CHRIST CHURCH, BARBADOS – Speaking to members of the Press over the weekend ahead of the Fifth Meeting of CARIFORUM-EU Principle Negotiators taking place here in Barbados today and tomorrow, Caribbean Regional Negotiating Machinery (RNM) Director General Ambassador Dr. Richard Bernal reaffirmed the RNM’s commitment to interfacing with civil society. “We welcome regular interaction with non-state actors,” he said, emphasizing that “the RNM’s outreach activities are geared at engaging a broad cross-section of stakeholders, to the extent that resources allow. We want to hear their concerns and views. We consider the involvement of civil society an integral part of the process.” Heading the CARIFORUM delegation in his capacity as Principal Negotiator in the two-day meeting with European Commission representatives underway today in Barbados, Ambassador Bernal told reporters that the objective of the meeting is to take stock of and provide overall guidance for Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiations involving CARIFORUM and the EU. These negotiations are at an important stage, with the third phase having been launched in St. Lucia last September. The first of six technical rounds of negotiations in 2006 involving CARIFORUM and the EC was convened in Brussels last month, with a second round of talks held last week in Barbados, preceding and setting the stage for the two-day encounter of Principal Negotiators this week. Ambassador Bernal noted that last week, on the margins of the CARIFORUM technical discussions with the EC, a team of RNM officials met with civil society representatives, including the Barbados-based Caribbean Policy Development Centre (CPDC). He noted that the consultation afforded an exchange of views, especially with the RNM’s Brussels Representative. “This most recent consultation between the RNM and the NGO community demonstrates the RNM’s commitment to regular interchange with these set of stakeholders. Emerging from that consultation the RNM gleaned NGOs’ concerns as regards the EPA negotiations, but importantly the frank, informal exchange provided a forum for the RNM to bring them up to date with the negotiations. We in the RNM consider such exchanges extremely valuable not just for us, but we would expect for the NGO community, too,” Ambassador Bernal emphasized. The RNM’s outreach to non-state actors is considered a critically important aspect of its outreach activities as a whole, and consists of: i) Collaboration: Convening joint Seminars/Workshops (in some cases partnering with the CPDC); ii) Briefings: The RNM Director General, Senior Director Mr. Henry Gill and RNM Technical Staff meet regularly with civil society representatives, to exchange views; iii) Dissemination of Information: The RNM regularly updates the NGO community on developments in trade negotiations germane to the Caribbean, sharing with several dozen NGO institutions its newsletter – RNM UPDATE; and, iv) Participating in NGO Forums: RNM staff participate in a variety of NGO-sponsored forums, often as feature speakers. Additionally, an RNM official serves as the organization’s focal point on labour issues, in that vein interacting with labour groups/trade unions throughout the Caribbean. The RNM has also collaborated with environmental stakeholders. The RNM’s outreach to non-state actors is not restricted to social partners alone, it extends to the Region’s private sector – by way of a dedicated programme of outreach/capacity building activities intended to shore up their contribution to the trade negotiation process.
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