jobs pact and promote job creation, social dialogue, decent work and social protection schemes.
The ACP-EU economic and social interest groups called for food security to be recognised as a human right and for a wide-ranging discussion to be opened on the treatment of the agricultural sector in international trade negotiations.
The capacities of farmers’ organisations and women’s and consumers’ associations should be reinforced and these actors effectively involved in the framing and implementation of agricultural policy.
The final topic discussed during the regional seminar was the involvement of non-state actors from the SADC region in the implementation of the Cotonou Agreement. Despite progress on involving non-state actors in recent years, participants called on their national authorities and the European commission to step up efforts to disseminate information on the Cotonou Agreement, organise effective non-state actor consultations and launch non-state actor capacity-building programmes as a matter of urgency.