The Tenth Meeting of the Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR) of the Caribbean Community was held in Belize City, Belize, 10-11 May 2007, under the chairmanship of the Hon. Eamon Courtenay, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Belize. The Ministers attending were: the Hon. W. Baldwin Spencer, Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Antigua and Barbuda; the Hon. Dame Billie Miller, DA, BCH, Senior Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Barbados; the Hon. Charles Savarin, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Labour, Dominica; the Hon. Elvin Nimrod, Attorney General and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Grenada; the Hon. S.R. Insanally, OR, CCH, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Guyana; the Hon. Jean Renald Clerisme, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Haiti; Dr. the Hon. Timothy Harris, Minister of Foreign Affairs, St. Kitts and Nevis; the Hon. Rufus Bousquet, Minister of External Affairs, Financial Services, Information and Broadcasting, Saint Lucia; the Hon. Michael Browne, Minister of National Mobilisation and Social Development, St. Vincent and the Grenadines; the Hon. Lygia L.L. Kraag-Keteldijk, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Suriname; and the Hon. Arnold Piggott, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Trinidad and Tobago.
His Excellency Peter Black, Ambassador to the Caribbean Community represented Jamaica. Mr. Hugh Chase, Deputy Director of Foreign Trade, represented The Bahamas.
His Excellency Edwin Carrington, Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community, in remarks at the Opening Ceremony stressed the importance of co-operation and co-ordination among Member States and cited the success of the Community’s arrangements made for security and other related matters for the Cricket World Cup 2007 as a good example.
The Secretary-General highlighted the efforts of the Community to insert itself positively into the hemispheric arena and asserted that despite the Community’s size it could still make a difference in the international community with its vision and ideas.
The outgoing chairman of the COFCOR, the Hon. Elvin Nimrod, Attorney-General and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade of Grenada, urged that the spirit of co-operation attained during the Cricket World Cup be used to achieve other goals.
The Minister lauded the preparation for the Conference on the Caribbean – A 2020 Vision to be held in Washington, D.C., USA, on 19-21 June 2007 and urged that “everything in our power” must be done to ensure that the Conference redounded to the benefit of the Region.
Chairman of COFCOR, the Hon. Eamon Courtenay, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Belize, alluded to the concurrent Presidency Pro Tempore of Belize of the Central American Integration System (SICA) and Chairmanship of the COFCOR and noted that the theme of “Linking Central America and the Caribbean Community” symbolised both the country’s role as a bridge between the two regions and the “necessity and inevitability of co-operation and integration between our regions.”
The Minister warned that as small states in a Region of diminishing geo-political importance, the task of mere survival required collective commitment, intellect and action.
The Chairman highlighted the issue of climate change and its critical importance to the Region. He said it was a developmental issue impacting food security, tourism, migration, marine industry and other natural resources and called for serious political attention to be paid to the issue in order to address the dangers identified by the scientific community.
The International Environment
The Ministers reflected on trends and developments in the international political, economic and security environment which form the backdrop against which the Tenth Meeting was being held, and the resulting opportunities and challenges.
The Ministers underlined the importance of a concerted approach by the Region to these opportunities and challenges and committed their countries to the pursuit of closer co-operation in the conduct of their external relations at the regional, hemispheric and international levels. The Ministers agreed that the modalities proposed for the co-ordination of the foreign policies of Member States adopted, as part of the regional strategy in 2003, should be re-energised with even greater use made of the Bureau of COFCOR and increased co-operation among senior officials, making maximum use of communications technology.
The Ministers expressed the Caribbean Community’s grave concern at the continuing deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Darfur and the impact on the neighbouring countries in that African region. The Community calls for an immediate ceasefire and the cessation of violent attacks against civilians as well as aid and relief workers. The Community urges all parties to the conflict to engage in constructive dialogue in order to achieve peace and stability in the region. At the same time, the Community notes the co-operative effort between the United Nations and the African Union in working towards the resolution of the conflict, inter alia, through the deployment of a joint peacemaking force to the affected area. The Caribbean Community urges all parties to work towards a comprehensive solution to the crisis within the shortest possible timeframe in accordance with Security Council Resolution 1755 (2007).
The Ministers expressed their grave concern over the deterioration of the human rights situation in Zimbabwe, in particular, the continued repression of opposition by the Government and the violation of civil and political rights to assembly and free speech.
The Ministers reaffirmed their concern for the vulnerability of the Region to the adverse impacts of climate change and called for concerted action at all levels to address this imminent danger. They agreed to keep the issue of Climate Change permanently on their agenda and lauded the work being undertaken by the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, located in Belize.
