COMMUNIQUE ISSUED AT THE CONCLUSION OF THE SIXTH UK-CARIBBEAN FORUM, 14-16 JULY 2008, LONDON, ENGLAND
Posted in: Communiques | 16 July 2008 | Release Ref #: 232/2008 | 1424
(CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana)
1. The Sixth UK-Caribbean Forum took place in London 14-16 July. The Forum was co-chaired by the Hon. Baldwin Spencer, Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of the Government of Antigua and Barbuda and current Chair of the Council for Foreign and Community Relations of the Caribbean Community, and by the Rt. Hon. David Miliband, MP, Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
2. The UK was also represented by Meg Munn, MP, Kim Howells, MP, Tony McNulty, MP, Shahid Malik, MP, Gareth Thomas, MP, and Lord Digby Jones also participated. On the Caribbean side, Saint Lucia was represented by Hon. Stephenson King, Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs; The Bahamas by the Honourable Brent Symonette, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Jamaica by the Honourable Dr Kenneth Baugh, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs. Also participating were the Honourable Christopher Sinckler, Foreign Minister of Barbados, the Honourable Wilfred Elrington Attorney-General and Foreign Minister of Belize, the Honourable Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, Foreign Minister of Guyana, and the Honourable Paula Gopee-Scoon, Foreign Minister of Trinidad and Tobago. Dominica, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Suriname were represented at the Ambassadorial level. Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Montserrat, Turks and Caicos Islands and the Dominican Republic were Observers.
3. Ministers met in formal session to discuss security, sustainable development, and economic development. They also held important discussions in retreat on a range of issues. UK and Caribbean Ministers agreed on priority actions which they committed to implement before the next Forum.
4. Ministers stressed the need for immediate action to address climate change. The UK agreed to fund capacity building initiatives in the Caribbean to facilitate a better understanding by policy-makers for climate change issues, and confirmed its commitment to supporting the development of a CARICOM Strategy on Climate Change and an economic impact review, and assisting the Region with its preparation for international negotiations on future global climate change frameworks and national development planning.
5. Ministers used the Forum to develop further, their understanding of the threat posed by climate change to security, prosperity and development and of the economic opportunities inherent in moving to a low carbon economy. They agreed that the threat to shared security and prosperity is real and acute and that urgent action is required by the international community. Ministers agreed they would continue to work actively to raise awareness of the threats of climate change, especially to regions such as the Caribbean, and to create the political conditions to make a rapid transition to a global low carbon economy.
6. Ministers pledged their support for a high ambition approach to the impact of climate change as outlined in the Bali Action Plan, and to work towards an agreement at the 2009 UNFCCC conference in Copenhagen for a comprehensive, global and long-term framework to address climate change. The UK will continue to offer global leadership in the fight against climate change and push for deeper absolute emission reduction commitments by all developed countries. Caribbean countries will continue their advocacy on behalf of small island and low lying coastal states and will continue to give priority to the development of adaptation strategies including through the critical work of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre.
7. Ministers recognised the need for all countries to consider measurable, reportable and verifiable mitigation action. The Ministers agreed that greater attention should be given in the international negotiations to supporting adaptation programmes in small vulnerable economies such as those in the Caribbean which contribute the least to global warming and climate change but are among the most vulnerable to the consequences of climate change.
8. Ministers noted that the future climate change agreement should take account of the increasing pressures on standing forests.
9. Ministers noted the successful international co-operation, including between the UK and the Caribbean Community, which had contributed to the security of the Cricket World Cup in 2007. Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to continued cooperation and agreed to review and implement the priority areas and elements of the UK-CARICOM security cooperation plan which are reflective of the post CWC- 2007 environment.
10. Ministers also reaffirmed their commitment to ensuring the security and prosperity of the Caribbean Region and acknowledged the need to continue efforts to strengthen current cooperation mechanisms. In particular, they identified the forthcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting scheduled to take place in Trinidad and Tobago in November 2009 as a major event requiring co-operation in the area of security.
11. Ministers recognised the multidimensional nature of the security threats and challenges facing the Caribbean Region, in particular, trafficking in drugs, small arms and light weapons (SALW), persons, transnational crime and terrorism, all of which contribute to the increasing level of violent crime and undermine stability, security and development.
12. Ministers welcomed the outcome of the Dublin Diplomatic Conference (19-30 May 2008) and the resulting new Convention on Cluster Munitions. They urged all states to consider joining the new Convention once it opens for signature in Oslo in December 2008.
13. Ministers welcomed the current UN process towards an Arms Trade Treaty and hoped that this will lead to the adoption of a robust treaty that will help prevent the irresponsible trade and transfer of conventional weapons.
14. Ministers acknowledged the judicial reform achieved to date in the Caribbean and agreed to support further plans as this is an integral part of addressing overall security concerns.
