OPENING REMARK BY AMBASSADOR JOHN K. SHINKAIYE, AU COMMISSION CHIEF OF STAFF ON THE OCCASION OF THE JOINT AFRICA- EU TASK FORCE MEETING

Ambassador John L. Shinkaiye, AU Commission chief of staff, has made a speech on the occasion of the Joint Africa-EU Task Force on the 8-9th of October 2009 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Mr. Klaus Rudischhauser, Director ACP and General Affairs (DG Development)
Representatives of the AU and EU Presidencies
Representatives of Non-State Actors
Distinguished Participants
Colleagues
Ladies and Gentlemen

It is both an honour and a great pleasure for me to, on behalf of the AU Commission, extend our warmest welcome and express our sincere appreciation to the EC delegation, representatives of the AU and EU Presidencies and participating non-state actors for finding time off your busy schedules to come to Addis Ababa for the ninth meeting of the AUC-EC Joint Task Force. I also wish to acknowledge with thanks, the efforts of the various individuals from both sides who have worked very hard in preparing for this meeting.

As I have said on previous occasions, this meeting is yet another testimony of our mutual desire to establish and nurture a strategic and robust partnership that is predicated on a regular structured dialogue. It is also in line with the AU’s spirit of cultivating closer partnerships with International Partners based on continuous consultations and exchange of views and experiences.

As in the past, this meeting provides yet another excellent opportunity for the two Commissions to further strengthen relations between them and to exchange views on issues of common interest. More importantly, it provides an opportunity for the two sides to review progress and chart the way forward on the issues discussed and agreed upon during the last meeting held in Brussels in March 2009. It will also enable us to see where we are with the implementation of our cooperation blueprint – the Joint Africa-EU Strategy.

As you are aware, since the Lisbon Summit held in 2007, the Joint EU-Africa Strategy has become central to our discussions. Through the Joint AUC-EC Task Force Meeting, we have been able to put our heads together to come up with new ideas and strategies on how best to move this process forward. The decision to involve non-state actors in this meeting is regarded as a one of them. I am happy that some of the stakeholders are here today so that we could, together, engage in a constructive and fruitful debate on the implementation of the Joint EU-Africa Strategy.

Ladies and Gentlemen

I hasten to say that in spite of all the efforts we together have made, the implementation of the Joint EU-Africa Strategy and Action Plan has not yet lived up to its full promise. The implementation process has yielded mixed results as some aspects of the partnership are not functioning as expected. Tangible and concrete results are yet to be seen in some areas.

It is against this background that the AUC whole heartedly welcomes the decision to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the entire implementation architecture and working modalities. We believe that such an exercise offers a great opportunity for soul searching and learning lessons by all of us in order to ensure that in the future, implementation is scaled up and the long awaited results begin to be felt. We therefore strongly believe that the outcome of the mid-term review will serve as a good basis for charting the way forward and call upon all stakeholders to afford the recommendations the seriousness they deserve.

A related and equally important issue is the urgent need to address the financial constraints hampering the implementation of the Joint Strategy and Action Plan. We need to be innovative and resourceful in this regard. I suggest that while looking on how best we can utilise existing instruments, we should also be open minded and explore other avenues for a dedicated envelope to ensure smooth implementation of the Joint Strategy.

It is our strong conviction that a dedicated Pan African envelope is now not only necessary but also a top priority that will go a long way in facilitating and ensuring effective implementation of the Strategy. I note with interest and appreciation that this issue of financing was deliberated upon at length during the workshop on the financing of the Joint EU-Africa Strategy and Action Plan that took place from 5 to 7 October 2009. I really hope that the outcomes of that workshop will translate into concrete actions and pave the way for the establishment of responsive financing instruments for the implementation of the Joint Strategy.

Another challenge, and in line with the inclusive nature of the Joint EU-Africa Strategy, is that of finding ways and means of scaling up and sustaining the involvement of non-sate actors to ensure that we are indeed pursuing a partnership of the people. I am also of the view that we should explore the possibilities of identifying specific stakeholders that could take the lead and be the driving force behind that partnership. This will go a long way toward ensuring greater ownership and performance improvement in each partnership. We have had some preliminary discussions with the EC on this issue, but we need to further reflect, consult all stakeholders and come up with appropriate proposals for the future. We cannot do this in the current meeting but should make it one of the priority issues for follow-up.

Let us also make use of this meeting to further exchange views on measures that could be put in place to strengthen the capacity of JEGs to deliver on their respective mandates. We should also consider expanding the scope of the JEGs to cover issues of emerging interest such as the financial crisis, the swine flu epidemic, etc. Needless to say that for the debate to be fruitful, it has to be issue-focussed, results-orientated, based on facts and lessons-learned, and not just on assertions and emotions. The overriding objective is to reach correct and implementable conclusions that we can seriously take on board as we chart the way forward.

Ladies and Gentlemen

On another note, you will recall that during the last Joint Task Force meeting, we agreed on an action plan on institutional co-operation between our two organizations. This action plan included several critical aspects of administrative cooperation and staff exchange between our two Organizations. Some good progress has been made in many fronts, but more needs to be done. I note with satisfaction the achievements in the areas of capacity-building of the AU Commission, twinning partnership, as well as Staff Exchange Programme. The area of linguistic cooperation also promises some good results.
I wish to take this opportunity to once more re-affirm and underscore the importance the AUC attaches to this innovative initiative of institutional cooperation because this is one area which is yielding results and quick wins and has gone a long way in augmenting our efforts aimed at institutional strengthening and capacity building of the AUC.

I therefore request all of us – over these two days – to make an appraisal of what we have achieved with regard to our action plan, renew our commitments, and chart a courageous course for the remainder of this year and the one to come. The AU Commission is currently in the process of finalizing its Budget for 2010, I therefore hope that the meeting would consider new activities of a capacity building nature that could be incorporated in the revised Action Plan and next year’s budget. Needless to say that these activities should be in line with the AUC Strategic Plan 2009-2012 that was adopted during the last AU Summit.

Ladies and Gentlemen

It would be amiss of me to end my remarks without making mention of the important Euro 55million Support Programme. When we thought we had addressed the constraints we had encountered in the past and were beginning to gain momentum in implementation, some new challenges have emerged. These mainly relate to cash flow problems which have largely been a result of delayed reporting on our part. Management is fully aware of this problem and is doing everything possible to ensure that quality financial and narrative reports are provided in time and that the situation does not recur in future.

We attach special importance to this programme because it has not only helped in consolidating the institutional transformation process of the AU Commission, but has also greatly contributed towards our integration agenda through supporting critical interventions in several fronts. Notable achievements have been recorded in the areas of enhancing the capacity of the AU Commission through additional staffing, strengthening twinning partnerships, as well as the Staff Exchange Programme. In addition, through the 2009 Annual Work Plan, the programme is now providing support to all the Organs of the AU (AUC, the Pan African Parliament, the African Court on Human and Peoples Rights and the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights, and the Economic and Social Council through CIDO).

Finally, I request the EC to please, once more, accept our sincere appreciation. I also thank all the non-state actors for finding time to attend this meeting. We look forward to interacting with you over the next two days and I am quite confident that our deliberations will culminate in concrete deliverables and sound recommendations. I wish to pledge the commitment of the AUC to making this important meeting the success it deserves to be.

I thank you

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