The Ministers expressed their full support for the appointment by the UN Secretary-General of three Special Envoys on Climate Change, who are tasked with assessing the concerns of stakeholders in the various UN geographical regions over the emerging threats of climate change and informing the Secretary-General thereon. In this regard, they called on ECOSOC to convene a special session of Foreign Ministers during the forthcoming session of the UN General Assembly to address the issue of climate change.
CARICOM-Central America Relations
The Ministers expressed satisfaction with the advances in CARICOM-Central America relations which were solidified with the signing of the CARICOM – Central America Integration System (SICA) Plan of Action in February 2007. They noted Belize’s current Presidency Pro Tempore of SICA and supported the role of Belize as the interlocutor between the two sub-regions. The Ministers recalled the series of joint meetings that have been held between CARICOM and Central America during the six month Presidency of Belize, such as the Joint Meeting of Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministers of both sub-regions in February and their discussions with Central American Foreign Ministers on 11 May 2007, as well as the Second Summit of Heads of State and/or Government of CARICOM and Central America scheduled for 12 May 2007. They encouraged full participation in the upcoming joint meetings scheduled to be held in Belize, among them, the Joint Meeting of Ministers of Education of CARICOM and Central America scheduled for 28-29 May 2007 and the Joint Meeting of Ministers of the Environment in June 2007.
They further encouraged greater co-operation among representatives of both regions in engagements in international fora on issues of shared interests.
Conference on the Caribbean
The Ministers underlined the importance attached by the Community to the Conference on the Caribbean, to be held in Washington, D.C., USA on 19-21 June 2007, as a vehicle for deepening and strengthening relations at all levels between CARICOM and the United States.
The Ministers highlighted the fact that the Conference is being organised to facilitate interaction at three levels, government to government, government to people and people to people and emphasised the Community’s commitment to being fully represented at the highest possible level at all the events of the Conference.
The Ministers welcomed the advances made in the preparations for the Conference and commended the efforts of those involved in the process.
The Ministers expressed satisfaction with the efforts made by Guyana and Venezuela to maintain good relations and reiterated their full support for the maintenance of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Guyana.
They noted the endeavours being made by the two countries within the ambit of the Geneva Agreement to find a means of settlement of the controversy that arose from the Venezuelan contention that the 1899 Arbitral Award is null and void.
The Ministers received the following report on the ongoing negotiation process between the Government of Belize and the Government of Guatemala:
The Governments of Belize and Guatemala met under the auspices of the OAS on 16 April 2007 at the OAS Headquarters in Washington, D.C., USA. The parties agreed to move forward with the purchasing of land in Guatemala for the resettlement of illegal settlers in Santa Rosa.
Belize, Guatemala and Honduras also received a draft agreement, prepared by the OAS, seeking to make arrangements for the territorial seas, use, and definition of the Exclusive Economic Zone and for the creation of a park for the husbandry of resources in the Gulf of Honduras. This draft agreement is being considered by the parties and the intention is to have a technical meeting between the parties.
Finally, Belize and Guatemala requested the OAS to prepare an “Issues Paper” on the various issues which are attendant to resolving the Differendum by judicial process. This paper will provide a basis for the parties to explore fully this option.
CARICOM Special Visa Regime
The Ministers received a report on the operation of the CARICOM Special Visa Regime implemented for the Cricket World Cup 2007 which expires on 15 May 2007. They noted the overall success of the regime, notwithstanding the challenges, and agreed to a process which would include a review of the operations with a view to determining the feasibility of making it permanent.
Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade
The Ministers acknowledged the pivotal role that the Region played in bringing about the adoption on 28 November 2006 of resolutions at the United Nations General Assembly in recognition of the 200th Anniversary of the Proclamation of the Abolition of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.
In commemoration of this anniversary, the Community has advanced the theme ‘Lest we forget’, in order to keep alive the memory that that dark period in the Region’s history, characterised by sufferings, death, degradation and humiliation, had left telling marks on the Region’s economic, social and cultural psyche, which still present modern-day challenges to the Region’s growth and development pursuits.
Even as the Region celebrates its diversity, resilience and stoicism, born out of the legacy of slavery and conquest, it calls on the beneficiaries of this act of inhumanity to exercise their moral obligation to ‘right a historical wrong’, and to work collectively with the Caribbean and Africa to construct lasting and positive symbols of light emerging from darkness for present and future generations.
The Ministers endorsed proposals by the Rt. Hon Owen Arthur, Prime Minister of Barbados, for the establishment of a William Wilberforce Educational Fund and for the resuscitation of the Multiracial Centre at the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies as practical ways for extending reparations to the progeny of those who suffered in the slave trade.
Organisation of American States
The importance of the Inter-American process was discussed as a very significant component of the Region’s multilateral and hemispheric cooperation mechanism. The Ministers expressed condolences to the Government of Barbados on the recent passing of the Hon. Val McComie, the first Caribbean national to be appointed to high office in the Inter-American system.