Millennium Development Goals
15. Ministers, while reaffirming their commitment to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) expressed deep concern over the impact which the global financial crisis and the increases in the price of energy and food are having on the ability of countries to achieve the MDGs and their associated targets. They highlighted the need for adequate financing, much of which would flow from a strengthened global partnership for development.
16. Ministers welcomed the progress already made in the Caribbean towards the attainment of the MDGs and recommitted themselves to achieving progress in those areas where progress has been difficult. Ministers also acknowledged the need for reliable and consistent data to track MDGs’ progress.
17. Ministers agreed that pro-poor economic growth is essential for the Region to reduce poverty and to generate the resources needed for the critical investments in infrastructure and service delivery needed to meet the MDGs. To this end, Ministers underscored the importance of enhancing regional integration; promoting trade; increasing private sector competitiveness; and addressing key social issues.
18. Ministers looked forward to the UN High Level Event on the MDGs in September as an opportunity to discuss these issues further, including the impact of rising commodity prices, and to agree on concrete actions for accelerating progress towards the MDGs. They also agreed that to deliver greatest impact this meeting should be attended at the highest level.
Graduation of Middle Income Countries
19. Ministers discussed the issue of a loss in development funding and assistance from UN agencies and International Financial Institutions, consequent on the graduation of some CARICOM countries to the Middle Income Country bracket. Ministers noted that such development assistance provided valuable partner funding and technical assistance to help countries tackle development challenges. Ministers agreed that small and vulnerable states of the Caribbean face particular realities and needs, and agreed to discuss this problem with UN agencies and International Financial Institutions.
Economic Partnership Agreement
20. Ministers noted that several CARICOM countries have completed their internal consultations and have expressed a readiness to sign with the EU the CARIFORUM-EC Economic Partnership Agreement initialled in December 2007. They also noted that Guyana would be undertaking national consultations to review aspects of the initialled EPA before taking a decision on signing. Ministers noted that the newly elected Government of Grenada would also be undertaking a review of the Agreement. The UK encouraged timely signing and implementation of the EPA to secure the trading relationship.
21. Ministers acknowledged that the EPA is intended to be a tool for promoting development in CARIFORUM. They were confident that a more secure access to EU markets combined with increased opportunities for regional trade would help to develop more competitive regional economic operators. Ministers also acknowledged the need to ensure that the resources of the 10th EDF Regional Envelope are prioritised to support regional economic integration and effective EPA implementation. Ministers agreed that coordinated Aid for Trade from EU Member States would be essential in assisting CARIFORUM countries to meet adjustment costs deriving from EPA implementation and in improving CARIFORUM competitiveness. They also looked forward to early contributions from the EU and its Member States to the CARIFORUM Regional Development Fund.
22. Ministers highlighted the importance of strengthening business links to maximise the opportunities provided by the EPA and welcomed the offer of the Caribbean-Britain Business Council to organise a series of seminars in the Caribbean in 2009 in order to assist the private sector in exploring the opportunities provided by the EPA.
23. Ministers acknowledged the importance of continued remunerative access to the EU market for Caribbean bananas and rice. In this regard they underscored the need for a balanced outcome of the ongoing discussions on the rebinding of the EU MFN tariff for bananas and on the treatment of rice in the ongoing WTO negotiations. Caribbean Ministers reiterated their position that a less than satisfactory outcome in respect of both products could result in a withholding of their support for any consensus in the Doha Development round. The UK while being sympathetic to the Caribbean also recognised the need for resolution in the context of the Doha Development Agenda. Ministers agreed that the UK Government would make every effort to influence the outcomes to achieve a balanced and satisfactory result for all parties. Ministers agreed on the need for continued EU support to enhance the export competitiveness of these two products.
24. Ministers shared their concerns about the impacts that high food prices are having, especially on the poorest in societies. Noting in particular the destabilising effects in many countries, Ministers agreed on the urgent need for a comprehensive short and long term response to the problem. Accordingly, they welcomed the swift international response to the World Food Programme’s emergency appeal and the creation of the UN High-Level Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis.
25. Ministers highlighted the importance of implementing the declaration agreed in Rome at the FAO High Level Conference on World Food Security and in this regard stressed the need for expedited implementation of the assistance promised to small states in the Caribbean. They agreed that to achieve this close co-operation between developing countries, donor countries, the private sector, NGOs and international organisations, would be essential. They also acknowledged that Markets which are competitive and open commensurate with countries’ level of economic development, facilitating increased agricultural development in developing countries and the sharing of technical expertise would be particularly important elements of the international response.
Education and Training
26. Ministers acknowledged the importance of education and training to the sustainable development of the Caribbean and the mutual benefits that have accrued over the years from the high level of education interchange between the Caribbean and the UK. Ministers agreed to work together to identify opportunities for supporting the Caribbean Community’s Open Campus concept and other initiatives such as the Caribbean Knowledge and Learning Network (CKLN). Ministers recognised the valuable contribution which the University of the West Indies had made to the Caribbean and its people over the last sixty years. Ministers underlined the need for continued support for this vital Caribbean institution which together with other institutions of higher education will be required to play a central role in meeting the human resource requirements of the Region in the twenty-first century.
