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Cotonou Agreement : CONCORD and the IFP mobilise civil society on ACP/EU relations post-2020

On December 6 & 7th 2016, CONCORD and the International Forum of National NGO Platforms (IFP) organised a seminar on the future relationship of the ACP/EU and the revision of the Cotonou agreement. This event was marked by a multi-party debate entitled “Stand up for a better future for all” in the presence of Civil Society Organisations from ACP and EU countries, and representatives of European and ACP state institutions. Held in the permanent representation of the Slovakian Republic in the European Union, this discussion has allowed participants to take stock of the limitations and challenges of the Cotonou Partnership Agreement leading up to 2020.

Within the framework of the partnership between the ACP countries and the EU, various improvement mechanisms were identified, notably concerning the measures that would favour sustainable development:

- To situate the agreement in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, by favouring Policy Coherence for Sustainable Development (PCSD);
- To promote enhanced participation of Civil Society Organisations;
- To include countries in the fight against climate change (in accordance with the Paris Climate Change agreement), against damage to the environment and against the unfair and unsustainable exploitation of natural resources;
- To allow the ACP countries to accept or refuse adherence to the new agreement in the event of its amendment (given the diversity of the group);
- To strengthen and adapt the tools for cooperation to the current political reality;
- To better define cooperation of both parties on the sensitive questions of migration, security and commercial policy;
- To include the fight against tax avoidance and the illicit flow of capital, along with the responsibility of the private sector;
- To draw up a work remit and a post-Cotonou calendar which are more flexible in terms of involvement in free negotiations and / or investment agreements.

The next stage is to develop between now and September 2018 a document listing the strategies of the member countries and a calendar at regional level. Furthermore, the discussions will proceed by means of the various thematic groups set up by CONCORD under the following headings: Political dialogue, Private sector or Cooperation in development. These exchanges will lead to webinars which will encourage peer partnerships between the regions.

For further details, see Joint ACP-EU Civil Society Statement on ACP-EU relations beyond 2020 (available in French and English)

The Cotonou Agreement

The Cotonou Agreement between the European Union and the countries of Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP) was signed on 23rd June 2000, following the expiration of the Lomé Convention. The duration of the agreement is 20 years, with revisions every 5 years, and it brings together the 79 countries of the ACP group and the 28 countries of the European Union.

It is a large scale agreement covering numerous areas of activity, linked to 3 main themes: (i) the political dimension, (ii) economic and commercial cooperation, and (iii) development cooperation. The agreement is set to be renewed or replaced by 2020. Formal negotiations on a new framework should begin no later than 2018, but the various parties are already preparing their positions.