The Ministers underlined the role which CARICOM States play in the Inter-American System and the opportunities provided to support the strengthening of inter-state relation in the hemisphere. They applauded the moves by the OAS to broaden the traditional focus of the Organisation on democracy, good governance and the rule of law. The Ministers reiterated the importance attached by the Region to these issues and applauded the continuing OAS initiatives to focus on development and the multidimensional nature of security.
They welcomed their interaction with the OAS Assistant Secretary-General, Ambassador Albert Ramdin, on developments in the OAS and the hemisphere.
The Ministers agreed that the Region should continue to pursue a coordinated approach on issues on the UN General Assembly agenda and reiterated the Region’s call for the newly established Human Rights Council to serve as the primary United Nations forum for the consideration of matters relating to human rights. The Ministers endorsed Haiti’s bid to chair the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and committed their membership to provide support to Haiti in this position on its election.
The Ministers emphasised the importance attached by the Region to the ongoing debate on UN system-wide coherence, in particular, the recommendations of the High-Level Panel on System Coherence. They also highlighted the need for a unified position by the Region on the issue of Security Council reform and mandated the Caucus of Permanent Representatives to remain actively engaged in the debate on the various options which UN member states are being asked to consider, including the option of a transitional approach to Security Council reform as an intermediary arrangement, subject to a mandatory review on a predetermined date.
The Ministers underscored the importance to the Region of the upcoming High-Level Dialogue on Financing for Development and the Follow-up International Conference, to be held in Qatar in 2008, and noted that these important events will occur during Antigua and Barbuda’s Chairmanship of the Group of 77 and China.
Association of Caribbean States
The Ministers emphasised the importance they attach to the strengthening of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) as a vehicle for political engagement with the countries of the wider Caribbean and for functional co-operation. They reiterated the Region’s continued support for the ACS and looked forward to even stronger involvement of the ACS membership in areas of priority established in that organisation.
Caribbean Sea Initiative
The Ministers welcomed the establishment of the Caribbean Sea Commission of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS), as well as the passing, at the 61st Session of the United Nations General Assembly, of the resolution entitled: “Toward the sustainable development of the Caribbean Sea for present and future generations”.
The Ministers also underlined the importance of the work of the Commission in the implementation of the Caribbean Sea Initiative, in collaboration with relevant regional and international stakeholders.
They emphasised their commitment to the work of the Commission and called on the international and donor communities to support it fully.
The Ministers expressed satisfaction at the successful outcome of the 19th Summit of the Rio Group which was held under Guyana’s chairmanship in March 2007.
They noted the important priorities established at the meeting, including the need: to address the social problems of Latin America and the Caribbean region; to redress the asymmetries which currently exist in the levels of development of member countries; and to promote the democratisation of international relations to allow developing countries to have a greater say in the decision-making process in matters of interest and concern to them.
The Ministers acknowledged the important role played by the Rio Group as a permanent mechanism for political dialogue and consultation with other countries and groups of countries and accordingly called for its further strengthening.
The Ministers congratulated Guyana on its effective chairmanship of the Group as CARICOM’s representative and extended their best wishes to the Dominican Republic, the current chairman.
The Ministers looked forward to the holding of the Second Meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of CARICOM and Cuba, which will take place in St Vincent and the Grenadines over the period 29-30 May 2007 and which will provide an opportunity for dialogue on the vibrant co-operation programme between the two sides and on issues of regional and international importance.
Statement on Luis Posada Carriles
The Ministers noted that Luis Posada Carriles, a primary suspect in the 1976 bombing of a Cubana aircraft over international waters off the coast of Barbados, was recently released by the US courts of immigration charges. They recalled the shared commitment of CARICOM and the United States in the fight against terrorism, an area in which the United States has played a leading role on the international stage, as well as their shared undertakings as members of the international community, in keeping with the United Nations Security Council Resolutions on the subject, to bring to justice suspected terrorists. The Ministers therefore reiterated their expectation that the Government of the United States would take appropriate action against the suspected terrorist at present in its jurisdiction. They emphasised that justice was necessary to bring closure to the families of the 73 passengers whose lives were lost in this tragedy, an event which still evokes outrage and painful memories in the Caribbean from whence the majority of the victims originated.
The Ministers expressed their deep appreciation to the Government and people of Belize for the warm reception afforded them on their arrival and the hospitality extended which contributed in no small measure to the successful outcome of the meeting.
Date and Venue of Next Meeting
The Ministers accepted the offer of the Government of Antigua and Barbuda to host the Eleventh Meeting of the COFCOR in that country on 12-13 May 2008.
Belize City, Belize
11 May, 2007