The following is the Communique issued at the conclusion of the 33rd Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community from July 4 -6 in Gros Islet, St Lucia.
(CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana) The Thirty-Third Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) was held at Gros Islet, Saint Lucia from 4-6 July 2012. The Prime Minister of St Lucia, Dr the Honourable Kenny D. Anthony presided.
Other members of the Conference in attendance were: the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Hon. Winston Baldwin Spencer; the Prime Minister of Barbados, Hon. Freundel Stuart; the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Dominica, Hon. Roosevelt Skerritt; the Prime Minister of Grenada, Hon. Tillman Thomas, the President of the Republic of Guyana, His Excellency Donald Ramotar; the President of the Republic of Haiti, His Excellency Michel Martelly; the Prime Minister of Jamaica, The Most Honourable Portia Simpson-Miller; the Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, Rt. Hon. Dr. Denzil Douglas; the Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. the Hon. Ralph Gonsalves; the President of the Republic of Suriname, His Excellency Desiré Delano Bouterse; and the Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, Hon. Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
The Bahamas was represented by the Honourable Frederick Mitchell, Minister of Foreign Affairs. Belize was represented by the Honourable Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs. Associate Members in attendance were the Chief Minister of Anguilla, Hon. Hubert Benjamin Hughes; and Hon. Derrick Burgess of Bermuda.
The Chairman of CARICOM, Dr the Honourable Kenny D. Anthony, in his address entitled Affirming Our Common Future, Our Common Faith, stated: “We need not quiver in our Caribbean resolve, even unto the disasters of man and of nature which have confronted our homelands, even in considering in the enormity of breadth or proportion. We have a rich and unique heritage as a Caribbean People.” He further stated that “our people, by their determined wills, tell us that we have the genius to realise the consummation of our dreams.”
The Chairman told his colleague Heads of Government: “I believe we must take time to share our hopes, dreams and aspirations for our beloved though enigmatic region. We must start again by re-establishing the “political chemistry” that bound us together. We need to re-affirm our common future, our common faith…….We must be enterprising, yet perceptive and willing to put into our “common cloud,” the store of knowledge and expertise held throughout our states.”
The Outgoing Chairman, His Excellency Desiré Delano Bouterse, President of Suriname, in his Remarks, noted that there was great change occurring and that it was a time of a global transformation noticeable at many levels. “We can see change unfold as we observe a global economic shift. The spark of change we see when we look into the eyes of our youngest, tells us that we are no longer meant to live in a world where we merely follow. We must now lead!” he urged.
He added that it was evident that for our own development, innovation and creativeness were the tools needed in order to gear our efforts towards the potential which we possess as a Community.
His Excellency Donald Ramotar, President of Guyana, in his address, said that of all of the vulnerabilities facing our countries today, none posed a more direct threat to our very existence than that of climate change.
“It is imperative that our Region continues to leverage our extreme exposure to climate change in forging and advocating a common position on the matter. The international negotiations are going much too slow, while emissions are on an unacceptably high trajectory and finance for adaptation and mitigation woefully inadequate,” he added. “While we support a process to achieve a long-term global agreement through the Durban Platform, we must uphold the principle of historical responsibility of some Parties, and the concomitant principle of common but differentiated responsibilities between developed and developing countries,” the President continued.
Most Honourable Portia Simpson-Miller, the Prime Minister of Jamaica, in her remarks stressed that “CARICOM matters”. The Prime Minister said that today, in some circles, CARICOM was greeted with cynicism and its relevance was continuously questioned. “I do not subscribe to those views. In fact, I want to underscore Jamaica’s commitment to regionalism as a core principle of our Foreign Policy and External Trade Policy,” the Prime Minister said. “We are the present generation of leaders in this blessed regional space. We must now ask ourselves: “what can we do to chart a course to make things better for our people,” the Jamaican leader said, “it is up to us to put the political excitement, meaning and fervour back into CARICOM.”
Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community, in his address, said the people of the Community wanted integration to work for them. The integration construct, he said, must move from theoretical concepts to pragmatic actions to improve the lives of our people.
