Ladies and Gentlemen
It is a pleasure for me to be back in Barbados for this, the Sixth Meeting of the Community Council and I thank the Government of Barbados for offering to host this important meeting.
I gather that this is one in a series of meetings being held here to continue the process of developing and strengthening the legal and institutional framework to enable us to move forward in the achievement of our objectives – the deepening and widening of Caribbean integration.
As the second highest organ of the Community and the institution given the task of “strategic planning and co-ordination” in the areas of regional action, the Community Council has a critical role to play in that regard.
Many of the issues before us today for discussion and decision are aimed not only at strengthening the institutional framework for the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) but at putting into effect the vision of the community reflected in the Consensus of Chaguaramas. When Heads of Government met at their Seventh Special Meeting in October 1999, they had asked that a CARICOM passport be designed before January 2001. Now , in June 2000, we will be examining the recommendations of the Committee charged with this function.
Also, within the realm of giving practical effect to the Consensus of Chaguaramas, is the issue of greater collaboration and consultation with civil society as the integration process deepens and the community makes changes in its operating structures which will affect the lives of every one of the Region’s citizens – hopefully for the better.
We will be invited to consider as well, ladies and gentlemen, reports from the chiefs of the observer mission on the recently held elections in Haiti and Suriname. These elections have marked, not just a turning point in the political future of these countries which are part of our Community but in the political growth of our Region and the Community’s institutional development. For the first time we have fielded within a week of each other, two observer missions which have accomplished what they set out to do.
Once the election process has been completed in Haiti, then that country will be expected to move to ratify its membership into the Community. In many ways, this will be a new experience for CARICOM, and one that calls for focused attention and innovative responses from all of us.
There is no doubt that all of these issues will affect the structure and functioning of the Region’s institutions which must adjust early to take into account these new realities. The early completion of the review of institutions of the Community is, therefore, important not just because of the financial burden involved, particularly for our very small states, in supporting the wide range of regional bodies which currently exist, but also because of the need to ensure that our institutions have the capacity to take on board the new vision of the Community in the twenty-first century.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We have before us a very full and substantial agenda. As keepers of the ‘strategic planning and coordination’ function, we have the responsibility to ensure, through discussion and the correct decisions, that the Region and its Institutions move forward at the right pace and in the right direction.
We also have the task of closely examining the Agenda and arrangements for the Twenty-first Conference of Heads of Government which will take place in Canouan, the Grenadines.
Some time during this meeting, we are expected to take time to reflect on our own role and function as an important institution within the new community, for the new Caribbean integration which we plan to forge for the twenty-first century.
I wish us all a very fruitful and productive two days.