CARICOM Heads of Government and representatives meet in Belize

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 19, No. 11            March 19, 2009

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CARICOM Heads of Government and representatives alongside Prime Minister of Belize, Honorable Dean Barrow

Chairman of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community, the Honorable Dean Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize

TOn Thursday and Friday of last week, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Prime Ministers and Heads of Government met in Belize for the Twentieth Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community. The meetings took place from March twelfth through the thirteenth and as Prime Minister of the host country Belize, the Honorable Dean O. Barrow presided over the meeting.

    Other members of the Conference in attendance were: the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, the Rt. Hon Hubert Ingraham; the Prime Minister of Barbados, the David J. H. Thompson; the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Dominica, the Honorable Roosevelt Skerrit; the Prime Minister of Grenada, the Honorable Tillman Thomas; the President of the Republic of Guyana, His Excellency Bharrat Jagdeo; the Prime Minister of Jamaica, the Honorable Bruce Golding; the Prime Minister of the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis, the Honorable Dr. Denzil L. Douglas; the President of Suriname, His Excellency Drs Runaldo R. Venetiaan; and the Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, the Honorable Patrick Manning. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. the Honorable Alrich Nicholas, represented the Republic of Haiti; the Minister of External Affairs, International Trade and Investment, the Honorable Rufus Bousquet, represented Saint Lucia; and the Minister of National Mobilisation, the Honorable Michael Browne, represented St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Associate Members in attendance were the Honorable Osbourne Fleming, the Chief Minister of Anguilla, and the Honorable Dr Ewart Brown, Premier of Bermuda.

    The Opening Session was addressed by the Chairman of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community, the Honorable Dean Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize, and the Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community, His Excellency Edwin W. Carrington.

    In his statement, PM Barrow poised that at the heart of the Meeting’s deliberations they must be mindful what integration was designed to achieve. Announcing his intention to propose a constitutional amendment to allow Belize to sign on to the appellate jurisdiction of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), the PM noted that the fact that only two countries of the Community had signed on to the appellate jurisdiction of the CCJ contributed to the cynicism about the seriousness of our commitment to Caribbean identity. Heads of Government deliberated on the global financial and economic crisis and its impact on the Community and agreed to pursue a regional strategy based on recommendations of the Task Force established by the Council for Finance and Planning (COFAP). The Task Force will produce a report with both a short and medium term perspective on the policy implications of the crisis.

    Heads of Government reiterated their commitment to the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) and its implementation and effective functioning paying particular attention to free movement of persons, accreditation and standardization mechanisms. They also emphasized that the CSME was a critical platform for meeting the challenges resulting from the current global financial and economic crisis and for CARICOM’s successful insertion into the world economy.

    Heads of Government committed their countries to play a more active and visible role in the negotiation process in the build-up to the Fifteenth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to be held in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December 2009. They placed emphasis on the linkages between climate change and renewable energy and endorsed the position proposed by Guyana on promoting the Preservation of Forests and on Carbon Credit for the region. In this regard, they emphasized the importance of significant reductions in emissions and the need for adequate resources to assist the most vulnerable developing countries, particularly CARICOM Member states.

    During the meeting the Heads of Government agreed that, even as the region focused on the current financial problems, it would continue to direct attention to the transformation of regional agriculture and to food security. They also agreed that agriculture would be a focus of more detailed discussion at their next meeting. The Heads of Government received and supported a proposal from the Director-General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) for the convening of a World Summit on Food Security on 14-16 November 2009. Such a presentation emphasized the negative impact of the spiraling World food prices and of hunger, which among other things, led in 2008 to riots in 22 countries and grave food crises in 32 countries which currently require emergency assistance. The regional leaders also noted that the objectives of the Summit would be to establish policies to eradicate hunger, to develop a more coherent and efficient system of governance with regard to World Food Security, to provide specific support for farmers in both developed and developing countries, to mobilize resources, and to adopt an early warning mechanism to avert future world food crises in an effort to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

    The regional leaders also discussed areas such as Information and Communications Technology for Development, the status report on the work of the CARICOM Commission on Youth Development (CCYD), Crime and Security Agenda which included the implementation of the CARICOM Travel Card (CARIPASS), progress on the implementation of the ballistic information network, reactivation of the Regional Justice Protection Programme and co-operation between CARICOM and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). As part of the external trade negotiation, the leaders reaffirming the mandate given to the Secretary-General to coordinate EPA implementation among Member States endorsed the establishment of the Unit to promote EPA Implementation and confirmed that the assistance of the Unit is available to all Caribbean Forum of African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) States (CARIFORUM) signatory to the EPA. In addition they also reaffirmed the Community’s commitment to the early commencement of negotiations for a Trade and Development Agreement with Canada with the understanding that the recommendations constitute initial negotiating mandates which CARICOM may have to re-examine in the context of the continuing global financial and economic situation. Just before the end of the two days summit, all regional leaders, in this context, Heads of Government called on the international community, particularly the “Group of Friends” to support and assist the process both politically and financially solution to the Belize-Guatemala territorial negotiation. Heads of Government reaffirmed their unequivocal support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Belize.

    CARICOM will be hosting the Fifth Summit of the Americas which will be hosted in Trinidad and Tobago, on 17-19 April 2009. Of the five presenters on behalf of CARICOM, PM Barrow will be one of the speakers. The next CARICOM meeting, the Thirtieth Regular Meeting of the Conference will be held in Guyana on July 2nd – 5th, 2009.
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