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Tuesday, 06 September 2011

Let the people speak

A quite amazing event took place in Kenya's capital, Nairobi, on August 29 and 30. Two hundred representatives of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) from China and 19 African countries held a China-Africa Peoples' Forum. […]

Of much older vintage is the relationship between African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries and the European Union (EU). That formal relationship by treaty is 37 years old. But, the EU, which has a very vibrant civil society with which it consults regularly, has never organised a Peoples Forum of EU and ACP countries. In other words, the people – organisations of these two groups of countries – have never been given the opportunity to help to define their relationship or to express their views on the structure and substance of the relationship as it has evolved through the Lomé and Cotonou treaties and now, the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the EU and many ACP countries. […]

However tied to the Chinese government the Chinese NGOs might be, at least China has opened its ears to hearing what NGOs in 19 African states have to say about the Africa-Chinese relationship. It may be that the EU Commission -- and perhaps some governments of EU member states -- are fearful of what their own NGOs would say about the EPAs that the EU has railroaded many ACP states into accepting. It is widely known that many NGOs throughout Europe -- as well as several members of the European Parliament -- are critical both of the unfairness of the EPAs and the manner in which the EU Commission handled the negotiations.

ACP governments are not blameless in this. They have not insisted on a Forum in which civil society organisations from their own countries and the EU can meet to exchange views and comment on the relations between the two areas. […] ACP countries should take the initiative to push for an ACP-EU Peoples’ Forum. The next meeting of EU-ACP parliamentarians would be a good place to kick-off the idea. The ACP Secretariat could draw on the experience of the 19 African states that participated in the Forum with China for assistance in fashioning the Forum. Such a forum might well produce a movement by people across the EU and ACP nations to establish a more equitable and just trade and economic relationship.

Source: Caribbean News Now!