Zimbabwe's failure to meet the benchmarks in the Cotonou Agreement


A Paper produced for the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum - November 2006


On 23 June 2000 the Lome Agreement was replaced by the Partnership Agreement Between the Members of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States and the European Community and Its Member States. Unlike its predecessor (essentially a trade agreement) the Cotonou Agreement, as it became known, expanded the cooperation between the parties into the political sphere, explicitly giving cognisance to the fact that issues of governance are inseparable from economic development. This aspect of the agreement has been successively strengthened, particularly through amendments introduced by Annexure VII, agreed in 2005. One such amendment was to article 9 which now is headed:

Essential elements regarding human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law, and fundamental elements regarding good governance.

Through this article the parties affirm their commitment to respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms based on the rule of law and transparent and accountable governance in line with other obligations under international human rights treaties.

The Cotonou Agreement introduces various instruments designed to ensure compliance, firstly through dialogue under article 8 and then through the enforcement mechanisms of article 96. Section 2(a) of the latter article provides that if the political dialogue procedures fail to gain compliance, and the formal consultation procedures likewise fail to yield a solution acceptable to both parties, "appropriate measures" may be taken.

The flagrant non-compliance of the Zimbabwean government of its obligations under article 9 brought these procedures into play and rapidly led to the adoption of "appropriate measures". These measures included a freeze on assets and visa restrictions for senior government officials.

As part of the consultation process, the European Union (EU) set various "benchmarks" and Zimbabwe's progress towards meeting these benchmarks determines whether the appropriate measures should be revoked or renewed. The measures were last renewed in February 2006 and are due for review in 2007. The purpose of this paper is therefore to consider the steps the Zimbabwean government has taken towards or away from these benchmarks in 2006.