COMMUNIQUE ISSUED AT THE CONCLUSION OF THE ELEVENTH MEETING OF THE COUNCIL FOR FOREIGN AND COMMUNITY RELATIONS (COFCOR), 7-9 MAY 2008, BOLANS VILLAGE, ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA
Posted in: Communiques | 10 May 2008 | Release Ref #: 125/2008 | 1164
The Eleventh Meeting of the Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR) of the Caribbean Community was held in Bolans Village, Antigua and Barbuda, 7-9 May 2008, under the Chairmanship of the Hon. Baldwin Spencer, Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Antigua and Barbuda. The Ministers attending were, the Hon. T. Brent Symonette, M.P, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of The Bahamas; the Hon. Donville Inniss, Minister of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade and International Business, Barbados; the Hon. Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Belize; the Hon. Roosevelt Skerrit, Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Dominica; the Hon. Carolyn Rodrigues, MP, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Guyana; Senator Dr. the Hon. Ronald Robinson, Minister of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Jamaica; Her Excellency Lygia L.L. Kraag-Keteldijk, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Suriname; and the Hon. Paula Gopee-Scoon, M.P., Minister of Foreign Affairs, Trinidad and Tobago.
His Excellency Harold Joseph, Ambassador of Haiti to the Bahamas represented Haiti, Her Excellency Rosalyn Hazelle represented St. Kitts and Nevis, His Excellency Anthony Severin, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs represented Saint Lucia, His Excellency Ellsworth John, Director, Regional Integration and Diaspora Unit in the Office of the Prime Minister represented St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Mr. Jimmy Emmanuel, Project Coordinator, represented the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS). As part of their two-day deliberations, the Ministers received H.E. Albert Ramdin, Assistant Secretary-General of the Organisation of American States (OAS) and welcomed the updates provided on preparations for the upcoming Thirty-Eighth OAS General Assembly to be held in Medellin, Colombia in June 2008 and the Fifth Summit of the Americas to be hosted by Trinidad and Tobago in April 2009.
Ministers also received His Excellency Eduardo Enrique Reina, Deputy Foreign Minister of Honduras who reiterated the invitation from his Government for high-level representation by CARICOM Member States at the Summit on Climate Change and the Environment scheduled for 26-28 May 2008 in Honduras. This will be preceded by the Meetings of Officials on 26 May and Ministers on 27 May.
H.E Edwin Carrington, Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community, in remarks at the Opening Ceremony lauded the success of the Community in the pursuit of the coordination of Foreign Policy, which he noted has been one of the greatest strengths of the Caribbean Community and has been a widespread source of admiration by many. The Secretary-General alluded to the challenges of a rapidly changing international and hemispheric environment and the need for the Community to urgently respond to the redistribution of power and influence on the global stage.
The Secretary-General highlighted the changed priorities of many of the Community’s traditional partners, citing the shifting emphasis towards security in the case of the United States and the move from a preferential to a reciprocal trading relationship in the case of the United Kingdom, as part of the European Union-CARIFORUM Economic Partnership Agreement. With reference to Canada, the Secretary-General highlighted the Community’s historical ties with that country and the recent decision of the Canadian Government to significantly enhance its support to the Region through some Cdn$600M in technical assistance over the next decade with a much stronger emphasis on the integration process.
The outgoing Chairman of the COFCOR, the Hon. Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Belize, underscored the increasing need for the strengthening of the Region’s integration movement in the context of the nature, speed and scope of the global changes and challenges with which CARICOM countries are faced. The Minister further stressed the urgency of closer global collaboration and cooperation, highlighting Climate Change as an issue which demands that type of response. Recalling the agreement of the COFCOR at its Tenth Meeting in 2007 that Climate Change should remain permanently on the COFCOR Agenda, Minister Elrington lauded the efforts of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Center (CCCCC) which has been very active in conducting research and analysis and in disseminating vital information to countries to help efforts to mitigate the damage being caused by climate change.
Chairman of COFCOR, the Hon. Baldwin Spencer, Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Antigua and Barbuda, emphasised the influence which CARICOM countries, even as small states, can have when united to allow the Region’s voice to be heard on the international stage. This he noted, is particularly critical in the face of problems which dominate current day headlines, throughout the world, such as rising oil prices, rising food prices, increasing, poverty and environmental degradation.
