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Posted in: Communiques | 09 May 2009 | Release Ref #: 144/2009 | 1054

    The Twelfth Meeting of the Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR) of the Caribbean Community was held in Kingston, Jamaica 8-9 May 2009, under the Chairmanship of the Hon. Dr. Kenneth Baugh, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Jamaica. The Ministers attending were, the Hon. Winston Baldwin Spencer, Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Antigua and Barbuda, the Hon. T. Brent Symonette, M.P., Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of The Bahamas; Senator, the Hon. Maxine McClean, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Barbados; the Hon. Vince Henderson, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Dominica; the Hon. C Peter David, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Tourism, Grenada; the Hon. Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, MP, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and International Cooperation, Guyana; the Hon. Alrich Nicolas, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Haiti; the Hon. Rufus Bousquet, Minister of External Affairs, International Trade and Investment, Saint Lucia; Her Excellency Lygia L.I. Kraag-Keteldijk, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Suriname; and the Hon. Paula Gopee-Scoon, M.P., Minister of Foreign Affairs, Trinidad and Tobago.

    His Excellency Alexis Rosado, Chief Executive Officer, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, represented Belize; Ms. Astona Browne, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs represented St. Kitts and Nevis; and His Excellency Camillo Gonsalves, Permanent Representative to the United Nations represented St. Vincent and the Grenadines. .

    Opening Ceremony

    The Secretary General emphasized the critical need for foreign policy coordination within the Community at a juncture when it is forced to grapple with a rapidly changing international environment. The Secretary-General entreated the COFCOR in determining its relationships and adopting positions, to strive to arrive at collective positions which advance and protect the interests of the Community. He cautioned against the danger of marginalisation of the Community’s interests in the global arena and pointed to the need to ensure that in a world of shifting balance of political and economic power, CARICOM’S voice continues to be heard as it seeks to provide a viable, secure and sustainable Community.

    Outgoing Chairman of the COFCOR, the Honourable Baldwin Spencer, Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Antigua and Barbuda commended the COFCOR for the progress made in strengthening foreign policy coordination and in interfacing with third states. He noted that these efforts were even more important in the context of the pressing global concerns including the financial and economic crisis, security threats and energy security among others with regard to his stewardship as outgoing chairman, he cited the various successful interactions which the Community has held with third states during the past year,.

    Prime Minister Spencer urged the COFCOR to develop a political and economically integrated approach to the Community’s social development.

    The Chairman of the COFCOR, the Hon. Dr Kenneth Baugh, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Jamaica underscored COFCOR’s crucial responsibility to ensure the effective, strategic and well-devised coordination of the Community’s foreign policy at a critical junction in the life of the Community. The addition of new challenges resulting from the global economic crisis added to the old ones threatened the advances made by the Community and had the potential to increase its vulnerability. However, these challenges were not in surmountable if the Community’s responses were coordinated and strategic.

    He viewed the meeting of the COFCOR as timely, coming as it did on the heels of major meetings such as the successful Fifth Summit of the Americas which had raised the profile of the Community, and the G20 meeting on the economic and financial crisis. Underlining the importance of the Community’s engagement with Latin America, he also urged his fellow Ministers to monitor closely the developments in the global arena, and to take the required actions to protect the Region’s interests. In this regard he highlighted the coordination function of a revitalised COFCOR Bureau. Minister Baugh encouraged the COFCOR to remain vigilant and to exercise effective ownership of the Community’s agreed development policies.

    The Honourable Bruce Golding, Prime Minister of Jamaica highlighted the strengths and assets of the Community, noting that over the years, CARICOM had forged a strong and impressive tradition of foreign policy, thus commanding significant attention and respect in the international arena. The Prime Minister mooted that it was these assets that would have to be brought to the fore in the context of the extensive, pervasive crisis currently gripping the world.

    Prime Minister Golding urged CARICOM not to be daunted by the existing and the emerging challenges of the global arena, but to instead grab hold of the opportunities presented, and to draw collectively on the strength which must come from within. The Prime Minister noted the recent discussions with President Obama held within the margins of the Fifth Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago in April 2009, and welcomed the willingness shown by the US President to engage anew with the Caribbean. He emphasized the role which CARICOM needs to play in shaping and defining this new engagement.

    With respect to the CARIFORUM-EC EPA, the Prime Minister urged the Region to be bold and to embrace the opportunities offered by the new partnership with Europe. He further urged the Region to recognise that similar opportunities may be secured under the proposed trade and development agreement with Canada.