“This is a time for more integration, for it is through acting in concert that we can both survive and prosper and provide the people of our Community with opportunities to improve their lives. That is the objective that we set for ourselves and that is the objective that we must accomplish,” he added.
The addresses are available at www.caricom.org AWARDS
Mr Kamaluddin Mohammed, a national of Trinidad and Tobago, was conferred with the Community’s highest Award, the Order of the Caribbean Community (OCC), during the Ceremony. Known as Mr. CARIFTA, Mr Mohammed played a leading role in laying the foundation for the Community’s social, trade and economic cooperation structures, including the Single Market.
ANNUAL CARICOM 10K ROAD RACE
Heads of Government acknowledged the success of the 8th Annual CARICOM 10K race. They congratulated the winners, Mr Cleveland Forde of Guyana and Ms Tanya Nero of Trinidad and Tobago.
The Amendment to the Agreement Establishing the Caribbean Knowledge and Learning Network Agency (CKLNA) was opened for signature on 4 July 2012 and was signed by the Governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada and Suriname. The principal Agreement Establishing the CKLNA was previously opened for signature in March 2010 at the Twenty-First Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference in Dominica. The Amendment seeks to clarify the revenue provisions and establish a more efficient Board structure.
The Government of Barbados also signed and ratified the Amendment to the Agreement Relating to the Operations of the CARICOM Development Fund (CDF).
The Meeting received, with appreciation, a message from the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
REFORM PROCESS IN CARICOM
Heads of Government received an update from the Secretary-General regarding the organisational reforms put in place or proposed for the CARICOM Secretariat with a view to enhancing its efficiency and effectiveness and following on the decisions taken at the Inter-Sessional Meeting. They requested the Secretary-General to continue with the reform process. They underscored the importance of a comprehensive communications strategy as an integral part of the reform, with a view to taking the Community to the people.
Heads of Government also received a presentation from the Consultants on the Examination of the Regional Security Institutions as well as a preliminary assessment of its contents and recommendations from the Chairman of the Council for Security and Law Enforcement (CONSLE). They agreed that consultations on the contents and recommendations will continue.
Heads of Government extended appreciation to the Government of the United Kingdom, through the Department for International Development (DfID), and to the European Union (EU) for their contribution to the reform process.
Heads of Government engaged in an exchange of views on the profound geopolitical and geo-economic changes taking place in the global environment and their implications for the Community’s external relations and its economic and developmental well-being.
They were of the view that these changes presented challenges but also provided opportunities which needed to be exploited to the benefit of the Community.
In discussing the foreign policy posture and positioning of the Community in this evolving and increasingly complex environment, Heads of Government placed emphasis on the importance of enhancing the foreign policy coordination modalities of the Community. They emphasised that foreign policy co-ordination was not only a guiding principle for CARICOM but a necessary tool to achieve effectiveness in foreign policy outcomes.
IMPLICATIONS OF GLOBAL ECONOMIC AND FINANCIAL DEVELOPMENTS
Heads of Government agreed that the major focus for the Caribbean Community at this time must be on growth and development and considered the performance of CARICOM economies in the context of the global economic crisis and unstable recovery and of projections for the immediate future. Attention was given to developments in the financial market which have implications for the Region and for the economies which are major markets for CARICOM goods and services.
Conscious that global financial and economic developments were merely compounding problems already existing in the Region, Heads identified major factors that were integral to the difficulties being experienced and considered possible ways of addressing the high levels of unemployment which were also a threat to social stability.
Heads of Government determined that there was need to re-examine policy approaches to growth and development and agreed to review fiscal policy with a view to achieving a balance between taxation and expenditure to more adequately support economic growth and development. They recognised that the current situation required different and innovative thinking and action.
They identified various sectors of the economy, including tourism, agriculture and construction, as economic sectors that offered prospects for early resuscitation of economic growth and reiterated their conviction that regional integration has all the possibilities for supporting competitive production and production integration and that particular attention needed to be given to Caribbean convergence in our development strategy. They agreed on the need to develop a Caribbean Investment Programme to support the efforts at stabilization and growth as well as competitive production.
