The African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States and the European Union (EU) have engaged in what is known as a ‘special privileged’, legally binding contractual agreement on trade cooperation, development assistance and political dialogue since 1975. Currently expressed in the Cotonou Partnership Agreement for a 20-year period from 2000, the agreement faces its final 5-year review in 2015, which is proving conducive for an extensive debate between development practitioners on what future can be envisaged for ACP–EU relations in a world drastically different from the neocolonial era of the 1970s and offering new opportunities as well as challenges to trade, commerce and development assistance. From the perspective of a diplomatic representative of an ACP member state, a critique is offered of issues and instances in which the contested interests of the asymmetrical relationship can be interpreted in relation to the overarching objective of ‘reducing and eventually eradicating poverty’ as stated in the Cotonou Partnership Agreement. The author argues that the ACP Group, as the unique, transcontinental coalition of developing countries can be a significant partner with the EU and ‘new actors’, through south-south and triangular cooperations to challenge traditional thinking and practice on development assistance by a thoroughly refashioned paradigm, in which equality, sustainability, inclusive growth and structural transformation of ACP economies must be pre-eminent. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.