STATEMENT BY HON. ELVIN NIMROD, MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL TRADE, GRENADA, AT THE OPENING OF THE NINTH MEETING OF THE COUNCIL FOR FOREIGN AND COMMUNITY RELATIONS (COFCOR) OF THE CARIBBEAN COMMUNITY, 24 APRIL 2006, ST. GEORGE’S, GRENADA
Posted in: Statements from CARICOM Meetings | 24 April 2006 | Release Ref #: 67/2006 | 996
Let me, on behalf of the Government and People of Grenada, extend a very sincere and spicy welcome to all present here this morning especially to those of your who have come to participate in this very important 9th Meeting of the CARICOM Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR) grenada
It is extremely heartening for Grenada to be able to host a meeting of this magnitude and importance after only eighteen months of experiencing one of the most devastating and horrifying hurricanes to have hit our shores in almost half a century. Needless to say that CARICOM’s response was swift, generous and compassionate. I am sure that the degree and extent of our recovery have not escaped your eyes. Grenada wants to say thanks again, and at the same time let me assure you that as a people the Caribbean-style hospitality still finds full expression here in Grenada.
Colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, there can be no doubt that this Ninth Meeting of COFCOR has come at a time when there is an urgent need for CARICOM to craft a quick but well thought policy response to the rapidly changing global and regional environment and its resulting challenges and opportunities.
I note with grave concerns the accelerated pace of threats to world peace and security through various acts of terrorism, unwarranted military exercises and suicide bombings.
Surely, this forum provides us with an excellent opportunity to exchange views and share perspectives on important topics of common interests, and a chance to formulate and adopt clear positions, as the situation warrants.
Indeed, the relentless march of globalisation and changes in the geo-political landscape have brought countless challenges to us as individual nation states and as a result, our socio-economic and even our political viability are being seriously compromised. The fact that our economies continue to struggle is due in part to elevated energy costs, as oil prices reach a new high, the drastic decrease in external assistance and preferential arrangements and our inability to adjust in a timely and adequate manner to these realities.
I am, however, buoyed by the prospects of a fully implemented CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME). The CSME certainly provides tangible avenues for pooling, sharing, rationalisation of our scarce resources and indeed for our economic survival.
It seems to me that expanding intra-regional trade, attracting investors, increasing competitiveness and productivity, as well as enhancing response capabilities in the face of external crises, should be our collective responsibility.
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.
Among us are states which are disadvantaged in varying degrees and would certainly need a greater level of support and assistance to facilitate their full participation in this noble yet inevitable process. Thus, the creation of the Regional Development Fund is crucial to the successful implementation of the CSME.
While we should take pride in the fact that the CSME has finally taken shape, I am not totally satisfied that the education and awareness campaign around the Region has peaked. My impression is that our populations still yearn for details on the implications, including more information on the operations of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). Clearly, we in Grenada have much more to do in this regard.
Ministries of education could be challenged to institute a CARICOM forum in school, or alternatively an annual CARICOM week, similar to the practice in many countries as it relates to the United Nations. This and other similar initiatives would surely help to bring the ideals of the Community closer to the people.
I, therefore, want to call on all concerned, in collaboration with the Secretariat to intensify the education effort. Perhaps with the advent of the Caribbean Knowledge Learning Network (CKLN), the task of education might be made easier.
Incidentally, a regional workshop to advance the work of the CKLN was held here in St. George’s, a mere two weeks ago, where Prime Minister, Dr. the Hon. Keith Mitchell expressed the hope that the project will serve to transform the region’s economy into a knowledge based economy. As headquarters for the CKLN, Grenada would do well to assume a leading role in the process.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I wish to echo the congratulatory sentiments expressed by many, to His Excellency Rene Preval. His victorious emergence as President-elect of Haiti, is a positive development, which hopefully, signals the return of representative democracy in our sister country.
Of paramount importance though, is the maintenance of peace and stability and of course the practice of good governance. It remains in the interest of the Caribbean Community to ensure that Haiti benefits from its involvement in the activities of our grouping.
Technical and financial support is vital, thus we must do our best in this regard. Haiti is back on the right track and we should encourage its people to do the best for themselves. We thus anticipate welcoming Haiti, back to our fold.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the Council for Foreign and Community Relations has the responsibility of ensuring that as a Region we are prepared for and ready to deal with international events. Our aim must be to do so in a preemptive and well planned manner.
On this particular occasion, a series of encounters and processes with which the Community must treat, would occupy a fair portion of Ministers time, as they seek to finalise strategies to participate in a number of upcoming fora.
