Lusaka, Tuesday, November 22, 2016: A new Joint Partnership Forum that brings together development partners based in Zambia and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) has been established. The objective of the forum is to coordinate identification, prioritization and support to regional integration programmes to avoid duplication of activities.

The first forum was hosted at the COMESA Secretariat where representatives of the development partners exchanged information on how to jointly contribute resources to ensure availability of funds for implementation of key programmes and activities.

The forum provided COMESA with an opportunity to receive feedback from the partners on the potential areas of interest to support the implementation of its Medium Term Strategic Plan and defined the steps necessary for creating a more regular COMESA-Development Partners forum.

“The institutionalization of this forum will go a long way in ensuring adherence to the principles of cooperation for effective development through ownership, focusing on results, inclusive development and transparency and accountability,” Assistant Secretary General in Charge of Programmes Dr Kipyego Cheluget said when he opened the forum.

He said the Development Partners’ forum should be regular and frequent where future development partners’ support and programmes will be presented, discussed and agreed upon.

“This forum will reinforce a proactive approach towards inclusive and sustainable integration, that will enable both COMESA and development partners to agree on future modalities and organization of the subsequent COMESA-development partners forum/working group,” Dr Cheluget said.

Speaking on behalf of development partners, the head of cooperation at the European Union Delegation in Zambia and COMESA, Mr. Gianluca Azzoni said the EU has committed 1.3 billion Euros for a six year period from 2014 to 2020. This provision is under the 11th European Union Development Fund (EDF) aimed at assisting the efforts by regional organizations to promote regional economic integration, regional peace and security as well as regional Management of Natural resources in East and Southern Africa and the Indian Ocean.

“Under the 11th EDF, 85 million Euros are specifically allocated to COMESA for Regional Economic Integration, with focus in particular on trade facilitation, the promotion of SMEs and selected agriculture value chains as well as institutional capacity support to the COMESA secretariat and its member States,” he said.

He described the Development Partners Forum as a functional mechanism that will lead to improved coordination among cooperating partners in order to make donor assistance to COMESA more efficient and effective and avoid overlaps and duplication of efforts.