27. Ministers acknowledged the importance of providing opportunities for the youth of the Region that would empower them to make a meaningful contribution to their countries’ development. Immigration
28. Ministers recognised the need to develop strong working relations on immigration issues, particularly in light of impending changes to the United Kingdom immigration policy and their potential impact on persons travelling from the Caribbean to the United Kingdom. In this regard Ministers agreed to the sharing of information on the proposed system
29. In addition Ministers identified the need to discuss further the sharing of information on criminals travelling between and being deported from the Caribbean and the UK.
Reform of the International Institutions
30. Ministers noted the need for change in the structure and function of the Bretton Woods Institutions, and that international organisations like the Commonwealth, whose member states include economies of all sizes in the international system, give the organisation the legitimacy to lead in the efforts to effect changes in the global financial institutions.
31. Ministers welcomed the mini-summit of the Commonwealth Heads of Government which agreed to undertake lobbying and advocacy in the Marlborough House Statement issued on 10th June 2008 in support of reform of international institutions.
32. While acknowledging the sovereignty of states to create and promote national policies and strategies, Ministers are increasingly aware that the basis for equitable and viable alternatives to the universality of rising fuel costs, diminishing food security, increased fall-out from the effects of climate change and the threat of terrorism must be generated from meaningful and inclusive international collaboration.
33. Ministers therefore called for a deepening of multilateral cooperation to identify creative and responsive means of building upon those precepts from which the international organizations originate. They further pressed for urgent reform of these global international institutions whose roles in identifying provisions to meet these challenges will influence global stability.
34. Ministers emphasised that the international institutions that were shaped in 1945 are no longer relevant in their current forms, given the challenges pervading the international system today, and were unanimous in their resolve that the development of small states must not be adversely affected by any reform, and that global problems can only be solved by greater support to small and developing countries.
CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME)
35. Ministers welcomed the progress being made with regard to the implementation of the CARICOM Single Market and the Economy, including the establishment of the CARICOM Competition Commission and the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ) and the implementation of the provisions governing the Free Movement of Skilled Nationals.
36. Ministers also welcomed the launch of the CARICOM Development Fund (CDF) which would assist disadvantaged Regions, countries and sectors in the Caribbean Community. Ministers recognised the importance of timely contributions from Member States, and looked forward to early contributions from the EU and its Member States and other international partners, in order to ensure the full capitalization of the Fund which is critical to the promotion of economic growth and development of the Caribbean Community.
37. Ministers expressed concern over the impact of high fuel costs on aviation services and consequently on the tourism sector which is of critical importance to many of the economies of CARICOM Member States. Ministers agreed on the need to work together to expand links and to minimise dislocations.
38. Ministers acknowledged the importance of the UK market to the Caribbean tourism industry. They noted that while visitor arrivals in the Caribbean were increasing, growing global competition from other all year-round warm weather destinations required the Region to place greater emphasis on regional marketing which would benefit from support from co-operation partners.
39. Ministers agreed on the need to give the widest possible promotion to CARIFESTA X which would take place in Guyana from August 22-31, 2008.
40. Ministers noted that the Governments of Belize and Guatemala have agreed to accept the recommendation of the Secretary-General of the Organization of American States (OAS) to take the issue of the territorial differendum to an international tribunal, specifically the International Court of Justice (ICJ), for a definitive solution. They further noted that both countries will need to comply with their internal constitutional and political commitments, and proceed with a national referendum for a final decision from their people. In this regard, the Ministers pledged their full support to the process in this critical phase of the negotiations.
41. Ministers welcomed the efforts being made by Guyana and Venezuela to enhance relations between them. The Ministers expressed the hope that the Good Offices process of the United Nations Secretary-General would soon be resuscitated and reaffirmed their unequivocal support for the maintenance of the territorial integrity of Guyana.
Contribution made by the MV Empire Windrush Generation
42. The Ministers noted that 22 June, 2008, marked the 60th Anniversary of the arrival of the MV Empire Windrush at Tilbury, the beginning of large scale Caribbean immigration to assist in Britain’s post war effort. In this respect, the Ministers recognized the significant contribution which these immigrants and their descendants have made and continue to make to the political, economic, cultural and social life of the United Kingdom.
43. Ministers welcomed the strong links between the UK and Caribbean Parliaments. They expressed satisfaction that the UK-Caribbean Parliamentary Forum had taken place on 15 July 2008, and that parliamentarians had had a productive exchange of views.
44. Caribbean Ministers expressed their appreciation to the Government and People of the United Kingdom for the excellent arrangements made for the hosting of this Sixth Forum. Hosting of Next Forum 45. Ministers agreed that the next UK-Caribbean Forum would be held in the Caribbean in 2010.