    Turning to Cuba, Prime Minister Golding referred to the window of opportunity for ending the Cuban Government’s exclusion from the Inter American system, stressing that the normalization of relations with Cuba should be treated not as a deed, but as a process which must be handled very carefully, and which must place the interests of the People of Cuba above everything else. CARICOM-US Relations

    As part of their two-day deliberations, the Ministers received Mr. Thomas Shannon, US Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere, US Department of State. The Assistant Secretary of State affirmed the interest of the United States in collaborating with CARICOM on a number of matters including hemispheric relations, trade and investment, security, particularly concerning the illicit trafficking of drugs and of small arms and the implementation of a mechanism to enhance CARICOM-US Dialogue.

    In this regard, both sides looked forward to discussions between CARICOM Foreign Ministers and the US Secretary of State during the OAS General Assembly. They also reaffirmed their commitment to the convening of a Summit between CARICOM Heads of State and Government and the US President in the latter half of 2009.


    Ministers recognized the emerging challenges and the negative effects posed by the global financial and economic crisis. COFCOR agreed to monitor the situation, given its implications on economic and social development of Member States. The Ministers underscored their intention to advance vigorously the Region’s position on the issue in the relevant international fora. In this regard, the COFCOR agreed that CARICOM states should be represented at the highest possible level at the United Nations Conference on World Financial and Economic Crisis and its Impact on Development scheduled to take place in New York, from 1-3 June 2009, at the United Nations Headquarters.

    A Caucus of the Heads of State and Government of CARICOM to discuss the impact of and response to the crisis has been convened by the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago on 24 May 2009 in Port-of-Spain.


    The COFCOR endorsed the proposal emanating from the Fifth Summit of the Americas for the establishment of a hemispheric development fund for Haiti. Ministers acknowledged the considerable development assistance being granted to Haiti by bilateral and multilateral donors and underscored the need for donor assistance to support in particular the development of Haiti’s productive sectors.

    Ministers agreed to hold consultations with the relevant stakeholders with a view to having the proposal tabled at the General Assembly of the Organisation of American States to be held in San Pedro Sula, Honduras in June 2009 and for the issue of an appropriate declaration on the matter by the General Assembly.


    Ministers considered the Community’s evolving relations with the European Union and European Member States in the context, inter alia, of the recently- concluded EU-CARIFORUM Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) and the EU-ACP Cotonou Agreement, which is scheduled for review in 2010. COFCOR reaffirmed the Community’s desire to enhance relations with the EU and its Member States, including the EU’s newest Member States.

    As regards relations between the Caribbean on the one hand and the African and Pacific regions on the other, Ministers reaffirmed the commitment made by ACP Member States to promote the continued solidarity of the group, underscoring the importance attached by CARICOM/CARIFORUM to south-south cooperation and the solidifying of relations with African and Pacific States.


    The COFCOR acknowledged with appreciation the work done by the CARICOM Task Force established to examine the relations between the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Dominican Republic. Ministers underlined the importance that CARICOM attaches to its relationship with the Dominican Republic, including within the framework of CARIFORUM, the CARIFORUM/ EU EPA and the CARICOM-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement.

    Ministers endorsed for the consideration of the Conference of Heads of Government the recommendations of the Task Force including the engagement of the Dominican Republic at the political level.

    The COFCOR acknowledged the re-submission by the Dominican Republic of its application for membership to CARICOM and noted that the matter would be considered further at the upcoming meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government in July 2009.


    Ministers welcomed the positive statements made by the Honourable Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada, on issues relating to CARICOM-Canada relations during the CARICOM-Canada Bilateral Meeting held in the margins of the Fifth Summit of the Americas on 18 April 2009. Ministers were particularly encouraged by the Prime Minister’s reiteration of the great importance attached by Canada to the conclusion of a trade and development agreement and underlined that the development component of this agreement was of critical importance to the Region. Ministers also noted the supportive role of the Canadian Government in articulating in international fora such as the G20, the concerns of the Community regarding the global economic and financial crisis and the need for restructuring of international financial institutions.

    The Ministers identified a number of issues for further discussion with the Canadian Prime Minister at the Canada-CARICOM Summit which is expected to be convened in the Fall of 2009. These issues include security, climate change the trade and development agreement and the joint programming of the Cdn$ 600m in development assistance to the Region.


    Ministers recalled that the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) had been established on the initiative of CARICOM as a vehicle for political engagement and cooperation with the countries of the wider Caribbean and pledged the Region’s active involvement in the assessment and reform process currently underway within the organisation which seeks to enhance the organisation’s capacity to better meet the needs of its membership.

