The Thirty-third Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community got underway on Wednesday July 4th at the Sandals Grande in St Lucia. St Lucia is playing host to the three-day event as Prime Minister Dr Kenny Anthony assumes the Chairmanship of Conference of Heads Government for the next six months. Outgoing Chairman, H.E. Desire Delano Bouterse in his remarks gave a brief account of his stewardship and thanked the member countries of CARICOM for their “immeasurable support” over the last six months. He also took some time to wish Dr Anthony much success in his tenure as Chair.
“In these last six months there have been remarkable moments: First and foremost we initiated discussions on the transformation needed at our Secretariat to become, a more effective and efficient instrument in achieving our integration objectives, with the report of the consultant as a guide.
“February 2012, visit of the Bureau of Heads to Haiti, renewing the Region’s commitment to rebuild this nation devastated by the 2010 earthquake. A Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) was signed as the Region’s commitment to shoulder the burden of the people of Haiti at this difficult juncture in their history;
“June 2012, Induction of the CARICOM Youth Ambassadors and hosting of the First CARICOM- UNASUR High Level Youth Exchange. The main purpose of this High Level Youth Exchange was to facilitate high level discussions between myself and the youth of both regions as well as to deepen the cultural integration between youth of CARICOM and UNASUR. In practice, what happened during this exchange was far more inspiring. This exchange with young minds from The Bahamas to the southern tip of the Continent with the participation of Chile, sent a wave of energizing hope and determination that resounded with everyone present,” said Bouterse.
The outgoing chairman alluded to the fact that climate change creates much vulnerability for the region and says each Member State must take the initiative to act quickly in taking measures against such threats.
“Innovation and creativeness are the tools we need to use in order to gear our efforts towards the potentials which we possess as a Community. Thereby we have to focus on our natural resources, particularly minerals, water, fertile soil, our geographical favorable position and a well educated population. It is within this framework that Suriname came with the proposal to establish CARICOM enterprises.”
As he ended his address, Bouterse noted: “Unity and solidarity are the real corner stones towards our success . . . only unwavering solidarity and determination must be the driving force in our community as well as in our region.”
In his remarks, Prime Minister Dr Anthony offered a warm St Lucian welcome to President Martelly of Haiti, expressing in Kweyol CARICOM’s desire to work closely with Haiti as they embrace each other for the common good. He assured Martelly that CARICOM will work to bring relief to his people, given their struggles post the disastrous earthquake in 2010. The Chairman also expressed “great concern” that the issues related to the management of our institutions were “like recurring decimals,” and insisted that “we really must summon the will to settle them once and for all.”
The CARICOM Chairman echoed similar sentiments as the outgoing chairman, President Bouterse, who had insisted earlier that the Community must change its thinking and dispense with old practices.
Dr Anthony told his colleague Heads of Government at the Summit that they must not fear to reform and reshape the political architecture within regional and national spaces. However, he hastened to warn that because the Community is a diverse and evolving entity, such reform would require flexibility and responsiveness. He added that the economic and cultural diversity of the Community had prompted the need to realize better governance and participation in decision making throughout Member States.
Notwithstanding this however, Dr Anthony urged his colleagues Heads to be wary of those cloaked as “paragons of universal freedom, virtue and justice” and to embrace their home-grown democratic principles and institutions.
“We now manage mature democracies, albeit not without blemishes. I say to all present that the ideal of self-determination should still remain; that we should strive to actualize our own accords and accomplish our political craftsmanship, lest these be driven by storms from across the seas.
“The time has come for CARICOM to overhaul and redefine its foreign policy positions and postures. I accept that there will always be differences between and among our states. But that does not mean that we should ignore the need to remodel our space in this dramatically altered world.”
In closing, Dr Anthony urged the Member States to put all differences aside and come together for the common good of the people. While highlighting the economic turmoil in Europe, the Chairman noted that CARICOM countries can no longer depend on first world countries but rather must come together in order to achieve its goals.
“This is a time for our differences to be leveraged as our strengths. Our political design must be creative and responsive to the calls for participatory democracy. Our chemistry must realize formulae that are hinged on our strong bonds as a Caribbean family. These are exciting times for us to pull together, and to break the internal partisan moulds that often grip us. These are extraordinary times to embrace each other and share ideas and inputs to realize common Caribbean outcomes. We must not be afraid of the future.”
Dr Anthony is expected to lead the conference over the next six months.
The three-day Regular Meeting of Caricom ended yesterday.