The Cotonou Agreement introduces the idea of performance-based partnerships and waives “aid rights”, such as fixed allowances, regardless of the benefit. Under the new agreement, the EU can be more selective and flexible in the allocation and use of its development resources. The allocation of development assistance is based on an assessment of a country`s needs and performance and involves the possibility of regularly adjusting financial resources accordingly. In practice, this means that more money can be transferred to “good performers” and the share of “bad performers” can be reduced. In accordance with the review clause, the Cotonou Agreement has been revised twice in order to improve the effectiveness and quality of the ACP-EU partnership. The first revision was completed in Luxembourg on 25 June 2005 and the revised agreement entered into force on 1 July 2008. Probably the most radical change introduced by the Cotonou Agreement concerns trade cooperation. Since the first Lomé Convention in 1975, the EU has granted non-reciprocal trade preferences to ACP countries. However, under the Cotonou Agreement, this system has been replaced by the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs), a new regime that entered into force in 2008. This new regime provides for reciprocal trade agreements, which means not only that the EU grants duty-free access to its markets to ACP exports, but that ACP countries also grant duty-free access to their own markets for EU exports.

The Cotonou Agreement focuses in particular on the private sector as an instrument for sustainable economic development. A new comprehensive programme was set up in Cotonou to support the acp private sector through new instruments such as access to finance through the European Investment Bank (EIB). The Cotonou Agreement aims to strengthen the political basis for ACP-EU development cooperation. Therefore, political dialogue is one of the key aspects of the agreements and deals with new topics that do not fall within the scope of development cooperation, such as peace and security, the arms trade and migration. Although ACP governments remain responsible for defining their own development strategy, non-state actors and local authorities are also consulted on the formulation. In addition, they will have access to financial resources and will be involved in implementation. They will also receive support for capacity building. Within the framework of the ACP-EU Cotonou Agreement, the mission of the ACP-EU Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation is to “strengthen the capacities of ACP organisations for the development of political and institutional capacities as well as the management of information and communication of ACP agricultural and rural development organisations”. This is partly done through their magazine Spore, which is widespread in ACP countries. Recognising that impunity is one of the factors contributing to cycles of violence and insecurity, the Preamble and Article 11(6) of the revised Cotonou Agreement contain a clear commitment by the ACP States and the EU to combat impunity and promote justice through the International Criminal Court. .

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