Certainly, all these meetings are in an effort to enhance economic and technical co-operation with the countries mentioned, with the goal of improving the standard of living of our people.
Additionally, the Region’s relations with the United States of America would come up for critical review. Indeed, the COFCOR is very high on the prospects of mending relations with the United States after a period of relative coldness, due perhaps in part, to the Community’s reaction to a series of issues of importance to the US: from Iraq to Haiti to Article 98 of the ICC and more.
I believe that the proposed US-Caribbean Conference scheduled for June 2007, is highly desired and anticipated. Many matters directly related to our economic and social viability should be highlighted, while the mechanisms to facilitate trade and investment both parties should be revisited.
Additionally, the vexing issue of criminal deportees from the United States to the Caribbean should be addressed with a view to agreeing on a better to minimise the socio-economic consequences of this practice on our societies.
Disaster preparedness and mitigation, including early warning systems is an extremely important matter for joint effort. I am referred to a recent call by a Minister of Government in Barbados, for a collaborative approach between the Caribbean and the United States relative to insurance and burden sharing in natural disasters.
These ideas and several others definitely warrant serious discussions at the appropriate level with US officials. I am confident that the traditional excellent relations that exist between both sides would be further strengthened as a result.
Ladies and Gentlemen, CARICOM’s relations within the framework of the United Nations and in particular its priorities for the Sixty-First Session of the General Assembly would be discussed. We will continue to advocate strengthening of the Economic and Social Council.
The issues of disaster preparedness and mitigation, the peace building commission, issues of HIV/AIDS and the alleviation of extreme poverty. The path may not be easy but with a unified approach we can make inroads.
I thus take this opportunity to congratulate our envoys at the United Nations for the hard work in guarding the interest of the Region in this august body. Of course the matter of reform in the United Nations System would be uppermost in our interactions.
Our extremely limited institutional and technical capacity to deal with several trade negotiations and the plethora of issues which require opinions and perspectives on a constant basis, further highlight the need for more collaboration and co-operation in the conduct of our international relations.
I certainly welcome and applaud the proposal as reflected on our agenda, to revisit the issue of shared diplomatic representation in strategically selected countries.
- A collaborative approach would certainly assist us to highlight the topic of natural disasters and ways of mitigating their effects. Perhaps the recent experience of Grenada is evidence enough to confirm the seriousness of this matter.
- The goal of establishing a sustainable tourism zone of the Caribbean is our collective business. - Issues related to Small Island Developing States (SIDS), affect all, save a few countries represented here today.
- With regard to HIV/AIDS, the Caribbean sub-region still has the second highest per capita rate of infection. We cannot leave this problem to individual members to address.
- The issue of banana, sugar and trade in services, including internet gaming within the World Trade Organization (WTO), should concern the entire Community.
- The implications of a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) or any other version, we must consider as a single grouping.
-Cricket World Cup 2007 and the issues associated with its successful hosting, including the many security concerns, is a Community matter. Our common interest is as 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.
Although the Caribbean is still regarded as one of the safest parts on this planet, we cannot sit passively and allow that status to erode. We must protect and conserve what we have going for us. In so doing, we must tackle rising crime and violence in a resolute manner.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I certainly believe that expressions of gratitude are in order to all those who have contributed to the eventual hosting of this meeting.
Thanks to the Secretary-General and the staff at the CARICOM Secretariat for the invaluable support provided.
A special thanks to the many private sector establishments, which have made financial contributions to help offset our expenses. Your input and your presence here this morning, further demonstrates the need for strong public /private sector co-operation.
To the small staff at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and the many other Government officials who have assisted in this endeavour, we record our appreciation.
I must commend the Rex Grenadian Resort for their generosity in more ways than one, in ensuring that the venue was adequately prepared to facilitate the meeting. They too are still recovering from damages suffered nineteen months ago.
I want to also thank my colleague, Hon. Frederick Mitchell of the Bahamas for his guidance over the past year. His is a big act to follow, but I pledge to do my very best to advance the Region’s agenda during my tenure as Chairman of this important Council.
I must publicly thank Hon. Billie Miller for her inspiration, guidance and selfless assistance in the past. I certainly look forward to your continued support and of course that of all my other colleagues, during what I anticipate would be an extremely busy and trying year.
Finally, I wish all delegates every success in the deliberations and hope that Grenada will once again prove itself to be fertile ground for historic decisions and agreements and a renewed commitment to persevere.
Our task is huge, but as one eminent Caribbean Leader puts it we can do much with little. Forward with our tasks ahead. Good luck to all.
I thank you.