The Prime Minister applauded CARICOM’s successful efforts in engaging all the major world powers through a range of mechanisms, citing a number of encounters with countries from different regions and he underscored the fact that there have been a number of CARICOM foreign policy successes. As he assumed the Chairmanship of COFCOR, Prime Minister Spencer pledged his commitment to encouraging a more active engagement of COFCOR on world events and a more proactive stance on matters affecting the interests of CARICOM.
The Protection of CARICOM’s Strategic Interests In the Changing International and Hemispheric Context
Ministers examined the geopolitical and economic changes taking place at both the hemispheric and international levels and the resulting challenges. They considered these changes particularly in the context of the redistribution of power on the global stage; the shifting priorities of traditional partners; the increasing presence of non-traditional actors in the Caribbean region; and geo-political changes in neighbouring regions and states. They also considered non-geopolitical issues having an impact on the Community including climate change, rising food and fuel costs and crime and security.
In this context, Ministers considered policy responses to these changes and challenges as well as new initiatives which have emerged and which could assist countries of the Region in meeting these challenges, among them the Bolivarian Alternative for the Peoples of our America (ALBA).
Ministers agreed that Member States should continue to pursue and explore all opportunities available to them for their social and economic development, recognising at all times their obligations under the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.
Ministers noted that rising commodity prices (food and fuel) is one of the non-geopolitical challenges to which the Community needs to pay attention. In this regard, Ministers encouraged Member States to explore measures to enhance regional food production possibilities.
Ministers expressed particular concern regarding the impact of high fuel costs on aviation services and consequently the tourism sector which is of critical importance to so many of the economies of CARICOM Member States.
The COFCOR emphasised the importance of coordination of the Region’s Foreign Policy, given the small size and vulnerability of CARICOM Member States and the constantly changing nature of the international system.
The COFCOR agreed to measures aimed at enhancing coordination by, inter alia, ensuring that decision-making procedures were fully responsive to developments on the international scene and increasing the effectiveness of the Bureau of the Council.
Cognizant of the grave impact which Climate Change can have on the socio-economic well-being of the peoples of the Region, the Ministers noted the decisions taken at the Twenty-Fifth Special Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED), held in April 2008, to examine issues related to the determination of a Common Environmental Policy. The COFCOR further agreed that CARICOM must be effectively represented at forthcoming meetings related to the Bali Roadmap as well as on the Adaptation Fund Board, and that the issue of Climate Change should be included on the agendas of all encounters with Third Countries.
The Ministers agreed on the need to enhance the level of awareness and understanding across the Region and committed to promoting the policy of the Community on issues related to Climate Change.
Graduation of Middle Income Countries
The COFCOR noted with concern the indications from Belize that the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) had made this year an initial cut to its country programme funding and the risk of further drastic cuts being made. The Ministers noted that the formula used by UNICEF and other UN bodies for assigning programme funds did not appear to reflect the real and changing needs of middle income beneficiary countries and stressed the deleterious effects of a reduction in programme funds, done solely on the basis of a formula approach, on a country’s development efforts.
The Ministers agreed to support the call by the Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC) for a review of the present formula and for a minimum funding level to be reinforced. They further agreed to address these concerns, particularly with the United Kingdom (UK) and Spain, current Members of the UNICEF Board, as well as the wider issue of graduation during the Community’s interface with Third States.
Caribbean Sea Initiative
The COFCOR underlined the importance that the Caribbean Community attaches to the Caribbean Sea Initiative aimed at having the Caribbean Sea recognised internationally as a Special Area in the context of sustainable development.
The COFCOR further urged all countries and relevant regional and international organisations to provide information to the United Nations Secretary-General on activities aimed at implementing United Nations General Assembly resolution 61/197 regarding the Caribbean Sea Initiative.
Ministers welcomed the financial support provided by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) through the Haiti/CSME Project to assist the speedy and accelerated integration of Haiti in the Caribbean Community which will be facilitated by the operations of the CARICOM Representation Office in Haiti (CROH).
The representative of Haiti expressed appreciation to CARICOM for the provision to Haiti of assistance and resources from the petroleum fund in the amount of US$7 million in response to its food crisis.
Ministers welcomed the new impetus being given to promoting greater interaction between CARICOM and Canada. Ministers drew particular attention to the preparedness of CARICOM to commence negotiations with Canada on a Trade and Development Agreement. This development augured well for the convening of the Canada-CARICOM Summit, which is tentatively scheduled for Fall 2008.
