There's an old African proverb that says 'if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.' For me, this sums up the new approach we're taking to sustainable development at both the European and global levels. Although, it should probably say 'if you want to go nowhere, go alone', if you consider that many of today's challenges cannot be resolved by any one person, country or continent.
It also reflects the fact that we want to go beyond the traditional 'donor' and 'recipient' approach and focus instead on true partnerships of equals, finding common solutions to common concerns. It is precisely in this spirit that we are rethinking our current relationship with the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries.
What is the ACP and why does it matter?
The ACP is a group of 79 African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, which has made an important contribution to global development, through political, development, and economic and trade cooperation with the 28 EU countries.
It is the largest, most comprehensive and longest-lasting geographical partnership in the world, representing 1.5 billion people, and a majority of members of the United Nations. It has helped to reduce poverty, increase stability and integrate the ACP countries into the global economy.
Why do we need a new partnership?
The latest Cotonou Partnership Agreement between the EU and the ACP was signed in 2000 and it will expire in February 2020. In 20 years our relationships and the environment in which we're operating has changed significantly. So this is an opportunity to reconsider and reposition our partnership. It is also one of the first practical ways we will implement the new global and European development frameworks I talked about in my last post.
What are we proposing?
We consulted widely on what a future partnership should look like. Whilst it's clear that we should continue to focus on poverty eradication, peace, human rights and democracy, we also need to be much more agile in responding to common challenges. With the ACP we see huge potential for working together on issues such as peace and security, sustainable growth and job creation, mobility and migration, human development, and climate change and environmental protection.
We are suggesting therefore an overarching umbrella agreement which reflects our common objectives, values and approaches, alongside three strengthened regional partnerships which are more tailored to specific needs and issues. We also think that the future agreement should continue to be legally-binding, with more flexible working arrangements to enable us to act more quickly and effectively.
How have our partners reacted?
I've already had the opportunity to discuss this new approach with EU and ACP Ministers and MEPs. There is a clear commitment from both sides to continue working together and to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our partnership. I'm travelling to Kenya at the end of the month for further discussions with the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly.
The coming weeks and months will be a vital time to refine our proposals in discussion with all of our partners both within the EU and the ACP ahead of the formal negotiations in 2018. I'd also like to hear your views and reactions via the dedicated hashtag #ACPNew Partnership on how together we can go far.