PAPUA New Guinea prime minister Peter O’Neill has called on the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP), which held its eighth leaders’ summit in Port Moresby in June, to focus more on economic leadership.

In his opening address to the Summit of ACP Heads of State and Government, Mr O’Neill said it was frustrating to see that ACP economic relations had not fundamentally changed since the group was established in 1972.

“I strongly believe the ACP Group must rise to the occasion and be seen by its people and the world as an effective and relevant institution that has positive dynamics to make a difference to the lives of its people and the world at large,” he said.

To do so, the ACP needed to take bold and decisive policy decisions and streamline its programs and activities, focusing on trade and investment, increased political dialogue and advocacy and diversifying development and international cooperation.

“As we aspire for a sounder economic development, we should build our economies around trade and investment activities that are sustainable and inclusive in nature with diversified economic sectors with increased intra-trade and investment within the six sub regions of ACP,” he said.

“If ACP is to be relevant and responsive to its members given the rapid rate of globalisation, it requires a major restructure in order to change its core business to one that is trade and investment oriented.”

An ACP statement released at the conclusion of the summit expressed concern at what it said were the negative consequences of trade pacts negotiated outside the World Trade Organisation system by the European Union and other partners, while also urging member nations to seek out more intra-ACP.

It also called for a conference on development financing to be organised, with the support and participation of the European Commission along with the United Nations and other international financial institutions.

Leaders called for barriers to energy access to be removed as well as technology transfers, developing the capacity of ACP entrepreneurs in the energy sector.

The summit also committed to strengthening national social protection systems and supporting families to have access to enough food, invest in productive activities, and overcome financial and social barriers to health and education.

On health, the summit called for universal health coverage and accessible health systems, while committing to tackling communicable and non-communicable diseases.

Leaders also highlighted the need for women’s advancement and called for a strong collaboration with all stakeholders to jointly address gender equality and women’s empowerment, as well as the need to help women’s organisations in ACP countries to boost organisational and operational capacities.