The recent Human Development Report of the UNDP is very insightful and timely too, in the wake of the new ACP-EU partnership negotiations. The report underlines that economic growth does not necessarily translate to an evenly distributed Human Development Progress. Using the 2018 updated Human Development indices and indicators HDI and selected elements of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), the UNDP showed that, although there is overall increase in the global Human Development progress; there is a general decline among the countries and the populations of the global South. Based on these indices and indicators, the UNDP grouped 189 countries of the world into four categories of Human Development progress namely: Very High human, High Human, Medium Human and Low Human Development groups. As expected, most countries of the Sub-Saharan Africa are within the Low Human Development group. However, what is more worrisome is that, the so-called very High and High Human development groups are obtained at the expense of the ecosystem and the future generation of the Low Human Development group. The UNDP further underlines that, “the degradation of the environment and atmosphere, coupled with significant declines in biodiversity, is linked to other development concerns ranging from declining food and water supplies to losses of livelihood and to losses of life from extreme weather events.” In the face of these, the recurrent question of who the center of economic growth and development program is comes alive. AEFJN choruses with UNDP that “every human being counts, and every human life is equally valuable’’. Additionally, we affirm that this ethical concept must be the key driver of development co-operations among nations of world and business enterprise.
In this vein, the AEFJN views the new ACP-EU partnership agreement with trepidation and concerns; and demands for a change from the ‘’business-as-usual approach’’ mentality that has characterized their economic relations in the past and the Cotonou agreement. Among others, we are concerned about the erroneous assumptions that the new ACP-EU is negotiated on the bases of equal partners. We are equally concerned that all the outcomes of this fundamental error would be contaminated by the error. As much as it sounds politically correct, AEFJN sees the assumption as a ploy to massage the ego of the ACP leaders to make it easy for the business as usual mentality to have its way. Yes! In principle, all animals are equal but it is also an established fact that some animals are more equal than others. The AU lacks the generation of institutional memory that EU has acquired to give it upper hand in the negotiations. Besides, African has no regional or sub-regional cohesion to negotiate. Bringing the 55 countries to negotiate and compromise is almost a mission impossible. That could why the director of CONCORD recently stated that the EU is far away from real partnership with Africa. What is crucial for AEFJN is that the EU recognizes this gap in capacity while making space for its compensation during the process of negotiations. The EU must recognize too that the new ACP-EU partnership is not about competition and power but must be a clear expression human solidarity, compassion and social justice.
Furthermore, AEFJN aligns herself with the position of Caritas Europa to make the implementation of the SDGs a primary objective of the new partnership and the principles of the Agenda 2030 embedded in the partnership. There is no better place to realize the call of the EU to the European Commission to do more to close the gap in the areas of policy, legislation and governance structure for the horizontal coherence and implementation of agenda 2030 than in the new ACP-EU partnership negotiations. It becomes imperative in this new partnership to go away from undue emphasis on the economics of GDP and market growth to the economics of meeting human needs which will bring about the new partnership in tandem with the UNDP report and the SDGs.
AEFJN has a vision of a new ACP-EU partnership that will help to transform the African economy into a production economy. The truth of the matter is that the large-scale investments favored in the Cotonou agreement have done more damages than contributions to the African human and environmental development progress. What would have contributed to African Human Development progress are lost as extensive tax breaks and tax evasion. It is our hope that the new partnership would help to promote policies that reduce illicit financial flows from Africa.
AEFJN would like to see a new ACP-EU partnership that will bridge the gap between the EU development objectives and her trade and investment policies. We see the conflict in these two dimensions of the EU life as speaking from both sides of the same mouth. In this regard, we point to the EU’s apparent desire to see an economically and socially viable Africa, but at the same has cold feet towards supporting an international instrument that will regulate the activities of TNCs in Africa and destroy her ecosystem.
An ACP-EU partnership that enables the investor to use his/her money to create wealth that will contribute to the Human Development Progress of ACP is what Africa desires at this time. Anything short of this is reincarnation of the old and unacceptable, ‘Business as Usual mentality’.