ACP: Destroying boats is not a solution to migration

Patrick Gomes [ACP website]

The Secretary-General of the ACP (African, Caribbean and Pacific) group of states said yesterday (21 May) that his organisation was against the EU’s idea of destroying the boats of human traffickers, who make fortunes by luring prospective immigrants into risky journeys across the Mediterranean.

Speaking to a Brussels audience, Dr. Patrick Gomes, Secretary General of the ACP group and former ambassador of Guyana to Belgium, said the organisation he represents wants to work together in looking at the cause factors that push people to immigrate, and also at the trafficking of human beings that has become a business.

But he added: “We do not subscribe to the view that attempting to destroy by military means boats of smugglers would be a solution.”

On 23 April, EU leaders decided to “undertake systematic efforts to identify, capture and destroy vessels before they are used by traffickers”, according to the summit communiqué (see background). The remarks by the ACP Secretary General may come as a blow to EU leaders, who have invested a lot of effort in trying to obtain a UN mandate to carry out such operations.

But the main messages of the ACP Secretary General concerned the 40th anniversary of the ACP which will be celebrated on 4-5 June, and the preparations for the negotiations for a revised Cotonou agreement, well before the present deal between the ACP countries and the EU expires in 2020.

A key focus on the 40th anniversary is how to enhance regional and intra-ACP relations in order for the group to deliver on development goals in the post-2015 era.

The long-standing partnership between the EU and the ACP countries covers trade relations, development cooperation and political dialogue. Within this framework, the EU has contributed €31.5 billion to ACP countries, channelled through bilateral, regional and intra-ACP envelopes.

Gomes mentioned the preparations on the ACP side, including the work on a position paper which is still under discussion.

As an example of the issues debated in drafting the position paper, Gomes mentioned how to link agriculture, food and health, and also how to address the problem of the growth of incommunicable diseases as peoples’ income grow up. He also said that medicine should take a receding place and health should come to the fore. Sustainable economic goals must combine environment, economic and ecological dimensions

The EU recognises that the ACP countries are more advanced in preparing the post-Cotonou framework. The EU side is also planning to start a very broad public consultation on the possible content of the revised Cotonou agreement, development Commissioner Neven Mimica recently told EURACTIV in an interview. According to Gomes, this will not only include the institutional stakeholders of the EU and the member states, but also NGOs, academia, and the private sector.

Asked about the need to finance development activities, Gomes made reference to sovereign wealth funds that may be interested to endow, especially if the various success stories become known to the wider public.

Gomes countered with the assertion that sovereign wealth funds were interested in buying real estate in Paris at high-profile locations such as Place Vendome, where the most expensive jewellery and watches are for sale, but not in putting their money in development projects.

The ACP Secretary General said this was precisely the reason why development countries had to do a lot of work to do. What had happened in the last decade, Gomes said, is that “the crudest form of inequality has come about”.

The accumulation of capital has become accumulation for the sake of accumulation. That should not continue, as it would give rise to the most ambitious types of convulsions in the world, Gomes remarked.

He added that the world had to “step back and question its fundamentals”.

“And maybe there will be more billionaires who will begin to see that they have a legacy that will be more appreciated by not looking at those parts of Paris, but what could be Douala, or Nairobi. Something fundamentally has to change. And we want to be part of that change,” he said.

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