Opening Remarks to the Third CARIFORUM-EU EPA Joint Consultative Committee Meeting
Port-of-Spain, Trinidad 6-7/11/17
CARIFORUM Chair - Dav-Ernan Kowlessar
Head of the EU Delegation to Trinidad and Tobago, His Excellency Mr. Arend Biesebroek, Co-Chair of the Joint Consultative Committee, Ms. Brenda King, Representatives from CARIFORUM and EU civil society organisations, representatives of the CARIFORUM and EESC Secretariats and other invited participants and observers. It is my distinct honour and pleasure as the Chair of the CARIFORUM side of the JCC to welcome all of you to this third meeting of the Joint CARIFORUM-EU Consultative Committee.
Within the framework of the EPA, the Joint Consultative Committee institutionalises civil society engagement in the role of assisting and advising the Joint Council, whose responsibility (in turn) involves the operation and implementation of the EPA. The JCC is as well tasked with assisting and advising the Trade and Development Committee, which, in turn assists the Joint Council with its duties in the implementation and application of the Agreement.
It is expected that the Joint Consultative Committee would promote dialogue and cooperation between and amongst civil society representatives and organisations. However, as part of our responsibility we can take initiative and make recommendations to the Joint Council on three intrinsically linked aspects of the Agreement - social, economic and environmental.
The structure of the EPA involves various Committees that oversee different aspects of the Agreement and some of us sitting here are involved and/or informed through the various “hats” we wear. At this Third Meeting of the JCC, through our agenda it is our aim to raise the prominence and impact of the CC by moving from dialogue to action (It is important to note that the JCC is not able to make decisions but has to work on its relationship with the Committees that can..)
In a 2011 discussion paper by the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM) on ‘How to make the EPA Joint CC work effectively’, which looks at civil society participation in the implementation of the EPA, there were some (still relevant) key considerations for our work to be of practical added value to the implementation process. There were three key functions the JCC could play: -
1. We can inform the Joint Council about major economic and societal concerns in the implementation so that we could feed into possible ways to advance the implementation, and
2. We can provide on-the-ground information and technical advice on the monitoring and implementation of the EPA or
3. We can be a public relation exercise.
To add value, there needs to be integration amongst the Civil Society Organisations as our ability to represent the interests of the members and stakeholders of our organisations is what gives us legitimacy to function genuinely.
Therefore, starting today, let’s remove the barriers between the Cariforum side and the EU side; this is not a negotiating platform; but rather, let’s leverage on the synergies between both parties and achieve a fair, decent and common platform to co-exist. As I tell my labour colleagues, we don’t have to agree on everything, but certainly we have a symbiotic relationship that can flourish to each other’s advantage.
While the CARIFORUM side faces major challenges to participating effectively in the CC due to coordination of the civil society actors, unresolved CARICOM matters and the inability to make substantive input into the policy process, we recognise the support of the EU, which allows the civil society organisations to produce research and conduct capacity building exercises.
Having recently been party to two major Civil Society / Non-State Actor forum where the collective energies of this dynamic were able to achieve consensus through focus on a common forward thinking objective, I am certain this new paradigm, especially for the Caribbean, can be achieved. The first of these was with the 9th meeting of Latin America and the Caribbean Civil Society in relation to the EU, and the second with the first Non State Actor forum of the ACP; we intend to bring these discussions to the meeting’s attention for their consideration.
Since the last meeting of the JCC there are specific issues we wish to bring to the table due to their impact on progress made and our ability to optimise value. These will be structured under the three pillars of the social, economic environment framework, which are inherently connected, and in the latter, affected by changes in the global market.
The issue of monitoring and evaluation seems elusive so it is intended that we make it simple yet effective. As an example, a look at the trade in goods statistics for 3 years to 2016, between the EU and its Caribbean counterparts shows that EU Imports have been on the decline over the three years and whilst they held steady between 2015 and 2016, they increased over 2014. What is even more impactful is that the gap between imports and exports has widened in favour of EU exporters.
The response to climate change and the stimulus it has on our regions’ susceptibility to seasonal weather conditions; and the matter of disaster risk reduction, which follows through on climate change with business continuity being a key factor in recovery.
This third meeting of the JCC is an excellent opportunity for us to make a paradigm shift to add practical value to the JC and TDC through the exchange of information and views on the progress and impact of the implementation of the EPA.
It also provides an opportunity to identify and recommend resolution to any additional existing issues that may be preventing the effective implementation of the EPA.
This is a great responsibility, which requires our collective wisdom, experience and serious consideration with an open, constructive and candid exchange of views.
We look forward to a productive two-day meeting and await your conclusions and recommendations since they will contribute greatly to the implementation of the EPA for the development of our regions, to our mutual benefit.