Communique Issued at the Conclusion of the Fourteenth Meeting of the Council of Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR)
Posted in: Communiques | 06 May 2011 | Release Ref #: NA | 1384
The Fourteenth Meeting of the Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR) of the Caribbean Community was held in Frigate Bay, St Kitts and Nevis, on 4-5 May 2011, under the Chairmanship of the Hon. Sam Condor, Minister for Foreign Affairs, National Security, Immigration, Labour and Social Security of St. Kitts and Nevis.
The Ministers attending were, the Hon. Winston Baldwin Spencer, Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Antigua and Barbuda, the Hon. T. Brent Symonette, M.P., Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of The Bahamas; Senator the Hon. Maxine McClean, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Barbados; the Hon. Wilfred Elrington, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belize, Dr. the Hon John Collin McIntyre, Minister for Employment, Trade, Industry and Diaspora Affairs of Dominica; the Hon Karl Hood, Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Environment, Foreign Trade and Export Development of Grenada; Senator the Hon. Marlene Malahoo Forte, Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Jamaica; the Hon. Rufus Bousquet, Minister for External Affairs, International Trade and Investment of Saint Lucia; the Hon. Dr. Douglas Slater, Minister for Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Consumer Affairs of St. Vincent and the Grenadines; and the Dr. the Hon. Surujrattan Rambachan Minister for Foreign Affairs of Trinidad and Tobago.
Ambassador Elisabeth Harper, Director-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs represented Guyana, His Excellency Antonio Rodrigue, Ambassador of Haiti to The Bahamas represented Haiti and Mr. Michel Kerpens, Special Envoy of the Minister of Foreign Affairs represented Suriname. Opening Ceremony The Prime Minister of the Federation of St Kitts and Nevis the Honourable Dr Denzil Douglas, Chairman of COFCOR, the Honourable Sam Condor, Minister for Foreign Affairs, National Security, Immigration, Labour and Social Security of St. Kitts and Nevis and the Secretary-General (ag) Ambassador Lolita Applewhaite addressed the opening ceremony. Acting Secretary General Applewhaite stressed the importance of diplomacy to small states such as the Member States of CARICOM. She reminded the meeting that one of the main weapons in the Community’s diplomatic arsenal was that of a co-ordinated foreign policy.
Chairman of COFCOR the Honourable Sam Condor urged his colleague Foreign Ministers to improve upon, “or devise, where applicable, strategies to engage those Nations of goodwill, who may be far apart in terms of geography, but very close in terms of productive bilateral exchanges that could redound to our mutual benefit. “ Prime Minister Douglas in his Feature Address said that in this era of economic, cultural, environmental, and other uncertainties, globally, CARICOM must maintain a clear vision of exactly where it is trying to go – socially, economically, politically. He added “we must have the structures, the communications systems, and the built-in flexibility to enable us to adjust and adapt our strategies – not our principles, but our strategies – as the world around us changes. As part of their two-day deliberations, the Ministers received the Honourable Kevin Rudd, MP, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Australia, and engaged in an exchange of views on issues of shared interest in international fora such as climate change and security.
The Ministers also received the Hon. Samuel Zbogar, Foreign Minister of Slovenia who expressed his country’s interest in deepening relations with the Community. Ministers received as well Special Envoys from the governments of Azerbaijan, Hungary and South Africa. They welcomed Azerbaijan’s interest in developing mutually beneficial co-operation with the countries of the Community particularly in the areas of natural disasters and diplomacy. The Ministers noted Hungary’s offer of assistance in areas related to the environment, in particular in the field of water management and expressed strong interest in cooperation to reduce the incidence of chronic NCDs in CARICOM COFCOR expressed appreciation for South Africa’s support in promoting the interest of CARICOM in fora in which the Community was not represented. They also received an update from the Special Envoy on preparations for the African Diaspora Summit to be held in South Africa in 2012. Update on Developments in Haiti The Ministers noted the completion of the successful rounds of elections in Haiti, culminating in the election of President-elect Michele Martelly.
They commended the role played by the CARICOM-OAS Joint Electoral Observer Mission (JEOM) headed by Ambassador Colin Granderson, Assistant Secretary-General of Foreign and Community Relations of the CARICOM Secretariat. They noted the advances made by the Community to support its Member State in its reconstruction efforts, including the Non-Reciprocal Preferential Access into the CARICOM Market for certain Haitian Goods and mobilizing and facilitating the Region’s private sector in support of Haiti’s redevelopment. The Ministers commended the continuing efforts of the CARICOM Special Representative of Heads of Government on Haiti and thanked the Government of Suriname for its generous support in facilitating the operations and the work of the Office. Ministers reiterated that planning and implementation of development policies and programmes in support of Haiti must respond to the priorities articulated by the Government of Haiti. To this end they urged the international community to deliver on their pledged financial commitments to Haiti and to accelerate the disbursement of those pledges.