    The Ministers recalled the valuable initiatives undertaken by the ACS in the areas of, tourism, trade, transport and disaster mitigation most notably the Caribbean Sea Initiative and in this regard underlined CARICOM’s support for the work of the Caribbean Sea Commission of the ACS. Ministers welcomed the adoption by the 63rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly of Resolution 63/214 regarding the “Sustainable development of the Caribbean Sea for present and future generations.”


    Ministers discussed issues relevant to the Community’s interests as framed within the United Nations, including preparations for the Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis to be held in New York in June 2009 and the Fifteenth Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change scheduled for December 2009 in Copenhagen. They urged participation at the highest possible level in both meetings.

    With respect to climate change, they also urged active participation in the negotiating process for a new climate change regime leading up to the meeting in Copenhagen. Ministers further underscored the need for the long term effects of climate change and funding for mitigation and adaptation to climate change to be kept high on the global agenda notwithstanding the current global financial crisis.

    With regard to the issue of the reform of the United Nations and in particular the UN Security Council, the COFCOR reaffirmed CARICOM’s commitment to see reform that would render the organization more transparent, efficient and representative.

    The Ministers affirmed that CARICOM should ensure that the issues on the development agenda continued to be promoted in the UN and other fora. They further encouraged CARICOM’s active role in the discussions on the proposed Arms Trade Treaty and the Plan of Action on small arms.


    The Ministers exchanged views on important issues before the Organisation of American States (OAS) and reaffirmed their commitment to participate actively in the upcoming OAS General Assembly scheduled to be held in Honduras on 1-3 June 2009. The Ministers agreed on the need to carry forward the decisions emanating from the fifth Summit of the Americas recently concluded in Trinidad and Tobago.


    The COFCOR endorsed the offer made by Barbados to host the Adaptation Fund Board (AFB) to the Kyoto Protocol of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The Ministers considered that, given the objectives of the AFB, it should be hosted in a region such as the Caribbean, which is particularly vulnerable to the adverse impact of Climate Change.

    They endorsed the candidature of Justice Duke Pollard of Guyana to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and that of Ambassador Albert Ramdin of Suriname for re-election as Assistant Secretary-General to the Organisation of American States.

    The Ministers agreed that the Region would support the candidature of Canada for a non permanent seat on the UN Security Council for the period 2011-2012.


    Ministers considered the matter of the CARICOM OAS collaboration with respect to the Advanced Passenger Information System. They recognised the valuable contribution which the existing System has made to enhancing regional security. They noted that the matter would be considered in greater depth by Ministers of National Security at their meeting on 21-22 May, 2009 in Suriname. Ministers emphasised that in moving forward, it would be important for Ministers of Foreign Affairs and of National Security and Attorneys General to adopt a harmonious approach on sensitive policy and legal issues which may arise.


    The Ministers endorsed the candidature of Trinidad and Tobago as the site of the Headquarters of the Caribbean Community Accreditation Agency for Education and Training


    Ministers expressed their concern at the growing and grave phenomenon of piracy affecting the international community, including those Caribbean countries that are flag states. They also expressed concern at the growing incidence of armed robbery in the Caribbean Sea. They discussed a number of measures for a joint position on the issues, including, most importantly, the sharing and exchange of information.


    The Ministers received a report on the status of relations between Belize and Guatemala. They expressed their satisfaction on the successful negotiation and signing of the Special Agreement by both Governments to refer the territorial dispute to the International Court of Justice for final settlement, subject to the approval of their citizens in national referenda. In this context, Ministers called on the international community, particularly the “Group of Friends” to support and assist the process both politically and financially. Ministers emphasized the need to continue funding the operations of the Office of the Organisation of American States located on the Adjacency Zone that has successfully supported the efforts of both governments in maintaining peace and security and in reducing tensions along the border communities in both countries. Ministers reaffirmed their unequivocal support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Belize.


    The Ministers recalled the decision of Heads of Government of CARICOM to affirm their unequivocal support for the safeguarding of Guyana’s territorial integrity and sovereignty and its right to develop its resources in the entirety of its territory. They 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 that the issue was still before the United Nations and both countries were making efforts to identify a new special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General to advance the Good Offices Process.


    Ministers acknowledged the sixtieth anniversary of the Commonwealth. They took note of the next Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting to be held in Trinidad and Tobago from 27- 29 November 2009.


    The Ministers expressed their deep appreciation to the Government and people of Jamaica for the warm reception and for the excellent hospitality and courtesies extended which greatly facilitated the fruitful deliberations of the Twelfth Meeting of the COFCOR.


    The Ministers accepted the offer of the Commonwealth of Dominica to host the Thirteenth Meeting of the COFCOR in that country at a date to be determined in May 2010.

    Kingston, Jamaica
    9 May 2009