Ministers also noted that the Summit will provide Heads with the opportunity to advance discussions in other areas of critical importance to the CARICOM-Canada relationship, including the institutionalisation of a mechanism for political dialogue, crime and security issues and matters relating to climate change.
New York Conference on the Caribbean, 19-20 June 2008
The Ministers recalled that the CARICOM Heads of Government had accepted an invitation from Congressman Charles Rangel to visit New York on the occasion of Caribbean American Heritage Month in June 2008.
Ministers agreed to the Programme for the visit and looked forward to this event which would provide the opportunity to discuss trade and investment issues and to continue building relations with the Caribbean Diaspora.
Ministers highlighted the importance of the Rio Group and its role in promoting greater outreach within the hemisphere and providing the Region with access to South-South Cooperation. Belize, Guyana and Haiti are at present full members of the group. In this context, Ministers welcomed the offer by Jamaica to represent those CARICOM Member States which are not currently members of the Rio Group.
Ministers expressed their appreciation to Guyana for representing the interests of the Community during the past ten years.
Relations with the European Union
The COFCOR noted the significant change in relations between Europe and the Caribbean that will be ushered in with the signing, in June 2008, of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between CARIFORUM countries and the European Union (EU).
The COFCOR emphasised that the full implementation of the EPA was critical to the achievement of its objectives.
The COFCOR also underlined the importance it attached to deepened political dialogue between CARICOM and the EU in the context of the implementation of the Cotonou Agreement and the EPA.
Ministers considered issues of importance to CARICOM in the UN System, namely, Climate Change, System-Wide Coherence, Security Council Reform, and the Follow-up International Conference on Financing for Development to review the Implementation of the Monterrey Consensus, that will be held in Doha in November 2008.
The Ministers reiterated that the issue of HIV and AIDS remains a priority for the Region, and signalled the importance of multilateral support for national and regional strategies to combat the disease. In this regard, Ministers viewed the upcoming High-Level Comprehensive Review of the Progress Achieved in realising the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS and the Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS that will be held at the United Nations from 10 – 11 June, 2008, as an important opportunity to invite donors and partners to assist the Region in this area. Representation at the highest level was urged.
The Ministers expressed the Community’s concern at the decision to close the United Office on Drugs and Crime based in Barbados. The COFCOR reiterated the call made by CARICOM at the UN for the decision to be reversed, noting that the Office provided vital technical assistance to the Region in the areas of crime prevention, criminal justice and in tackling the international drugs trade.
Ministers encouraged strong participation of CARICOM Members States in the Third Biennial Meeting of States to consider the Implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat, Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All its Aspects, to be held in New York from 14 - 18 July 2008. The Ministers encouraged representation at the highest level.
The COFCOR urged CARICOM Member States who were not members of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to consider joining the agency, as the IAEA offers technical assistance to Member States in the form of transfer of technology through the provision of experts, equipment and training and in exceptional circumstances, small cash grants for specific purposes.
The COFCOR requested Member States that have not signed the 1994 Agreement Relating to the Implementation of Part XI of the 1982 Convention on Law of the Sea, to do so in order to achieve the goal of universal participation in the two instruments. Ministers urged all CARICOM Member States to participate in the Fourteenth Annual Meeting of the International Seabed Authority, which will be held in Kingston, Jamaica over the period 26 May – 6 June, 2008.
Summits to be hosted in the Region in 2009
The Ministers welcomed the update from Trinidad and Tobago on the Fifth Summit of the Americas and the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting to be hosted by that Government in Trinidad and Tobago. The Ministers noted that these events represent an opportunity to ensure that the interests that CARICOM States and the particularities of the Caribbean developmental experience are appropriately articulated and reflected in each of these fora.
The Ministers further reiterated their support for Trinidad and Tobago in hosting successful, people-centred events, and their commitment to ensuring fruitful discussions in each of these fora with a view to arriving at tangible results and measurable goals which will have a meaningful impact on the lives of Caribbean peoples, while also addressing the broader concerns of the wider Commonwealth and the hemisphere.
Ministers were informed that the Governments of Belize and Guatemala, along with the active participation of the Government of Honduras, met over a period of 18 months under the auspices of the OAS in an effort to identify a possible delimitation of the maritime spaces in the Gulf of Honduras as part of a definitive solution to the Belize-Guatemala territorial differendum. After several meetings, it became clear that no progress was being made and that an agreement could not be reached. This led to the Secretary-General of the OAS, in accordance with the Agreement on a Framework for Negotiations of 2005, to recommend to both parties that they should seek to resolve the dispute by juridical means through the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Both Belize and Guatemala have agreed to the recommendation of Secretary General Insulza to take the dispute to the ICJ and initial steps are now being taken towards that end.
