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STATEMENT BY HON. JOSPEH OWONA KONO, ACP CO-PRESIDENT OF THE ACP-EU JOINT PARLIAMENT AT THE 18TH MEETING OF THE ACP-EU JOINT PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY, MASERU, LESOTHO, 20 FEBRUARY 2020

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Hon. Sephiri Motanyane, Speaker of the National Assembly of Lesotho
 
Hon. Carlos Zorrinho , MEP, Co-President of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly
 
Fellow Parliamentarians
 
Distinguished Invited Guests,
 
Ladies and Gentlemen
 
Allow me from the onset to express deep appreciation, on behalf of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly and indeed on my own behalf to the National Assembly of the kingdom of Lesotho, for offering to host the 18th Regional Meeting in Maseru. We all appreciate the warm welcome and hospitality that has been accorded to us since our arrival. Indeed, the excellent facilities that you have made available for us all testify of the importance that you attach to our meeting.
 
Right Honourable Speaker,
 
Co-President,
 
Hon. Members,
 
One of the most important aspects of the work of the JPA is the opportunity it affords to ACP parliamentarians to interact with and interrogate representatives of the European Union, the Commission as well as ACP regional integration organisations in order to assess progress on the implementation of the Cotonou Agreement, which has as its main aim the eradication of poverty and the promotion of sustainable development in ACP States.  These are the issues that we would like to explore at this 18th Regional Meeting for the Southern African Region.
As parliamentarians, we believe that we have a crucial role to play in this process and can confidently say without the fear of contradiction that the JPA, as a platform, is uniquely positioned to play that role. 
 
Regional Meetings of the JPA enable both ACP and EU Members to get first hand accounts of the progress and challenges of regional integration and other development efforts in ACP Regions. Furthermore, it is not only economic and trade questions, such as EPAs negotiations and other trade initiatives that are the focus of attention, but the whole range of themes that affect human development as in our agenda today.
 
For instance, the topic on regional integration and cooperation, which remains the center of our meeting this week. It is also emphasised in the context of Post Cotonou Negotiations, where our mandates foresee the importance of addressing development through strengthening regional engagements. I am of the firm view that stronger regional groupings would assist ACP States in achieving inclusive sustainable development either globally or bilaterally. 
 
Mr. Speaker,
 
Co-President,
 
Hon. Members,
 
 
Many have credited this assembly as exceptional in configuration in relation to its membership drawn from four continents. We, as Parliamentarians take great pride in the way we continue to address issues of concern to our citizens at the global level. Allow me therefore, Mr Speaker, to highlight a few areas that I believe this Assembly has discharged its mandate. 
 
The Joint Parliamentary Assembly has provided a forum through which frank discussions between the representatives of the ACP and EU states are held on issues of concern across different subjects. The two-way flow of information, diplomatic persuasion and debates at the JPA have helped member states to learn from each other, entrenched a solid culture for respect of democratic principles and human rights among the parliamentarians and in the states that they represent. Clearly, a forum that enhances parliamentary diplomacy and promotes democratic processes for our member states.
 
It has also facilitated greater understanding between the people of the EU and those of the ACP through structured and continued dialogue where members share on their economic, political, cultural, social and environmental experiences. Rotational sittings of the JPA across the four continents from which its members are drawn enable members to directly experience the culture, successes, challenges and circumstances unique to those countries and regions.
 
It has monitored the ACP-EU issues pertaining to development under the Partnership Agreement by having a standing agenda items on critical areas of the partnership such as implementation of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPAs) between the EU and ACP regions, the status of the European Development Fund (EDF) and also considered from time to time the Country and Regional Strategy Papers. Debates on the three issues have strengthened the monitoring role of the JPA, enabled member states to consider the impacts of the EPAs, borrow best practices from other regions implementing the EPAs, negotiate for fairer and equitable EPAs and understand the priority development programs and projects under the EDF and push for priority projects in Country and Regional Strategy Papers. 
 
The JPA has also been instrumental in considering annual reports of the ACP-EU Council of Ministers on the implementation of the Cotonou Agreement and making recommendations to the Council on achieving the objectives of the Agreement.
 
