EU/Africa : From working for Africa to working with Africa (Google Alert / Scoop)

Read at : Google Alert / desertification

An EU/Africa Partnership For The 21st Century

José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
Ladies and gentlemen, Excellencies,

No-one has any doubts about the importance of this Summit.

This is not about what Europe can do for Africa or vice-versa, but about what we can do together. After all, we are building on ancient links.

Thanks to the Joint Africa-EU Strategy – and I am proud that the European Commission was the initiator of this approach – we have a shared vision and common policy framework in place to deliver the full potential of this partnership.

Let me be quite clear: the achievements of the past will not be undone, aid policies and instruments that have proven their efficiency will continue. The EU will respect its commitment to the Millennium Development Goals, and will continue its leadership role as the largest provider of development aid in the world.

But imagine what we can achieve together in the future. Imagine if we showed the world this week that the EU and Africa are ready for the next step. Imagine if we showed that with 1.5 billion people and 80 countries – almost half the UN membership! – we can make a real impact, both regionally and as global partners.

This is important, because we are facing an increasing number of global challenges that require a partnership approach. Let me pick out just two, as an example.

First, climate change. An alliance on climate change will have beneficial effects on both continents. Jointly we could: support adaptation to the effects of climate change, some of them , like desertification, so devastating in Africa – including for family-based agriculture; take initiatives to reduce the risk of natural disasters; and promote equitable participation in the global carbon market.

Europe has what is perhaps the most ambitious agenda for tackling climate change, while many African countries risk being among the worst affected especially some poor countries of Africa. It is to both our advantages to develop common positions and defend them in the international arena, beginning this week with the negotiations in Bali for an ambitious post-2012 climate agreement.

A second challenge is to harness the potential of globalisation to deliver sustainable growth and employment.

To get the most from globalisation for both Africans and Europeans, we must free the dynamism of our entrepreneurs; attract new investment; develop infrastructure, and build strong regional markets that can compete with the best in the world, as a basis for achieving sustainable development and fostering economic and social cohesion.

We do not want globalisation built on commodity booms or on abusive sweatshops. We want a fair and sustainable globalisation, which benefits all our peoples in Africa and Europe.

The Economic Partnership Agreements that we are currently negotiating, and in many cases already concluding, also here in Lisbon, will help to do all these things. They will turn our trading relationship into a healthy, diversified and development-oriented partnership, anchored in a gradual integration of Africa into the global trading system.

The Economic Partnership Agreements are therefore not only trade agreements; they constitute the key instrument of a reinforced economic and political agenda. They are tools at the service of our common development goals.

Today our relationship is a mature one, which allows and implies that we can discuss openly topics of common concern. This includes naturally the humanitarian situation in Darfur or human rights respect in Zimbabwe.

Africa and Europe should now able to discuss human rights and good governance in a true spirit of partnership.

And, frankly, I hope that those who fought for independence and for freedom of their countries now accept the freedom for their own citizens.

Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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