- Fellow Colleague Ministers of the Caribbean Community
- Secretary General
- Assistant Secretary General
- CARICOM Ambassadors
- Senior Officials of CARICOM Member states
- Officers of the CARICOM Secretariat
I am honoured to assume the Chair of the Council for Foreign and Community Relations.
On our collective behalf, I thank the out-going Chair, the Honourable Eamon Courtenay, for his excellent leadership during his tenure, when our region confronted many challenges.
We are indebted to you, Minister Courtenay, for your superb guidance of our business.
I welcome to the affairs of the Council, the new Assistant Secretary-General, Ambassador Donna Forde.
I know that all Ministers will join me in saying that we look forward to your service as we seek to advance the cause of our Region and our people.
Today, we meet under the cloud of the COVID-19 pandemic whose impact on our economies, continues.
That situation has been worsened by the global effects of the Russian war on Ukraine that have not spared our countries as fertilizers, food and oil supplies are restricted and costs spiral.
And, of course, continuing to loom large over our countries is Climate Change and its attendant Global Warming.
We enter the hurricane season next month with great trepidation.
We all know how devastating a major storm would be to our now weakened economic circumstances.
To meet these challenges successfully, our Community must deepen our collaboration in the international community, and strengthen our functional cooperation regionally.
The forces aligned against us are of such magnitude that none of us can overcome them on our own.
This is a time for more – not less – integration; it is a time for united – not divided – action.
A special responsibility falls upon us in this Council, for we are the guardians of our integration movement and its champions in the rest of the world.
Where any element of our sacred agreement, under the Revised CARICOM Treaty, is breached by any member state, it falls to us to address it immediately and to cause it to be remedied.
Our failure to do so would be a failure both in our obligations to uphold the Treaty and in our duty to maintain the cohesion of our economic grouping.
None of our countries would remain credible in the global trading and financial community if we preach the sanctity of international agreements but fail to honour our own regional pacts.
To do so, we would sow discord and disaffection amongst ourselves, when we need unity and solidarity globally.
In this connection, I applaud the initiative of the President of Guyana, in inviting other CARICOM Heads of Government to participate in this week’s Premier Agri-Investment Forum and Expo.
Solutions to our common problems are best sought through collective thinking and agreed action.
The issue of our food security and how to address the high prices that pose a threat to the welfare of all our peoples, are matters that demand a joint regional response.
That, after all, is why we established the CARICOM Treaty as a vehicle for underpinning our national survival though regional collaboration.
With regard to our relationship with friendly countries, during my Chairmanship, I will try with cooperation of other CARICOM states, to foster closer relations with Africa, though the African Union, and directly with African countries.
The African continent offers many prospects, ranging from Trade and Investment to Information sharing in numerous crucial areas, including Climate Change.
In turn, it is in our interest to forge with Africa a Common Voice in the international community in shared areas of global concern.
There was a time, during the early negotiations with the European Union for the Lomé Conventions, when Africa and the Caribbean spoke with one voice, and Europe had to listen.
What we once did, we can do again, provided we work in our mutual interest and for our joint purposes.
Each of us in Africa and the Caribbean will be stronger for our collaboration.
Colleague Ministers, we have before us an agenda of matters that we must address in the interest of our peoples, individually and collectively.
We have shirked from this task in the past, and we will not do so now.
But we must be guided by the principle that we have proven to ourselves, time and again, either by adhering to it or by ignoring it – that principle is that in unity there is strength.
When we have respected that principle, we have been rewarded with success; when we have ignored it, we have been punished with failure.
I call again for that unity and for that strength.
In doing so, I accept that we cannot agree on everything, but when agreement on an issue occurs, it should nor result in quarrel and acrimony; instead, it should be the basis on which we seek to reach understanding of each other’s position and yet maintain solidarity.
And, on those things about which we agree, we should resolve to advance in lock step toward attaining our common purposes.
The world will respect us for our capacity to overcome our small differences in the interest of our greater good.
It is in that spirit that I urge we set ourselves to the tasks that lie before us at this meeting which comes at a time of trial for our countries individually, our region collectively, and to the world entirely.
Thank you very much; the 25th Meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers is now formally open.