H.E. Lawerence Sylvester, Ambassador of Belize to CARICOM, represented the Government of Belize and H.E. Ms. Manorma Soeknandan Ambassador of the Republic of Suriname to CARICOM represented Suriname. Mr Randolph Cato represented the Secretariat of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).
In his Opening Remarks, the Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Mr. Edwin Carrington, noted that the changes in the geopolitical environment and the influence of energy were having a profound impact on the small, vulnerable economies in the Region, and on the Community’s relationships with external partners.
This he said, demanded cohesion of action among Member States, Councils and Institutions and placed “even greater emphasis on the making of concerted efforts towards the implementation of the Single Market, as well as on foreign policy formulation and coordination.”
The Secretary-General also publicly commended the Honourable Dame Antoinette Billie Miller, the Senior Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Barbados for her determined leadership in pursuit of an initiative for a Conference of the Caribbean to be held in the United States in 2007.
“The highlighting of the Caribbean in this way is, we hope, a step towards a recognition of the special circumstances of small and vulnerable states in this era of ‘bigger is better.’ We also trust that our partners would thereby better understand the development dimension of their relationship with the Caribbean Community and work with us towards building hope and eradicating despair,” the Secretary-General said.
In his address, the outgoing Chairman of the COFCOR, the Honourable Frederick Mitchell, Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Public Service of The Bahamas stated that the Region had accomplished much in the past year, but he cautioned that the Region could not live on the glories of the past.
He said it was a momentous and defining time for the Region but he had no doubt that if “we use the intellectual capital of all our peoples that not only will we survive in this new order, but that we will prosper in it.”
He said the Region must forge ahead with commitment and dynamism to face head on, the challenges which beset it.
In that connection he opined that “during the next year, one of our greatest challenges will be ensuring that all is done to reincorporate Haiti properly within our Councils. My own feeling is that an early mission by Foreign Ministers to Haiti should be sought,” Minister Mitchell said.
The Chairman of the COFCOR, the Hon. Elvin Nimrod, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, of Grenada, in his feature address said the Council for Foreign and Community Relations had the responsibility of ensuring that as a Region we were ready to deal with international developments in a pre-emptive and well planned manner.
He said that he was buoyed by the prospects of a fully implemented CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) which would certainly provide tangible avenues for pooling, sharing, and rationalising scarce resources and also for the Community’s economic survival.
“We must allow the CSME to work to our collective benefit. All parties big and small, rich and poor must benefit from arrangements within the Single Market and Economy, and ultimately the fruits of Regional integration,” he said.
He warned that although the Caribbean was still regarded as one of the safest areas on the planet, “we cannot sit passively and allow that status to erode. We must protect and conserve what we have going for us.”
Minister Nimrod alluded to Cricket World Cup (CWC) 2007 and the issues associated with its successful hosting, including the many security concerns, as a Community matter. “Our common interest is at stake. If one venue fails, the entire Region fails. The sporting world sees us as one single venue. International tourists view us as a single destination, why can’t we see ourselves as one geographic space? The time is fast approaching, if not already here, when we will have no other choice but to always speak with one voice,” he added.
Given the huge investment made in infrastructural development for the Cricket World Cup by several countries in the Region, he stressed the need to market the Region in an aggressive and strategic manner not only for the few weeks of the competition in 2007, but in a manner that will enable the Region to reap benefits long after this particular event.
Expressions of Condolence
Ministers expressed their shock at the assassination of the Hon Satyadeow Sawh, Minister of Fisheries, Other Crops, and Livestock and the acting Minister of Agriculture of Guyana and other members of his household on Saturday 22 April and issued a statement, a copy of which is attached to this communiqué.
Engagement with the Foreign Minister of Brazil
In a Special engagement, the COFCOR received H.E. Celso Amorim, the Foreign Minister of Brazil. The Council expressed the Community’s appreciation of the role being played by Brazil in the stabilisation process in Haiti, a CARICOM Member State. The two sides agreed to work together in the continuing process of reconstruction and reconciliation in Haiti and in that context the Community accepted an invitation from Brazil to participate in the donor’s conference on Haiti to be held in Brazil on 23 May, 2006.
The discussions covered other issues of mutual interest including relations between the Community and MERCOSUR, Brazil’s membership of the Caribbean Development Bank, a CARICOM-Brazil technical co-operation programme and co-operation in international fora.
Changes in the International Geopolitical Environment and the Influence of Energy
The Ministers reviewed changes in the international geopolitical environment and the influence of energy and discussed a number of policy recommendations by virtue of which CARICOM might adequately respond to the changes in the wider international geopolitical environment, as a result of the dynamics of energy demand and supply.
They agreed that this issue merited further concerted action by Member States and the Heads of Government will review this issue at the 27th Meeting of the Conference in St Kitts and Nevis in July.
Shared Diplomatic Representation in Selected Countries
The Ministers revisited the issue of Shared Diplomatic Representation and agreed in this regard to examine various options in selected countries. The Council noted that the proposal came against the background of the thrust towards the establishment of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy, the need to enhance the visibility of the Region in the external world as well as the fostering of a spirit of solidarity among the people of the Region.
