Saturday, March 13, 2010

CSOs warn of harmful effects of EPAs

NEWS, BANJUL,THE GAMBIA(MB)-The National Youth Association for Food Security (NaYAFS) in collaboration with the National Alliance for Food Security have warned of the potential harmful effects of fully implementing the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with countries of the European Union at a recently organized one-day forum to sensitize media personnel and other civil society organizations (CSO) on the effects of possible EPA agreements on livelihoods. The forum was held at the Baobab Holiday Resort in Bijilo.

Speaking at the occasion, Mr. Alhaji Kebbeh, executive director, National Youth Association for Food Security said when the partnership agreements were drawn up, there were a lot things that were seen as inconsistent with the development aspirations of third world countries, particularly in the ACP - the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries.

He said they therefore hope to organize a series of activities to enlighten the people on the dangers the EPAs pose, which is the week of ‘Action for The Gambia’, adding that among these activities, will be the consultative meetings with the civil society organizations and media practitioners.

“International trade agreements continue to affect millions of poor people’s lives and livelihoods. As negotiators of the Economic Partnership Agreements we as trade justice advocates continue to be skeptical about the resultant effect of a finalized trade pact based on a reciprocal basis between the EU and West Africa. This proposed agreement poses a threat to the giant economic strides that the country has made in recent years, which is principally based on the sound economic policies instituted by the current government but these run the risk of being incapacitated by the coming into force of the proposed trade agreements,” he said.

He said the EU continues to mount pressure on some of the non Least Developed Countries LDCs within the region (Ghana and Ivory Coast) who have both initiated the partial EPAs to move on to full EPAs, thus we have found it as a matter of urgency to involve all stakeholders (policy makers, law makers civil society, farmers, private sector and the media) in the dialogue on the state of the negotiations and what is at stake.

Mr. Kebbeh said there have been a lot of stalemated and unclear issues which are yet to be fully resolved as far as the ACP countries accepting the agreements are concerned. He said in order for the developing nations to come some sort of agreement on fully implementing the EPAs some tough bargaining lies ahead.

“In 2008, there were countries who signed partial EPAs, Ghana and Ivory Coast, because they are non LDCs. In West Africa, we have 16 countries plus Mauritania which is not part of the ECOWAS, most of these countries are still on the sidelines and are yet to sign off on the EPAs,” Kebbeh added.

Mr. Kebbeh noted that there is time now for people, CSOs, government and the media to speak with one voice so that governments take their time in coming to a decision about EPAs because a wrong decision will not only have damaging consequences for the trade of individual nations but also trade within the sub-region, which is why ECOWAS is expected to weigh in on the issue, which could make individual decisions made by nations null and void.

Right to food and the trade justice campaign are among key programs that the National Youth Association for Food Security embarks upon to support and empower the poor and socially excluded.

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