Role of the Joint Parliamentary Assembly
The ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly was created out of a common desire to bring together the elected representatives of the European Community - the Members of the European Parliament - and the elected representatives of the African, Caribbean and Pacific states ("ACP countries") that have signed the Cotonou Agreement: it is the only institution of its kind in the world.
It is the only international assembly in which the representatives of various countries sit together regularly with the aim of promoting the interdependence of North and South.
Since the entry into force of the Treaty on European Union and EU enlargement it has acquired a more prominent role. A substantial part of the work of the Joint Parliamentary Assembly is directed towards promoting human rights and democracy and the common values of humanity, and this has produced joint commitments undertaken within the framework of the UN conferences.
Composition and working methods
The representatives of the 78 ACP states who, under the Cotonou Agreement, must be members of Parliament, meet their 78 European Parliament counterparts in plenary session for one week twice a year. The Joint Parliamentary Assembly meets alternately in an ACP country and an EU country. The institution is governed by common, democratic rules.
Two co-presidents who are elected by the Assembly direct its work. Twenty-four vice-presidents (12 European and 12 ACP) who are also elected by the Assembly constitute the Bureau of the Joint Parliamentary Assembly, together with the two co-presidents. The Bureau meets several times a year in order to ensure the continuity of the work of the Joint Parliamentary Assembly and to prepare new initiatives aimed notably at reinforcing and improving cooperation. It also considers topical political questions and adopts positions on all human rights cases.
Three Standing Committees have been created in 2003 to draw up substantive proposals which are then voted on by the Joint Parliamentary Assembly. These Committees are:
• Committee on Political Affairs
• Committee on Economic Development, Finance and Trade
• Committee on Social Affairs and the Environment
The Assembly regularly forms exploratory or fact-finding missions. The members of the Joint Parliamentary Assembly are thus in direct contact with the situation on the ground in the various developing countries which are signatories of the Cotonou Agreement.
The impact of the work of the Joint Parliamentary Assembly thus goes well beyond economic considerations and embraces the fundamental objectives of the development of mankind and the establishment of peaceful relations between the nations of the world. The ACP-EU Joint Assembly is a democratic, parliamentary institution which aims to promote and defend democratic processes in order to guarantee the right of each people to choose its own development objectives and how to attain them.
Initiatives taken by the Joint Parliamentary Assembly
The Joint Parliamentary Assembly has made an active contribution towards implementing and reinforcing successive ACP-EU Conventions and has put forward numerous proposals:
• the upgrading of the role of women in the development process;
• the integration of environment policy in development projects;
• promotion of Trade as a tool for development, particularly by way of the Economic Partnership Agreements foreseen in the Cotonou Agreement;
• the drawing-up of rural development programmes and micro-projects tailored to the needs of specific communities;
• the improvement of measures aimed at combating epidemics and the reinforcement of health and hygiene services;
• the creation of decentralized development policies;
• the convening of annual meetings between economic and social partners;
• the promotion of regional, political and commercial cooperation;
• closer cooperation with non-governmental organisations engaged in development;
• aid for indebted countries pursuing structural adjustment policies to allow them to maintain indispensable services;
• measures to enhance the cultural dimension in North-South cooperation;
• the acceleration of aid procedures and the increase in appropriations intended for refugees and for displaced persons (the latter is a new departure);
• measures to reinforce the commitment to respect and defend human rights and human dignity.