It has also served as a forum for raising parliamentarians’ awareness about their role in monitoring the implementation of international agreements, through the frequent exchanges with experts in the fields on globally agreed commitments.
 
From the fore-going, it can be concluded that the JPA as a consultative body plays a critical role in promoting democratic process through dialogue and consultation and I can only stress on the importance of using such achievements as the building block for a vibrant engagement and mandate for the Joint Parliamentary Assembly in Post Cotonou. 
 
Mr. Speaker,
 
Co-President,
 
Hon. Members,
 
Post Cotonou processes have come at a critical time of development, as the ACP Group has begun discussions internally at technical level on how we see the JPA in post Cotonou, a JPA that is fit for purpose in relation to format and function. An assembly that is dynamic and with presence in the international fora. 
 
Integral to achieving this ambition, I strongly believe that this Assembly should consider new approaches such as - follow up mechanisms, where a mechanism is put in place to follow up on your debates and resolutions at the national and regional levels. This will allow this assembly to have firsthand knowledge of implementation challenges and how we the two assemblies can bridge the implementation capacity gaps.
 
Secondly ensure stable and predictable funding of the Assembly. It is critical that we ensure the financing of the Assembly is cost effective. I am happy to indicate that the ACP Assembly has begun discussions on ways of also funding the Assembly, this will be an item of discussion at the next intercessional meeting. 
 
Thirdly the format of our meetings must change, there is strong call by ACP parliamentarians to begin to address more global issues, it is timely that we need to expand scope of the discussions if we are to be an Assembly with a voice at the global fora. 
 
Mr. Speaker,
 
Co-President,
 
Hon. Members,
 
I  stand here to call on us to start a strong movement that will not rest till we see the Joint Parliamentary Assembly in the new Post Cotonou Agreement. I was very encouraged to read of the strong resolution by the European Parliament on the ongoing negotiations reiterating the importance of strengthening the Parliamentary dimension and requesting that the institutional framework include an ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly fail to which this will be a redline in the negotiations. 
 
It is up to us this week to support this call and would hope that at the end of the meeting a joint statement would be released to the negotiators to heed to this call. 
 
Mr. Speaker,
 
Co-President,
 
Hon. Members,
 
Through almost 4 decades of ACP-EU relations, the EU has channelled significant resources to ACP States aimed at assisting their economic, political and social development. To date, the EU remains the ACP’s principal development partner.  As parliamentarians we are proud of the fact that this cooperation incorporates a parliamentary dimension, which helps to promote dialogue and understanding as well as ensuring that development assistance reaches the intended beneficiaries in ACP States. 
 
We are therefore fortunate to have an opportunity to discuss such issues with our European counterparts. We especially welcome their presence in regional meetings such as this one held in ACP states because we believe that they should see and hear for themselves the progress we are making and the challenges we face. 
 
Through our EP counterparts, we hope we can get our messages across to the EU leadership and the citizens of the respective Member States they represent, some of whom find it hard to believe that there is anything of value in such engagements. The central message and driving force of the JPA is that we are all citizens of one world and our fortunes are inextricably linked. 
 
I hope that we shall spend the next two days thinking about such issues and how we can make progress for the mutual benefit of the citizens of the EU and ACP States whom it is our privilege and responsibility to faithfully represent.  
 
Mr Speaker
 
Co-President
 
Hon. Members,
 
Allow me to conclude with a few words. This session is indeed historic to me as it will be the last opportunity for me to preside over an official meeting of the JPA. In line with the election process of my country I will no longer be a member of parliament.  I therefore wish to thank the JPA through its Members gathered here, for their confidence in bestowing upon me this onerous responsibility of leading our institution together with the former colleague Hon. Louis Michel and briefly with Hon Carlos Zorrihno. I have served with distinct sense of humility and gratitude to the citizens of our countries. 
 
I look forward to continuing to be a voice of support for your work and serving this assembly whenever an opportunity arises. 
 
I thank you for your kind attention.
 
***
 


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