The COFCOR reaffirmed its recommendation for the appointment of Ambassador Colin Granderson as the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General to Haiti. They further called for a renewed mandate which should be amended to enable the MINUSTAH to play a greater developmental role in Haiti’s reconstruction process. Co-ordination of Foreign Policy The COFCOR engaged in vigorous debate on the issue of foreign policy co-ordination, noting that this tool had assumed increased relevance in the context of the rapidly changing global environment. The Ministers highlighted the many successes achieved by the Community through foreign policy coordination and agreed that its numbers should be utilized as an important asset in leveraging the Community’s influence in international fora. The Ministers reaffirmed their resolve to strengthen the mechanisms established to facilitate dialogue and consultation among Member States with a view to further enhancing the Community’s coordination of its foreign policy.
Priority Issues and Focus of the Community in the Context of its Political and External Relations The Ministers supported the need for a revised list of priority issues, and emphasized the need for ongoing analysis of the developments and changes in the international community which can have an impact on the Community. Relations with Third Countries and Groups of Countries The COFCOR reviewed the Community’s relations with a number of traditional partners such as Canada, Japan, the United States of America and the United Kingdom, noting the progress made in the strengthening of relations with a number of Third Countries since its last Meeting through inter alia, encounters at the Ministerial and Summit levels. They further discussed the coordination of the Community’s positions on a number of issues of strategic interest to the Region in preparation for scheduled interface with Third countries and groups of countries for the remainder of 2011, including the Caribbean and Latin American Countries (CALC) Summit, the 2011 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), the UK-Caribbean Forum, the CARICOM –SICA Summit and the Fourth CARICOM-Cuba Summit.
The Ministers were disheartened at the second postponement of the UK-Caribbean Forum, but looks forward to continued engagement with the UK as a long-standing ally at the highest political level at the rescheduled forum proposed for the Autumn of 2011. The COFCOR welcomed the delay in the increase of the Advanced Passenger Duty to 2012 and the indication of the willingness of the UK Government to explore, in consultation with the Caribbean Tourism Organization, the formulation of a less arbitrary banding system that would minimize market distortions. The COFCOR also reviewed relations between the Community and more recent partners such as Austria, Australia and Brazil and reviewed strategies for further enhancing these new relationships. With respect to Canada, Ministers noted the results of the national elections held on 2 May 2011 in which the Conservative Party emerged victorious in the polls.
The Ministers expressed their hope for the continued strengthening of the excellent ties with Canada under the new government and looked forward to the traditional engagements with the Foreign Minister of Canada in the margins of the Forty First General Assembly of the OAS to be held in El Salvador in June 2011. The Ministers engaged in discussions regarding the Region’s strategic approach to future CARICOM-USA engagements. While noting the progress made with regard to some of the initiatives to advance President Obama’s promise for a “new chapter of engagement” with the Caribbean which he proffered at the Fifth Summit of the Americas in April 2009, they expressed concern that the Summit which had been promised with President Obama in 2009 had not yet taken place.
The Ministers viewed as critical the opportunity to engage the US Secretary of State in the traditional meeting between CARICOM Foreign Ministers and the US Secretary of State in the margins of the 41st OAS General Assembly. They took the opportunity to extend their deepest sympathy to the Government and people of the USA for the loss of life and those affected by the recent tornadoes in the southern, eastern and Midwestern US. The Ministers expressed their deepest sympathy to the Government and People of Japan following the devastation wrought by the tsunami spawned by the largest earthquake in Japan’s recorded history in March 2011. The COFCOR acknowledged with appreciation, the role played by Japan as a long-standing and committed partner to the Region. The COFCOR noted the developments in CARICOM’s technical cooperation with the Republic of Korea, and welcomed and endorsed their expression of interest to convene the Second Meeting of the CARICOM-Korea Consultation and Cooperation Mechanism before the end of the year. Ministers also reviewed the significant advances made to date in implementing projects and activities facilitated under the Memorandum of Understanding for Technical Cooperation signed between Australia and the Community in November 2009. Ministers reiterated their appreciation to the Australian Government for its continued assistance particularly with respect to Haiti. The COFCOR reaffirmed the importance of the Commonwealth and the commitment to its shared values and principles of the Member States of that organisation. Commonwealth Member States of the COFCOR welcomed the opportunity to engage traditional Commonwealth partners on matters relating to the Region’s current priorities at the CHOGM in October 2011. In this regard, the COFCOR noted the offer of Trinidad and Tobago in its capacity as Chair-in-Office of the Commonwealth, to assist in advancing the interests of member states within the Forum of the Commonwealth and CMAG. With regard to relations with Africa, the COFCOR recognized the increasingly important geo-economic and political influence of the continent and discussed measures for enhancing the relationship, including through greater collaboration