Heads of Government called on the Caribbean Development Bank to so structure its lending products and processes to assist in the thrust for growth and development and signalled their intent to engage the multi-lateral financial institutions in the effort to buttress Member States against external shocks.
Heads of Government assessed the status of implementation of the CSME and considered the action required for consolidation of the gains realised. They recommitted to ensuring the achievement of the original objectives of the CSME, including free movement of skilled Community nationals, access to the Region’s resources and creating the environment for competitive production.
They endorsed the agreements reached at the Meeting of the Prime Ministerial Sub-Committee on CSME on 3 July 2012 and emphasised the following elements, among others, for strategic focus for an effective CSME:
• The expansion of the categories of skilled Community nationals, including the introduction of additional categories;
• Adherence by all Member States to the decisions that make CARICOM nationals welcome in other Member States. The decisions include the automatic grant of a period of six months upon entering a Member State, subject to security exceptions;
• Creating the environment for competitive production;
• Making key institutions more effective;
• Acceptance of the principle that Member States able to proceed with integration at a faster rate should be allowed to do so, provided that the door is always left open for other Member States to join when they are able.
With regard to the Single Economy, Heads agreed on specific elements of the Work Programme and Timetable for implementation in the short to medium term.
ECONOMIC JOINT VENTURES
Heads of Government received an update from the President of Suriname regarding the Establishment of Joint Economic Ventures. The President indicated that there had been discussions with the Governments of Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana as well as with regional and international institutions, in an effort to move the venture forward.
Heads of Government agreed that the Regional Task Force to examine the proposal in greater detail, comprising Suriname as the Chair, with Barbados, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, a representative of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), and Trinidad and Tobago as members, should begin its work as soon as possible.
BRITISH AMERICAN INSURANCE COMPANY/COLONIAL LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY (BAICO/CLICO)
Heads of Government expressed their sincere thanks to the Government of Trinidad and Tobago for the re-affirmation of its commitment of financial support for BAICO Policy holders in the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union and its preparedness to begin immediate disbursement.
His Excellency Desiré Bouterse, President of Suriname briefed his colleagues on the recent High-Level Exchange between Youth Leaders of CARICOM and UNASUR, convened in Suriname, under the Theme ‘Youth Participation for the Development of our Nations: Developing our Region through Cultural Connections’.
Heads of Government commended Suriname on this initiative and noted that the youths had an opportunity to exchange views with the President under whose portfolio in the CARICOM Quasi-Cabinet, Youth falls.
Heads of Government also noted the President’s hope that such an Exchange would become an annual event hosted by CARICOM and UNASUR Member States and recognised the value of such an engagement.
Heads of Government emphasised the need for concerted action, at all levels, to address the increasing challenge of child abuse, in particular sexual abuse.
They noted the need for a holistic approach to the issue including parenting education, public sensitisation, and legislative reform to better protect children and to deal appropriately, not only with perpetrators but also with those who support abuse, for example through non- reporting of incidents.
Heads of Government welcomed the information that the Twenty-Third Meeting of the Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD) on Children and Youth, to be convened in Guyana on 10-11 July 2012, would focus on violence against children, including sexual abuse. THE REGIONAL RESPONSE TO THE HIV AND AIDS EPIDEMIC
Heads of Government noted the significant gains which had been realised in the fight against HIV and AIDS through the Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP) and, in particular, the stabilisation of the epidemic and the reduction of mother to child transmission of the virus. They reiterated the importance of the continued role of PANCAP in spearheading the regional response to the epidemic.
They cautioned against complacency and called for stepped-up efforts with regard to public awareness and interventions targeted at populations most at risk, including youth, given the alarming statistics with regard to the reduced age of sexual initiation and high incidence of sexual activity among youth under fifteen years of age, throughout the Community.
CARIBBEAN PUBLIC HEALTH AGENCY (CARPHA)
Heads of Government welcomed the significant progress made in establishing the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) since the signing of the Inter-Governmental Agreement in July 2011 and, in particular, the planned Inauguration in January 2013.