The Confidence Building Measures between Belize and Guatemala with the assistance of the OAS still continue. The COFCOR was pleased to learn that the illegal settlers at Santa Rosa have been removed from Belize and resettled in a humane way in their own country, Guatemala. This relocation project was made possible through the generous contributions of the Governments of Mexico, the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Turkey and Spain.
The Ministers reiterated their full support for the maintenance of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Belize.
The Ministers took note of the efforts made by Guyana and Venezuela towards the maintenance of good relations between the two countries.
They expressed the hope that the Good Offices Process of the United Nations Secretary-General within the ambit of the Geneva Agreement, to which both countries remain committed, would be soon resuscitated with a view to finding a peaceful settlement to the border controversy.
The Ministers reiterated their full support for the maintenance of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Guyana.
The AU Diaspora Summit
The COFCOR underlined the importance the Caribbean Community attaches to the relationship between the Region and Africa.
In this regard, it welcomed the opportunity to deepen relations through participation in the upcoming Diaspora Conference led by the African Union and scheduled to take place in Johannesburg, South Africa in November, 2008.
The 2009 Caribbean Games
The Ministers welcomed the information provided by Trinidad and Tobago on the first ever Caribbean Games, which will take place from 13 – 19 July 2008 in six venues in Trinidad and Tobago and will involve the participation of 26 Caribbean countries.
The Ministers noted that the Games will provide a platform to showcase elite Caribbean athletes as a means of motivating young sports persons to aspire to international achievements and to expose Caribbean audiences to the best Caribbean athletes.
Statement on Zimbabwe
Ministers reviewed recent developments in Zimbabwe, and issue the Statement which is at Attachment I to this Communiqué.
Statement on Myanmar
Ministers reviewed recent developments in Myanmar, and issue the Statement which is at Attachment II to this Communiqué.
The Ministers expressed their deep appreciation to the Government and people of Antigua and Barbuda for the warm reception afforded them and for the excellent hospitality and courtesies extended which greatly facilitated the fruitful deliberations of the Eleventh Meeting of the COFCOR.
Date and Venue of Next Meeting
The Ministers accepted the offer of the Government of Jamaica to host the Twelfth Meeting of the COFCOR in that country at a date to be determined in May 2009.
Antigua and Barbuda
9 May 2008
The Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR) of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) at its Eleventh Meeting held in St. John’s, Antigua and Barbuda, expressed grave concern that the results of Zimbabwe’s national elections were made public only after weeks of delay thereby raising serious doubts over the integrity of the process. There continues to be great uncertainty about the electoral process which has not only been tainted by inordinate delays and grave irregularities underlined by observers, but which is now further marred by reports of threats, intimidation, and violence against opponents.
Member States of the Caribbean Community were at the forefront of the international campaign against apartheid and continuing colonialism in Southern Africa in the latter half of the twentieth century. They therefore feel compelled to call on Zimbabwe’s authorities, with the assistance of that country’s close neighbours in the Southern African Development Community (SADC), to do all in their power to ensure that Zimbabwe’s electoral procedures as well as the civil and political rights of Zimbabwe’s citizens are fully respected in order to make certain that the will of all Zimbabweans is reflected in the final outcome of this electoral process. A fair resolution to the electoral impasse will pave the way for political equity and socio-economic development in the country.
Fully aware of its own vulnerability to natural catastrophes, and having repeatedly experienced the devastating effects of hurricanes, Ministers expressed their sympathy and solidarity with the people of Myanmar following last week’s disastrous cyclone which, by some accounts, is estimated to have taken 100,000 lives and rendered 1,500,000 homeless and destitute. The risk of starvation and disease among the affected population is great. The Caribbean Community is aware of the response being made by the international community to provide relief assistance to the affected communities.
Against this background, the Caribbean Community is concerned that despite the mobilisation of aid and relief supplies by the international community, entry restrictions have been placed by the Myanmar Authorities on relief supplies and personnel. The COFCOR calls on the Government of Myanmar to grant urgently greater access to international relief supplies and personnel in order to avert further exacerbation of this humanitarian crisis.
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