|dc.description||Throughout the first week of June, CTA's Advisory Committee held its annual meeting at the organisation's headquarters in Wageningen, the Netherlands. With Members from thirty ACP and EU countries, the Advisory Committee represents all six regions of the ACP Group and all the European Union Member States. According to Prof John Perfect, Director of the Natural Resources Institute and the nominee of the United Kingdom government, it is a 'unique body', whose collective knowledge and experience represents a major investment in the work of CTA.
The task of the Advisory Committee, as underlined by Mr Colin Bully of Dominica, is to advise the Centre on how to fulfil its mandate and to ensure that the ACP farmer is getting a proper service. The Committee has to do this against a fast-changing background of ACP agriculture, and research and development activities within the European Union. This year, its works are also marked by the highly complex issue of the renegotiation of the ACP-EU Lomé Convention. This agreement between the European Union Member States and the 71 countries of the ACP Group is the lifeblood of CTA, which was established under its provisions. The present Convention, together with CTA's current mandate, expires in February 2000. It is widely assumed that the agreement will be carried forward in a modified form; both the ACP and EU negotiating mandates view CTA's contribution positively. Outgoing chairperson of the Committee, Mr Wim van Vuure of Wageningen University and Research Centre and the nominee of the Netherlands Government, told Spore that continuation was 'highly likely'.
Adjusting to change is not new to the Advisory Committee, which has seen the Centre move away from its original 1983 role of making available information to help ACP States in their agricultural and rural development. It is commonly recognised nowadays that, whilst provision and management of information remains a core activity, CTA has become more of a facilitator and mediator of information, and increasingly an actor in capacity building. The new role is stressed by South and North alike in the Committee: Mr Colin Bully talks of CTA's position as a 'gateway and a conduit', Prof John Perfect of an 'interface' providing back-up to national and regional information providers and, incidentally, of a support to regional fora, including those in Europe, for coalescing and pooling their activities. There is also unanimity about the intended end beneficiary-the ACP farmer-and broad agreement that rather than simply provide information to the end-user, the Centre should increasingly also serve intermediaries and policy makers particularly by building capacity. However, there is also general consensus that it is not CTA's role to be involved in the policy-making area but rather to ensure that policy makers have the tools for optimal management and assessment of information.
The growing emphasis on poverty reduction that is shaping so much of the general development debate-including the renegotiation of the Lomé Convention-was also strongly evident in the deliberations of the Advisory Committee. It is here that the substantive role of the Committee becomes most visible. As the incoming Chairperson, Ms Tsakani Ngomane of South Africa, pointed out, CTA's focus on poverty reduction means that women's issues will be the centre of attention. This will, in turn, stimulate the debate about a new wave of thinking on who is the actual end-user, who is the principal client and beneficiary. The debate is reiterated in letters from two readers on this page that discuss the 'him' and 'her' of the ACP farmer. Not that Ms Tsakani Ngoname's opinion leadership can be open to doubt: women are the primary clients, and it is time for affirmative action to help men move over. The new thrust of genderisation does not augur a polarisation around gender, but simply a surge of respect for clients' needs and an attempt to provide proper responses.
This is clearly not the time to consider a scenario beyond March 2000 of ACP agriculture without the kind of the services that have been evolving in CTA with back-up from inputs from the Centre's Advisory Committee. Many would argue that their real work has only just begun.||