Foreign Minister Winston Lackin (2nd L) and colleagues during the ACP Council of Ministers Meeting in Nairobi, Kenya
By Ivan Cairo
Caribbean News Now contributor
PARAMARIBO, Suriname -- The next secretary general of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of countries for the period 2015-2020 will come from the Caribbean region, the Suriname ministry of foreign affairs has announced.
After some debate during the just concluded ACP Council of Ministers’ meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, consensus was reached and eventually the council decided that the next secretary general will come from the Caribbean, said Suriname’s minister of foreign affairs, Winston Lackin.
Meanwhile, the ACP secretariat in Brussels confirmed that the selection of the next secretary general will be finalised by the Council of Ministers in Suriname in November 2014, in advance of the eighth ACP summit to be held during the same period in Paramaribo.
The secretary general holds executive powers and heads the Brussels-based ACP Secretariat, which is the administrative and technical body of the ACP Group. The Secretariat provides policy guidance and technical expertise to the organs of the Group, and monitors the ACP-EU Partnership Agreement. The upcoming term is especially significant as it will see the last leg of ACP-EU cooperation under the current Cotonou Partnership Agreement, which ends in 2020.
According to the ministry of foreign affairs, during the ministers’ meeting several challenging issue regarding cotton, banana and sugar were discussed. Participants stipulated that there are great discrepancies between what the ACP wants and what the European Union (EU) is doing and offering. It has been noted the EU’s Common Agriculture Policy, which came into effect in 2013, results in a disadvantage for cane sugar produced in ACP countries against beet sugar produced in Europe.
“These developments are a great challenge for the sugar industry in the ACP regions and could eventually lead to the demise of the sugar industry in ACP countries,” said the ministry.
ACP member states such as Jamaica, Belize, Mauritius and Cote d’Ivoire voiced their concern and Jamaica requested special attention for the anti-sugar lobby by the World Health Organization, claiming that sugar consumption is unhealthy. The Jamaican delegation urged the ACP to challenge this lobby in a bid to neutralize the possible effects since every product which is being consumed too much could result in health problems, not only sugar.
Participants at the meeting also lamented the Banana Accompanying Measures (BAM), which ultimately will provide some euros 200 million in financial assistance for banana producing ACP countries. Member states argued that, while the EU offered this specific aid program, it took some four years before the resources were made available. Meanwhile, banana producers were unable to invest in new and innovative technologies and standards and fight new diseases.