Preparation for Upcoming Summits
The Ministers reviewed the status of the preparations for the Fourth European Union-Latin American and Caribbean Summit, the European Union-CARIFORUM Summit and the third CARICOM-Spain Summit as well as upcoming Ministerial meetings. They agreed that these Summits presented opportunities for the Region to emphasise the need for the development dimension to be kept centrally on the international agenda.
The Ministers welcomed the opportunity of the UK-Caribbean Forum to promote and strengthen the unique ties between the United Kingdom and the Caribbean under the theme, “Partnerships for Promoting and Sustaining Caribbean Development.” They looked forward to a frank and cordial discussion which would set the framework agenda to be promoted between the two sides in the medium to long term.
The Second CARICOM-Japan Ministerial Meeting
The Ministers reviewed the status of the Region’s relations with Japan and welcomed the report on the technical discussions which had taken place in Japan in February 2006 in preparation for the Second CARICOM-Japan Ministerial Level meeting.
The Ministers agreed that the main focus of the meeting should be the future development of the Caribbean and international economic political developments including cooperation in the multilateral fora. The Joint Action Plan to be adopted at that meeting would constitute the framework of the partnership for the next five years.
They welcomed Antigua and Barbuda’s continued commitment to host that meeting possibly in the second half of July 2006.
Relations with Third States and International Organisations
Ministers reviewed the Community’s relations with Third States in the context of the Region’s evolving foreign policy. They posited that all special relationships traditionally held by the Region with Third States are now in transition and required a new strategic approach by the Region.
The Ministers recalled that a new Government had been elected in Canada with whom the Region had not yet had an interface. They agreed that mechanisms had to be put in place to ensure that the special relationship with that country be revitalised and be made more relevant. The Ministers reiterated the importance of trade in this relationship and agreed that dialogue at the political level should be guided by this imperative. They agreed that opportunities would be pursued at all levels for dialogue with the Government of Canada.
The European Union
The Ministers reviewed their current relationship with Europe and discussed the future policy framework for Caribbean-EU relations.
The Ministers expressed the view that relations with the EU should be seen in a much wider context as part of the Region’s relations with the wider world.
Ministers in their discussion on the issue indicated a need for the Region to change from a donor relationship to an investment relationship with its partners. They noted the need for CARICOM to commence discussions with the EU on the CARICOM development strategy and the elements of which the EU would be prepared to support. In that context, the Region welcomed the on-going EU assistance for the Region’s efforts to establish the Single Market and Economy by 2008.
The Ministers agreed that political dialogue with the EU must focus on development and reiterated the need for the Economic Partnership Agreement currently being negotiated to be an instrument of development and not limited to trade.
Ministers also noted that CARICOM should look beyond its traditional partners in Europe and seek new alliances with selected European States.
The United States of America
The Ministers expressed satisfaction at the outcome of the recent engagements with the US Secretary of State and the US Trade Representative. In expressing confidence in the way forward and reiterating the importance of the relationship, they committed themselves to work towards ensuring that the initiatives emanating out of those meetings would be beneficial to the development of the Community and its partnership with the United States.
The Ministers welcomed the recent declaration by the State of New York of June as Caribbean Heritage Month following a similar resolution by the US Congress earlier this year. They thanked all those in the Diaspora, the Congress and the State of New York who had worked towards achieving this recognition for the Caribbean.
The Ministers agreed to the establishment of a think tank to spearhead the preparation for a Conference on the Caribbean to take place in Washington in 2007.
With respect to the issue of Cross Border Supply of Gaming and Betting Services, the Ministers expressed strong support for Antigua and Barbuda in urging the United States to comply with the ruling of the World Trade Organisation in respect to this Internet Gaming issue.
The Rio Group
The Ministers noted the report of Guyana on the activities of the Pro-tempore Secretariat of the Rio Group since its assumption of the Chairmanship of that body in January 2006. The Ministers acknowledged that participation by CARICOM in the Rio Group would continue to strengthen relations with the countries of Latin America. In this regard they reiterated their support for Guyana as it carries out its mandate on behalf of the Region.
Organisation of American States
The Ministers noted that the 36th Session of the OAS General Assembly will be held in a Caribbean country –Dominican Republic in June 2006 with the theme “Good Governance and Development in the Knowledge based Society. “They underscored the importance of integral development for the Hemisphere and agreed to highlight this issue as a priority during the XXXVI Regular Session of the OAS General Assembly.
The Association of Caribbean States
The Ministers reiterated its support for the work of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) and in that context urged those Member States which had not yet done so, to sign and ratify outstanding ACS Agreements. They reiterated that the ACS was an important forum for its interface with Central and Latin America.
The Ministers agreed to continue active CARICOM participation in the further elaboration and implementation of United Nations Reform process with particular reference to the Peace-Building Commission, the Human Rights Council, the Environment and the Secretariat and Management Reform.
The Ministers agreed that UN Reform should not minimise the importance and role of the status of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).
