The Community Council of Ministers held its Second Special Meeting on July 3, 2004 in accordance with the decision taken at its Fourteenth Meeting, which was held in Trinidad and Tobago on 18 June 2004. The Chairman of the Meeting was The Hon. Elvin Nimrod, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade of Grenada. The Meeting was primarily to discuss the recommendations for the restructuring of the CARICOM Secretariat. It also received and reviewed an update on the situation in Haiti.
The Secretary-General in commencing the meeting noted that the issue of the restructuring of the Secretariat was an urgent and important matter that has benefited from serious analysis. He noted that several recommendations were now ready for consideration and hopefully, implementation.
On the matter of Haiti, the Secretary-General said that after consulting with a number of CARICOM Heads of Government, a representative of Haiti's Interim Administration was invited to update CARICOM Ministers on the situation in Haiti and provide responses to questions. It was agreed that at an appropriate stage the Council of Ministers would suspend its meeting and resolve itself into a committee to receive the update from the Haitian representative.
In extending welcome Minister Nimrod recalled that it was at Grand Anse in 1989 that Heads of Government agreed on some fundamental steps to move CARICOM into the 21st century. He added that, “The governance arrangements of CARICOM, as it stands, cannot seriously administer the functions required for the free movement of people, goods and services of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy. Unmistakably, we need flexible, well-structured, proactive and innovative institutional arrangements for CARICOM to effectively administer.” On the matter of Haiti, he reiterated that CARICOM was committed to embracing the Haitian people in a meaningful way and would remain engaged in that effort. He said the Council of Ministers, in considering the situation in Haiti, would be required to establish the framework for this continued engagement. He also expressed condolences to the families of those who lost their lives in the recent floods in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
Restructuring of the CARICOM Secretariat
The basis for discussion was provided by a Report prepared and submitted in 2002 by a Group of experts – His Excellency Mr. Leonard Archer, Dr. Patrick I. Gomes, Dr. Didacus Jules, Dr. Henley Morgan and Ms. Maria Smart.
The Report determined the imperatives for change in the structure and operations of the Secretariat to be:
– Building a competitive environment with direct support going to Member States to facilitate their taking advantage of opportunities to be derived from the CSME
– Increasing participation by and partnerships between individuals, institutions, sectors and enterprises; engendered by proactive communications outreach and technical assistance programmes
– Cooperation between regional institutions towards ensuring greater flow of benefits from funds invested in their operation
– Benchmarking of 'best practices' to increase opportunities for learning, problem solving and economic development for mutual benefit. – Optimising work flow and decision making of organs of the Community
– Devolving of executive authority to appropriate regional body/institution without violating principles of sovereignty
– Mechanisms for enforcing compliance with decisions of the Community among all members equally fairly and in a transparent manner
– Regionally distributed organizational structures to 'spread the face of the Community', to bring decision-making closer to where the decisions are implemented, and to engender a feeling of ownership among stakeholders; and
– A modern, relevant and empowered secretariat, reshaped to provide impetus to the regional integration process in all its dimensions
Among the recommendations of the Report are:
– Strengthening management functions of the Secretariat with particular reference to the offices of the Secretary-General, Deputy Secretary-General and Assistant Secretaries-General.
– Enhancing the capability of the Secretariat to spearhead implementation of programmes by enabling the Secretary-General to execute his role as Chief Executive Officer as envisaged in the Treaty and by enabling the Executive Management Committee to function as an advisory link to the major policy making bodies, the Conference, Bureau of Heads, the Quasi Cabinet and the Community Council.
– Streamlining the functions of the Directorates within the Secretariat to reflect an integrated matrix-approach to programme planning and budgeting.
– Delinking the Assistant Secretaries-General from the day-to-day management of Directorates, vesting them with ambassadorial-type functions and making them more responsible for implementation strategies that are in line with the integrated matrix approach.
– Recognising the importance of and making the necessary provision for strengthening the legal services within the Secretariat, particularly the Office of Legal Counsel.
– Making provision for the more effective organization and use of information and communication technology and as a catalyst for development; and
– Rethinking the composition of technical and competency requirements o professional staff, taking into consideration the new functions, the revamped structures and the new skills requirements, of a modern Secretariat.
The Community Council commended the authors of the Report on restructuring the Secretariat. It was agreed that the recommendations for change were timely and useful. The Community Council agreed that aspects of the report could be implemented immediately, while others could benefit from a discussion between the Secretariat and Senior Officials of Member States. This it was felt would allow for a phased introduction of the restructuring proposals.
Review and Update on the Situation in Haiti
The Meeting of the Community Council reviewed an update on the situation in Haiti provided by the CARICOM Secretariat. The Council then suspended its Meeting and constituted a committee to receive an update on the situation in Haiti from the Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Interim Administration in Haiti, Mr. Jean-Yvon Simeon.
The Haitian representative also responded to questions posed by the Ministers on a number of political, economic and social issues, including preparations for elections, security, human rights and the state of the judiciary.
The Council of Ministers will submit a report to Heads of Government for their consideration.