between the CARICOM and African Union Secretariats. The Ministers further welcomed the re-launch of the AU African Diaspora process as a means of further consolidating and developing new political, economic and social ties between Africa and the Caribbean. In that context the Ministers received a briefing from the Special Envoy of the Government of South Africa which included matters relating to the preparatory meeting in New York next September prior to the Durban Summit on the Diaspora in 2012. Caribbean Sea COFCOR considered the matter of the Caribbean Sea and endorsed the proposal for operationalising the Caribbean Sea Commission as a key regional ocean’s governance mechanism. International Security Issues The COFCOR considered a number of initiatives for intensifying action nationally, regionally and internationally for further enhancing the Region’s security. In this context, they considered the forthcoming negotiation of an Arms Trade Treaty to be of special importance and endorsed the Draft CARICOM Declaration on Small Arms and Light Weapons. Ministers discussed the Region’s involvement in the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) and welcomed the establishment of the CBSI Commission and the technical Working Groups as well as preparations for the second CARICOM-US Security Co-operation Dialogue to be held in The Bahamas in October 2011 Piracy in the Gulf of Aden Ministers expressed their concern at the continued occurrence of pirate attacks against merchant vessels operating in the waters of the Gulf of Aden as well as in the more open seas of the Somali Basin which is costing approximately US $7 billion in losses per year to the shipping industry. Ministers also expressed concern at the fact that CARICOM nationals who are employed on these merchant vessels are at risk of injury or being taken hostage. They noted vessels registered in the Community traverse these waters. They also noted the global mechanisms to combat piracy and encouraged Member States to continue participating in efforts in the International Maritime Organisation and the United Nations to combat piracy. United Nations Underscoring the importance CARICOM attaches to the United Nations as a principal forum for multilateral exchange. Ministers exchanged views on a number of issues being discussed in that forum which are of critical importance to the Region. In that regard, COFCOR highlighted the importance to the Region of ensuring that its interests and priorities are reflected in the outcomes of the forthcoming High Level Meeting on Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases which is a positive result of the co-ordination of foreign policy of the Community. Ministers also indicated that Member States would be represented at the highest levels at the United Nations High Level Conference on HIV/AIDS scheduled for June in New York Ministers also expressed the need for a similar approach to ensure that the Region’s priorities are fully reflected in the outcomes of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20 meeting) in 2012. The Ministers commended the Honourable Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, Prime Minister of Barbados for his appointment to the United Nations Secretary General’s High Level Panel on Global Sustainability (GSP) and welcomed Barbados’ offer to present to the Panel, issues of relevance to CARICOM. The COFCOR noted CARICOM’S leadership role in the bid to erect a Permanent Memorial to honour the victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Ministers appreciated the progress made by the Permanent Memorial Committee in advancing the Project. The COFCOR welcomed the passing of the resolution with respect to the Participation of the European Union in the work of the United Nations. The Ministers noted that the Interpretative Declaration on the Resolution issued by the CARICOM Permanent Representatives reflected fully the manner in which it expected the provisions of the Resolution to be honoured. The Ministers expressed concern at the on-going situation in the Middle East. They expressed the hope for the creation of stable harmonious relationships in the region with a strengthening of democracy and respect for human rights. The Ministers issued a statement which is attached. Organisation of American States (OAS) Ministers exchanged views on important issues before the Organisation of American States (OAS) in preparation for their participation in the upcoming Fortieth OAS General Assembly scheduled to be held in El Salvador on 5-7 June 2011. The COFCOR reaffirmed its support for the role of the OAS in contributing to the restoration of normalcy in Honduras. Climate Change The Ministers agreed that the issue of Climate Change continued to pose a major challenge for the Region and that this item should remain on the agenda of COFCOR Meetings. They noted the decisions reached at the COP 16 which was held in Mexico in December 2010 and in particular welcomed the establishment of new governance bodies of the Convention, including: the Adaptation Committee, the Board of the Green Climate Fund, the Transitional Committee and the Standing Committee; and the Technology Executive Committee. They also welcomed the commitment from developed countries to provide additional resources and agreed that the Region should seek to gain access to these resources through the submission of fungible projects. They further reaffirmed their commitment to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiating process in the build up to and at COP 17 in South Africa in December 2011 and underlined the importance of CARICOM’s active participation, as members of both AOSIS and SIDS in the negotiations leading up to and at COP 17. Border Issues Guyana-Venezuela Ministers noted with satisfaction the continued growth, maturity and deepening of relations between the Republic of Guyana and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and expressed the view that this positive and sustained friendly climate in the relationship between the two countries