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Concerns over ceding rights to advance regional integration can be addressed through shared values - Janneh

Sep 16, 2011, 12:59 PM

Ministers responsible for promoting Africa’s regional integration agenda assembled in Nairobi, Kenya last week for the 5th Conference of African Ministers in Charge of Integration (COMAI V) on the theme - Integration and Sovereignty.
In his remarks at the conference, Abdoulie Janneh, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), said that countries have expressed legitimate fears and concerns with respect to entering into collective regional agreements, which translate into “a state ceding its rights to adopt alternative policies or change track as it deems fit.”
He highlighted the fear of being locked into policy regimes that may be deemed detrimental to a country’s overall interests, and the perception that the costs of a regional agreement may be larger than the expected benefits - thus, the fear of loss of revenue, arising from trade liberalization.
There is also a concern that “more open borders may undermine national security and facilitate transnational crime,” he said.
Janneh, however, underscored that these concerns point to the importance of underpinning agreements on shared values such as: democratic ideals, respect for human rights, promotion of gender equality, promotion of cultural and religious tolerance and the building of inclusive and harmonious societies.  
“Such values,” said Janneh, “are the foundation for peace and security, without which it will not be possible to deepen regional integration.”
He also pointed out that both integration and sovereignty lie in the political realm, “and any decision to deepen integration or willingness to cede some sovereignty is an expression of political will.”
He called on the ministers to bear in mind that the ultimate objective of regional integration is to enable African countries to benefit from economies of scale, reduce transactions costs and use trade as an engine of growth and development.
“We continue to be motivated by our collective vision for a strong, robust, diversified and resilient African economy, supported by jointly agreed development programmes and first-class trans-boundary infrastructure as well as a highly skilled, flexible and fully employed workforce living in conditions of political stability,” he said. 
Member states were also urged to re-dedicate themselves to the Minimal Integration Programme (MIP) agenda and provide maximum support to Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and the African Union Commission (AUC); including giving them the required authority and resources to implement regionally agreed programmes and projects.
The MIP consists of agreed activities, which permit the RECs to progress at different pace in the process of integration