Robert Dussey, chief negotiator for the Organization of ACP States (OEACP), urges all countries to adopt innovative measures *.
The coronavirus, which has been shutting down the world for several weeks, challenges us humans and confronts us with certain existential questions. Where are we going so fast? Is humanity going to its loss or is it following its own destination? These questions, which cannot leave the human conscience indifferent, convince us of one thing: the human experience of freedom in history, the theater of contrasts, can lead to better or worse.
When the worst happens, it experiences, but also constitutes an invitation by humanity to a reorientation of its existential behavior. Generations pass, but humanity remains and has a duty of lucidity towards itself as the coronavirus has just reminded us once again.
This pandemic has got the better of national and continental borders, and the tricontinental ACP (Asia, Caribbean, Pacific) space is not immune to its sphere of extension. The area is less affected by Covid-19, both in number of contamination and in mortality, which currently contradicts all the apocalyptic predictions.
However, the impacts of the pandemic on the three regions of the Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OEACP) are very real. They must lead the organization to invent an internal strategy to respond to pandemics and to put the human and social at the base of relations with its partners.
Indeed, the countries of the OEACP, beyond national and regional specificities, have a common characteristic trait: vulnerability. It is a plural vulnerability because it is multisectoral. The coronavirus crisis is straining very fragile health systems, under pressure from national solidarity mechanisms and very vulnerable economies. Several countries in the organization are already experiencing the economic impacts of the crisis.
The consequences are humanly costly, socially paralyzing and economically dangerous. The economic growth which has enabled certain ACP countries to rise to the rank of middle-income countries is today highly questioned. The economic crisis that the Covid-19 imposes on countries risks eventually tipping an even larger proportion of populations into “objective poverty” and amplifying the level of vulnerabilities in the three regions.
The common condition of vulnerability of the ACP countries, an expressive sign of a fundamental ontological fragility which they share with the whole human community, predisposes them, at operational and economic levels, to the response to the pandemic.
However, coordinated collective action at the ACP level and an internal response strategy could support the fight at the scale of the three regions. Following the new spirit of the recently revised Georgetown Agreement, and in response to current challenges, both health, social and economic, the organization must step up cooperation internally.
The coronavirus crisis invites the ACP to explore their possibilities for internal cooperation from which innovative actions can emerge. “In the beginning was action” (Goethe) and we must act and above all quickly, the present being the moment of choice and action (Simone de Beauvoir).
Fortunately, intra-ACP cooperation is at work. Witness the initiatives and measures taken by the organization in collaboration with the African Farmers Organization (PAFO) against the socio-economic impacts of the pandemic on agricultural production and food supply systems.
It must be amplified on a transcontinental ACP scale and lead to a common strategy and a solid ACP plan of response to the coronavirus. The strategy must be motivated by a common commitment against the same challenge in a sense of common belonging and community of destiny and have a substantial economic component intended to support the economic recovery of the Member States.
The Extraordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government was held on June 3 on the theme “Transcending the Covid-19 Pandemic: Building Resilience Through Global Solidarity”. The meeting met this requirement and enabled the organization to internally harmonize pandemic response strategies and actions.
External partners are supporting the OEACP in the response to the coronavirus. The European Union, through the Europe-Africa-Caribbean-Pacific Liaison Committee and especially the Team Europ initiative, has allocated 20 billion euros.
It was presented on April 8 at the launch of the European response, at the international level, to the coronavirus pandemic within the framework of cooperation. The extraordinary summit on June 3 was also an opportunity for the OEACP to call for more global solidarity towards its members during this time of crisis. In times of crisis, solidarity saves.
The organization of the ACP States and the EU are in talks with a view to redefining the normative and regulatory framework for their partnership in its post-Cotonou phase. As nature does nothing in vain (Emmanuel Kant) and historical coincidence obliges, the partners must clearly include clauses relating to pandemics and their socio-economic consequences.
Human, social and health must be at the heart of post-Cotonou. “The distribution of the benefits of global relations depends not only on internal policies, but also on a whole range of international agreements of a social nature,” recalled Amartya Sen in 2012. Who spoke of “trade treaties, patent law, global health initiatives, international education arrangements, ways to facilitate the dissemination of technology, ecological and environmental moderation agreements, the treatment of accumulated debts ”.
The ACP countries and the EU have the ambition to bring the partnership into line with the reality of the world and the new challenges linked to human progress. This is why we cannot go to the signing of a new cooperation agreement without wondering about the consequences and implications of Covid-19 for the partnership.
As an action, negotiations take place in a context of coronaviruses that they cannot ignore. Any action, teaches Edgar Morin, enters into the “inter-feedback game” of the context in which it takes place and bears the imprints of the context. The questioning of the implications of Covid-19 for the EAPCS-EU partnership is not without interest for the future of the partnership.
To underestimate the implications of Covid-19 for the EAPCS-EU partnership in the negotiation process would reflect a lack of imagination at odds with the ambitions of both parties linked to human progress. The coronavirus crisis ultimately becomes a factor that obliges us to evolve the OEACP-EU partnership and this in the sense of history.
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Chief Negotiator of the OEACP for the new agreement with the European Union
* This column was published in New African