was conducive to the realization of the mandate of the Good Offices Process. Ministers reaffirmed their unequivocal support for the maintenance and safeguarding of Guyana’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. Belize-Guatemala Ministers noted the report on the status of Belize-Guatemala relations and the commitment of the two countries to conduct the simultaneous referenda to decide whether to refer the territorial dispute to the International Court of Justice for final settlement as required by the Special Agreement. They welcomed the efforts of both countries to improve the effectiveness of the Agreement on Confidence Building Measures to reduce tensions, pending a final resolution to the territorial dispute and to develop modes of functional cooperation in areas of mutual concern. Ministers commended the support of the Group of Friends and the Organisation of American States (OAS) in helping to maintain peace and stability in the Region and called on the international community to continue to support the OAS and the two countries in this respect. Ministers welcomed the establishment of an office of the OAS located in Belize along Adjacency Zone which straddles both borders. Ministers also noted that the Guatemalan Congress had given the legislative approval for the referendum in that country, and that both Belize and Guatemala had to agree on the date for the referendum to be held. The Ministers reaffirmed their unequivocal support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Belize. The Role of Civil Society in the Caribbean Community COFCOR reaffirmed the important role of Civil Society in the regional integration process and welcomed the renewed thrust which has been facilitated by the CARICOM Civil Society Project with assistance from the European Union. COFCOR welcomed the proposal for convening a technical meeting of representatives of Government and civil society to facilitate joint consideration of the Regional Strategic Framework and Plan of Action with a view to agreeing on an implementation plan to be presented to the relevant decision-making bodies of the Community. CARICOM Electoral Observer Missions COFCOR noted the successful mounting of CARICOM Electoral Observer Missions since 2000 and reiterated the Community’s commitment to the practice of fielding the Missions which has been an integral element of efforts to foster democratic principles and the rule of law which underpin the tradition of good governance in the Caribbean Community; Common Fisheries Policy for the Caribbean Community The Ministers noted the Multi-Disciplinary Workshop convened in Guyana on 12 – 14 April 2011 by the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM), and in particular the draft agreement agreed to at that Meeting which will be submitted for the consideration of the Ministerial Council of the CRFM and the relevant organs of the Community. The COFCOR further acknowledged its role in the effective management, conservation and utilization of fisheries resources in accordance with the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas and therefore its essential part in the development of the Common Fisheries Policy. Regional Colloquium for Female Leaders The COFCOR welcomed the initiative of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago to host a Regional Colloquium for Female Leaders from 29-30 June 2011 and noted with interest the proposal that a High-Level Colloquium for Women Leaders be convened in New York in September 2011. Appreciation The Ministers expressed their deep appreciation to the Government and people of St. Kitts and Nevis for the warm hospitality, excellent arrangements and courtesies extended which greatly facilitated the fruitful deliberations of the Fourteenth Meeting of the COFCOR. St. Kitts and Nevis 5 May 2011 STATEMENTS Statement on the Middle East The COFCOR reviewed recent developments in the Middle East and expressed the hope for a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the creation of lasting peace and stability in the Region. The COFCOR reiterated the Community’s long standing and unwavering solidarity with, and commitment to, the just and legitimate aspirations of the people of Palestine for the exercise of their right to self determination and to achieve a homeland of their own, independent, free, prosperous and at peace. The Council further reiterated its support for a two state solution to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict with the people of Israel and Palestine living side by side in their free and independent countries in peace, prosperity and harmony and within secure and internationally recognised borders. The COFCOR took note of the recognition of Palestine as an independent State by two of its Member States – Guyana and Suriname. The COFCOR took note of the reconciliation between the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) and Fatah. Statement on Libya The COFCOR reiterates previously expressed concerns raised by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) over the loss of lives during protests in the Middle East and Northern Africa. The COFCOR acknowledges and respects the intent of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 1973 which was adopted on March 7, 2011 authorizing the use of all necessary measures including a no-fly zone to prevent further casualties and loss of innocent lives in Libya. The COFCOR is deeply concerned and distressed over the continued loss of life and calls for an immediate cessation of indiscriminate actions that result in injury and death to civilians and destruction of infrastructure. In this regard, the COFCOR urges all parties involved in particular the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and the UNSC to ensure that the mandate of the UNSC Resolution 1973 is strictly adhered to and its integrity respected. The COFCOR strongly endorses the proposals of the African Union in finding a speedy resolution of the crisis that would reflect the legitimate demands and aspirations of the Libyan people.