Cotonou Agreement

new spirit of development co-operation

The Cotonou Agreement defines a general strategic framework reflecting international commitments and simultaneously taking into account the political, economic, social, cultural and environmental components of development. Co-operation strategies will reflect international commitments. Priorities are established on a country-by-country basis and focus on poverty reduction. Development strategies promote local ownership of economic and social reforms.

Under past Lomé Conventions trade co-operation was based on generous preferential tariffs. The Cotonou Agreement aims to support the mutually reinforcing effects of economic and trade co-operation and development aid. The objective of integrating the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries into the global economy involves enhancing production, supply and trading capacity as well as increasing ACP capacity to attract investment, to formulate strong trade and investment policies, and to handle all issues related to trade.

Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs), integrated with development assistance including Trade Related Technical Assistance, will progressively remove barriers to trade between the ACP and the European Union (EU) and enhance co-operation in a wide range of trade-related areas.

The EU’s development co-operation gives great importance to regional integration and co-operation. It is based on the principle that this approach fosters economic and social development, raises and locksin improved governance as well as promotes stable and peaceful relations among nations. It also enables countries to meet cross-border challenges, particularly in the area of the environment and the management of natural resources.

The EU’s political and financial weight enables it to participate in improving the macroeconomic framework of ACP partner countries. This involves policies and institutional framework for fiscal balance, debt sustainability and external economic and trade balance as well as for encouraging competition and private sector development.

Efficient transport systems are essential to economic and social development and to access to basic social services. The involvement of partner countries is a condition of the sustainability of these efforts.

Eliminating hunger and malnutrition is a cornerstone of sustainable development. Poverty remains the principal challenge for feeding the world’s population in a sustainable manner. Food security and sustainable rural development are fundamental to the EU’s anti-poverty strategies.

Co-operation shall pay systematic attention to institutional aspects and will support the efforts of the ACP States to develop and strengthen structures, institutions and procedures. The objective is to help to promote and sustain democracy, human dignity and social justice and pluralism, the full respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms, to develop and strengthen the rule of law and the professionalism and independence of the judiciary and to ensure transparent and accountable governance and administration in all public institutions.

The ACP group

Founded in 1975 with the signing of the Georgetown Agreement, the ACP group is made up of 77 African, Caribbean and Pacific countries.


The Council of Ministers: The supreme body with decision-making power. Member States are represented at ministerial level. The Council defines the broad outlines of the Group’s policies and examines ACP-EU co-operation as well as intra-ACP matters.

The Committee of Ambassadors: Composed of the ACP Ambassadors to the EU or their representatives, it assists the Council of Ministers and supervises the implementation of the Cotonou Agreement.

The ACP General Secretariat: co-ordinates the activities of the ACP institutions. Located in Brussels .

Following 25 years of four successive Lomé Conventions (the fourth with two financial protocols), the 20-year Cotonou Agreement, signed June 2000, is an innovative framework for a deeper partnership with a view to facilitating economic development and addressing – together –the major challenges of poverty, conflict and war, environmental degradation and risks of economic and technological marginalisation.

Cotonou represents a milestone in the objectives, the ways and means to achieve them and the nature of the partnership. It makes a clear association between the political dimension, trade and development and partnership, based on clearly defined performance criteria. In this framework, from the European Development Fund (EDF), the EU provides assistance to 77 ACP countries, and to Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs).

ACP-EU development co-operation shall be pursued through integrated strategies that incorporate economic, social, cultural, environmental and institutional elements that should be locally owned. It shall thus provide a coherent enabling framework of support to the ACP’s own development strategies, ensuring complementarity and interaction between the various elements.

The new trade regime envisaged by the Cotonou Agreement represents a radically different perspective for ACP partners. To promote sustainable development and the eradication of poverty, ACP and the EU have agreed to conclude WTO-compatible trade agreements that will progressively remove barriers to trade between them and enhance cooperation in all areas relevant to trade. This commitment will take the form of negotiations on Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) started in September 2002 and to be concluded by December 2007.

Reducing and eventually eradicating poverty

The ACP-EU Partnership is centred on the objective of reducing and eventually eradicating poverty, consistent with the objectives of sustainable development and the gradual integration of the ACP countries into the world economy.

Political dialogue and reinforced participation

Dialogue is a key element in the success of development co-operation activities and is at the heart of the ACP-EU relationship. It is conducted within and outside the institutional framework at national, regional or ACP level, in order to encourage the introduction of all sections of society, including the private sector and the civil society organisations, into the mainstream of political, economic and social life.

Respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms, democratic principles, good governance and the rule of law are essential elements of the partnership and transparent and accountable governance is an integral part of sustainable development.A participatory approach, by including civil society and economic and social actors in the ACP-EU partnership, will help define strategies and priorities that were previously the exclusive jurisdiction of governments.

Conflict prevention and peace building

An active, comprehensive and integrated policy of peace-building and conflict prevention remains a major element of a sustainable development strategy.
The EU was the first major donor to debate the role of conflict prevention in development policy. The Cotonou Agreement provides for a strategic approach to tackle root causes of conflicts. The provisions include measures aimed at balancing political, economic, social and cultural opportunities within society to help prevent conflict and support peacebuilding efforts.

Provisions for island states

Specific provisions and measures have being foreseen to support Least-Developed Countries, Landlocked and Island ACP States (LDLICs). In regard to the latter, they are directed at supporting Island ACP States in their efforts to overcome the natural and geographic difficulties hampering their development.

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