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Opening Remarks by Chair of the 49th Meeting of the Community Council of Ministers Hon. Eamon Courtenay, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Immigration, Belize

MAY 27 2022

  • Colleague Ministers
  • Heads of Delegation
  • Secretary General and Deputy Secretary General, Officials

It is an honour for me to be chairing this 49th Meeting of the Community Council. I bring you warm greetings from Belize. It is good to be back in the Cooperative Republic for the first time in more than a decade.

As I welcome every delegation, I would like to also welcome Ambassador Jennifer Marchand, Trinidad & Tobago’s newly appointed Ambassador to CARICOM, who is joining this meeting online.  Welcome Ambassador Marchand. 

Colleagues, the Community Council was designed to play a very important and strategic role, but in practice the work of this Council has often been overlooked or overshadowed by other Councils which have thematic mandates. However, the events unfolding on the international stage demand that this Council fully discharge its mandate. This Council has the responsibility for strategic planning and coordination in areas of economic integration, functional cooperation and external relations and thereby ensure that the Community is best positioned to manage these challenging times.

Our Community, indeed the world, is contending with multiple complex crises. On top of the climate emergency and the health pandemic we are up against food, energy and financial crises which threaten social cohesion. Apparently, crisis governance is a new normal.

Next year our Community will mark its fiftieth anniversary. Undoubtedly this is a time of celebration but also a time for deep reflection, for repurposing and reimagining. We must answer the question: what does it mean to be a Caribbean Community. Today’s agenda is setting the stage for this voyage of soul searching.

Colleagues, our proposed agenda requires us to make strategic decisions on several issues relating to the architecture of our Community, i.e. the Member States, the Secretariat, regional institutions. We will also settle the proposed agenda for the upcoming 43rd Regular Meeting of the CARICOM Heads of Government.

In considering these agenda items we will be guided by the objectives of our Community to achieve regional integration and development, as we confront the formidable challenges facing Member States – climate change, high debt burden/narrow fiscal space, unemployment, lack of access to concessional financing, and the continued impact of COVID-19 pandemic etc.

Therefore, it is important that we have an agile, efficient and fit for purpose Secretariat. I commend the Secretariat for the implementation of the CARICOM RBM System; the adoption of the Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability and Learning (MEAL) approach; the restructuring of the Secretariat; the review of Community Institutions; the development of the Draft Secretariat Strategic Plan 2020-2030, to name a few, are all notable and commendable steps taken by the Secretariat to rethink and reorient our way of working to reflect better efficiency, effectiveness and results.

But this remains a work in progress. Much more needs to be done to bring a dynamism to our work, to strengthen the relationship between our territories, our peoples, and our institutions.

Colleague Ministers, I strongly recommend that this Council follow in the footsteps of the Secretariat to reorient and readjust ourselves to meet the resultant Administrative and Governance requirements of these changes to facilitate improved decision-making and in turn improved implementation. Our Council also needs to adopt a more coherent and cohesive approach to our collaboration with other organs with a view to streamline the agenda for the Conference, freeing up the time of the Heads of Government at their meetings to focus on the areas where strategic guidance is needed. 

For the councils of the Community and the Secretariat to perform optimally, there must be singularity of purpose, clarity of decisions and certainty of action. Recent events reveal that our Heads need to renew and recommit to the concept CARICOM unity. Without unity, there is no community

I close by expressing my gratitude to the Ministers, Executive Management Team and general staff of the Secretariat for their cooperation and support afforded Belize during its very busy chairmanship. I also want to pledge my support to the incoming Chair, Suriname.

I look forward to a productive and successful meeting.

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