The challenges of nature and the global political economy must serve as driving forces to build a stronger, better Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said Dr. the Hon. Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
He was speaking in his capacity as incoming Chair of CARICOM, during the opening session of a Special Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government held virtually on Friday, 3 July. He assumes the Chairmanship of the Community for the next six months. His tenure follows that of Prime Minister of Barbados, the Hon. Mia Mottley, whom he praised for her “brilliant leadership”.
While he acknowledged that the union was “far from perfect”, and that there were both possibilities and limitations in the design of the integration movement, Prime Minister Gonsalves praised the Community’s impressive achievements.
“Our CARICOM has chalked up impressive achievements in its four pillars of integration: functional cooperation, coordination of foreign policy, security collaboration, and economic integration, including Single Market trading arrangements. But the design of CARICOM itself highlights its possibilities and limitations… CARICOM was conceived and fashioned as a Community of independent, sovereign states entirely combined to pursue a series of objectives, measures and tasks,” he said.
That design and practical functioning of CARICOM meant that some “enduring problems” had not been solved. Those challenges included regional governance, institutional political representation and non-automaticity of financing regional institutions including the CARICOM Secretariat, he pointed out.
Prime Minister Gonsalves said that the quickening pace of the challenges of nature and the global economic challenges had made it imperative that “we build a CARICOM that is better and stronger” while recognising its inbuilt and operational limitations.
CARICOM, he maintained, was central to the Region’s salvation given the explosion of pandemics, climate change and matters of global political economy. On that note, he singled out Community Institutions for praise, including the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), CARICOM IMPACS.
“The heroic contributions of CARPHA, IMPACS, CDEMA – all CARICOM Institutions – and the RSS, a sub-regional security umbrella, is a sufficient testimony in this regard. Accordingly, I reiterate our profound gratitude to the regional public servants at CARICOM, the OECS and at all allied regional institutions,” Mr. Gonsalves said.
Accepting the Chairmanship of the Community with “humility and enduring obligation”, he listed his priorities as:
· COVId-19 and interconnected-ness to health, the economy, society and security;
· coordination of regional air transport;
· socio-economic recovery of the Region;
· strengthening the Region’s resilience against multiple vulnerabilities;
· shaping a new, more inclusive global order; and
· uplifting the Caribbean civilisation
“Let us build further upon our solid accomplishments in this our remarkable Region and magnificent Caribbean civilisation. This building of our Region and our regional civilisation is a great cause, and great causes have never been won by doubtful men and women,” he said.