Heads of Government expressed appreciation to development partners, especially the Government of Canada, the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) of the United States, the European Union (EU), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the UK Health Action Partnership International (HAPI), the UK National Social Marketing Centre (NSMC); and the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) for their invaluable contribution to the establishment of CARPHA.
UNIVERSITY OF THE WEST INDIES (UWI)
Heads of Government received an update from the Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West Indies (UWI) and underscored the importance of building the capacity of our people.
They noted the Vice-Chancellor’s concerns with respect to increasing the number of students from non-campus countries and the financing of the University.
They welcomed the information with respect to the areas of research being pursued by the University, particularly those with regional development impact, including telemedicine, marine governance and ecology, and disaster risk assessment and with respect to proposals being discussed with Haiti for advancing development of the tertiary education sector.
The President of Suriname also updated his colleagues on preparations for CARIFESTA XI to be staged in that Member State in August 2013. Since the preliminary presentations of proposals for hosting of CARIFESTA XI to the Meeting of COHSOD in February 2012, Suriname had established a Host Country Management Committee and would be in a position to advise Member States further, after Meetings of the Regional Interim Festival Directorate in September 2012. Member States were urged to begin preparations for participation in CARIFESTA XI in a timely manner.
Heads of Government recognised the new climate of political stability in Haiti as an important sign that the Government of Haiti is in a better position today than it has been in the past to interact on a solid footing with the international Community. Heads of Government reaffirmed the importance of respect for the sovereignty of Haiti and supported its position that all international funding be redirected to, and managed by, the Government of Haiti.
Heads of Government agreed to establish a Haiti-CARICOM Working Group that will meet before 31 July 2012, in order to develop a course of action for the implementation and resourcing of the Haiti-CARICOM Memorandum of Understanding.
Heads of Government endorsed Haiti’s request to host CARIFESTA XII in 2015.
The Chief Minister of Anguilla updated Heads of Government regarding the governance situation in his territory arising from the difficult relationship with the British Governor. In response to the concerns expressed, Heads of Government decided to send a delegation of Foreign Ministers to visit the territory and to report their findings to the Bureau of the Conference.
Heads of Government recognized that, although English was the official language of the Community, the facility to communicate in their languages could enhance the participation of Haiti and Suriname in the integration process. They therefore requested the conduct of a study to examine the possibilities and implications, including costs, of introducing French and Dutch.
Heads of Government noted that since their last Meeting, Guyana and Venezuela continued to work to preserve the excellent relations that currently exist between the two countries.
They expressed satisfaction that Guyana and Venezuela remained committed to the Good Offices Process of the United Nations Secretary-General to aid them in the search for a solution to the controversy that arose from the Venezuelan contention that the Arbitral Award of 1899, that definitively delimited the territory between Guyana and Venezuela, is null and void.
Heads of Government reaffirmed their unequivocal support for the maintenance and safeguarding of Guyana’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Heads of Government welcomed the agreement by Belize and Guatemala for simultaneous referenda on 6 October 2013, when the electorates will be asked to decide whether the dispute should be finally determined by the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
They also welcomed the strengthening of relations, at the highest political level and the expressed interest by the parties in solving the issue once and for all and in that regard looked forward to the conduct of the important public awareness campaigns in both countries.
Heads of Government expressed deep concerns at the security and environmental issues developing along the border and called on the Guatemalan authorities to act decisively against those whose actions threaten the success of the efforts to improve relations between the two countries.
They expressed appreciation for the role played by the Secretary-General in attempting to resolve the dispute. They reaffirmed their unequivocal support for the maintenance and safeguarding of Belize’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
EXTERNAL TRADE AND DEVELOPMENT ISSUES
Heads of Government reviewed the status of negotiations for a CARICOM-Canada Trade and Development Agreement. They welcomed the convening of a fourth round of negotiations in the Region, in mid-July and expressed expectations of significant progress being achieved. Heads of Government reiterated the Region’s objective of negotiating a pro-development agreement which would support sustainable economic and social development of the peoples of the Region.
Heads of Government underlined their serious concern about the impact on the Caribbean rum industry, arising from the subsidies provided to multinational rum companies by the Governments of the United States Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Noting that subsidies were in violation of World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules, they called on the Government of the United States to work with the Region to rectify these discriminatory measures and restore the competitive balance to the US rum market.