The Ministers noted the threat to the existence of agencies of vital importance to developing countries in the ongoing process to rationalise UN agencies. The Ministers called on all states to ensure that the UN reform efforts would not result, in particular, in the erosion of the mandate of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and even its institutional existence.
The Ministers expressed dismay at the proposed closure of the Regional office of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC) based in Barbados at a time when the Region was combating a growing problem with the trafficking in and the transshipment of illegal drugs as well as the startling increase in violent crime. The Ministers also deplored the approach towards the closure given the fact that Member States had not been consulted prior to the decision.
In this regard, the Ministers agreed to register the concerns of the Region through appropriate diplomatic channels as well as within the fora of several high level meetings which will take place in the immediate future including those in Vienna where the UN Office on Drugs and Crime is based. The Ministers also agreed to approach the major donor countries represented in the Caribbean – the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the European Union on this issue.
The Ministers took note of a report from Belize in relation to the ongoing process to reach a just, equitable and permanent solution to Guatemala’s territorial claim to Belize within the framework of the Organisation of American States (OAS).
The international community remains fully supportive of the OAS process between Belize and Guatemala in accordance with the Framework Agreement of 7 September 2005 between the two countries, under which they will attempt to resolve the dispute by negotiations, but also agree that if the Secretary General of the OAS determines that it is not possible to arrive at an agreement on some of the issues, he shall recommend that the Parties submit those to either the International Court of Justice or an International Court of Arbitration.
The Ministers expressed the hope that this mechanism will ensure that the dispute is finally settled within a reasonable time, and reaffirmed strong support for the sovereignty, security and territorial integrity of Belize.
The Ministers noted with satisfaction that goodwill and friendship continued to characterise relations between Guyana and Venezuela.
They noted that the recent convening of the Fourth Meeting of the Guyana/Venezuela High Level Bilateral Commission was demonstrative of the will of both countries to further consolidate bilateral relations on the basis of mutual respect and commitment to shared principles. They recognised the importance of this meeting in providing impetus to the search for a peaceful resolution of the controversy under the aegis of the United Nations Good offices Process and the intensification of bilateral co-operation within the framework of the Guyana/Venezuela High Level Bilateral Commission.
The Ministers reaffirmed their unwavering support for the maintenance of Guyana’s territorial integrity and sovereignty and its right to the development of its resources in the entirety of its territory.
The Ministers noted the maritime boundary delimitation issues relating to the geographical feature in the Caribbean Sea known as Bird Rock.
The Ministers noted that the indication by the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States that it intended to hold dialogue at the highest level with Venezuela on this issue.
The Ministers noted that the recently concluded second round of the legislative elections had been successfully conducted despite the low voter turnout. They also noted that CARICOM had participated in the international observation of the second round on 21 April 2006. They agreed that the successful conclusion of the presidential and legislative elections that were deemed to be free, fair and credible would lead to a return to constitutional rule and would enable Haiti to be fully reintegrated into the activities of the Community.
In reaffirming the Community’s commitment to Haiti, the Ministers emphasised CARICOM’s continued willingness to provide assistance to Haiti in its reconstruction. In this regard, they looked forward to the outcome of the proposed meeting between the President-elect and the Bureau of the Conference of Heads of Government, as well as the likelihood of an early visit to Haiti of a delegation of the Bureau of the Conference.
The Ministers reiterated their concern over the continuing and lengthy detention of persons who have not been charged or not brought to trial in violation of the rule of law and of respect for human rights. These include a number of former officials of the Aristide administration and activists and sympathisers of the Fanmi Lavalas political party, some of whom have benefited from judicial release orders which have not been respected. The Ministers called on the Interim Administration to take the necessary measures to rectify this objectionable situation before it demits office.
The Ministers extended their deep appreciation to the Government and people of Grenada for the warm hospitality extended and for the excellent arrangements made which greatly facilitated the smooth conduct and efficiency of their meeting.
Date and Venue
The Ministers accepted the offer of the Government of Belize to host the Tenth Meeting of the COFCOR in that country on dates to be communicated later.
Point Salines, Grenada
25 April, 2006
The Foreign Ministers of the Caribbean Community gathered in St. George’s, Grenada, for the Ninth Meeting of the Council of Foreign and Community Relations received with shock and a great sense of sadness the news of the assassination of the Honourable Satyadeow Sawh, Minister of Fisheries, Other Crops and Livestock and Acting Minister of Agriculture of Guyana, in the early hours of Saturday 22 April, 2006 in Georgetown, Guyana, along with his brother, sister and his security guard.
The Foreign Ministers of the Caribbean Community expressed their revulsion over this heinous act of violence which they strongly condemned. Such acts of violence have no place in the democratic culture of the Region and undermine the political, economic and social stability of the countries of the Community. They expressed the hope that the investigations launched by the Guyana Police Force would result in the capture of the perpetrators and their being brought to justice.
The Foreign Ministers of the Caribbean Community extend their deepest sympathy to the Government and people of Guyana and to the families of the victims, and their hopes for the full recovery of those persons who were wounded in the attack and who are currently receiving medical attention.
The Foreign Ministers pledged CARICOM’s full support to the Government and people of Guyana at this trying time.