Heads of Government looked forward to the convening of the extraordinary meeting of the CARICOM-Dominican Republic Joint Council, to be held in October and agreed that the preparations on issues related to the CARICOM-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement should be expedited. They mandated the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) to ensure that progress was made in advancing implementation.
CANDIDATURE OF DR CARISSA ETIENNE FOR DIRECTOR OF THE PAN AMERICAN HEALTH ORGANISATION (PAHO)
Heads of Government received a presentation from Dr. Carissa Etienne, regarding her candidacy for the post of Director, PAHO. They reiterated their unanimous and unequivocal support for her candidature.
EXCHANGE OF VIEWS WITH SPECIAL GUESTS
Organisation of American States (OAS)
Heads of Government welcomed the Secretary-General of the Organisation of American States, His Excellency José Miguel Insulza, and held their traditional exchange of views with him.
They received a report from the Secretary-General on his fact-finding mission to Paraguay where the President was recently replaced by the Vice-President, following his impeachment. They noted the information on the efforts being made by the ex-President to appeal the decision made against him and the Secretary-General’s intention to report to the Permanent Council of the OAS in the coming days.
Heads of Government welcomed the information from the Secretary-General that his Organisation would not be closing national offices but would endeavour to make their upkeep “more modest”. They also welcomed his assurance that funds for development were not being reduced despite the budgetary difficulties being experienced by the organisation. They expressed appreciation that the OAS would provide an increased number of scholarships for capacity building, an area of priority for the Community.
Heads of Government also received an update from the Secretary-General on follow-up work being undertaken with regard to two of the important mandates resulting from the recent Summit of the Americas – the impact of hemispheric drug policies on drug trafficking and the security initiative to establish a trans-national centre to combat organised crime.
African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP)
Heads of Government received the Secretary-General of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP), His Excellency Mohammed Ibn Chambas. It was the first time an ACP Secretary-General had met with the Heads of Government since 1991.
They expressed their concerns with respect to the new EU development policy which seeks to alter the dynamics of the relationship between the EU and the ACP and also has the intention to limit severely the level of grant funding to Middle Income Countries which include many Caribbean States. They noted that such funding had been instrumental in many development projects in our Region and welcomed the support of the Secretary-General in efforts to encourage the EU to reconsider its position.
Heads of Government agreed with the Secretary-General that it was important that, in making new friends, old allies should not be abandoned.
Heads of Government noted that the Secretary-General also laid out an agenda for change for his organisation with emphasis on greater and deeper intra-ACP relations.
Heads of Government noted, with satisfaction, that Suriname would host the next Meeting of the Joint Parliamentary Assembly of the ACP and the European Union in November 2012 and they thanked the ACP countries for their support of Suriname’s hosting. They looked forward to a successful session of this important institution which brings together parliamentarians from all the regions.
Heads of Government emphasised that unity and solidarity among the ACP states should be strengthened and maintained.
Heads engaged in fruitful discussions with the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Mr. Kamalesh Sharma. They welcomed the focus of the Commonwealth Secretariat on areas of human and social development including youth, gender, education, small enterprise development, and health. They were particularly pleased at the Secretariat’s immediate focus on climate change and sustainable development, through its collaboration with and support to the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) in addressing the social and economic implications of climate change, improving global climate change governance and sustainable exploitation of natural resources.
They extended appreciation for the continued support of the Commonwealth Secretariat, particularly with regard to issues relating to Small Island Developing States and vulnerable economies.
TWENTY-FOURTH INTER-SESSIONAL MEETING OF THE CONFERENCE
In accordance with the Rotation Schedule, His Excellency Michel Martelly, President of the Republic of Haiti, will assume the Chair of the Conference of Heads of Government for the six-month period commencing 1 January 2013.
The Twenty-Fourth Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference will be held in Haiti at the end of January or early February.
Heads of Government expressed appreciation to the Government and people of Saint Lucia for their warm and generous hospitality during their Thirty-Third Regular Meeting.