Today’s historic launch of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) demonstrates clearly to this Region how the co-operative deployment of many skills to achieve one objective can be of collective benefit.
We had long recognised the desirability of creating such an institution. The Declaration of Needham’s Point issued by Heads of Government at their Twenty-Eighth Regular Meeting held in Barbados in July 2007 gave the impetus to the actual formation of CARPHA. In that Declaration, the Heads mandated “a comprehensive review of regional institutions with a view effectively to rationalising their functions, funding and structures better to provide common services,”
The road to today’s ceremony has not been easy. To merge five Regional Health Institutions into one single entity was a complex task requiring compromise and co-operation. Each institution had a track record of distinguished service to the Region but there was recognition by all of the benefit that a regional institution with a broader, more succinct remit could bring to the health of the Caribbean Community.
Our Heads of Government have long recognised the importance of health to the development of our Community with the Nassau Declaration of 2001 stating that “the Health of the Region is the Wealth of the Region”. CARPHA is critical to the realisation of that vision enunciated by our Leaders. It has a vital role to play in CARICOM’s efforts at addressing its health concerns.
The template for CARPHA will serve us well in other areas and is in keeping with the forward thinking and leadership role of the health sector in the Region which was the first to demonstrate what became known as functional co-operation, even pre-dating the West Indies Federation. The health sector has also paved the way, through the creation of this Agency, for other sectors in the Community with respect to the rationalisation of institutions.
Tremendous cooperation among the Member States was an absolute requirement at every stage of the process and the CARICOM Secretariat stood ready to assist in the resolution of challenges when these arose. The enthusiasm of our Heads of Government was an essential ingredient in the success of the project, in particular, the Rt Honourable Dr Denzil Douglas, Prime Minister of St Kitts and Nevis and Lead Head of Government with responsibility for Human Resource Develpment, Health and HIV and AIDS.
Let me pause here to recognise the sterling contribution made by Professor Edward Greene who in his capacity as Assistant Secretary-General, Human and Social Development led the CARICOM Secretariat team in the drive to establish CARPHA. Of course that team worked under the able guidance of then Secretary-General, Sir Edwin Carrington. This was truly a team effort involving many other departments of the organisation, including Resource Mobilisation, Human Resource Management, Finance, Legal and Communications. Although he retired from the Secretariat, Professor Greene never retired from his efforts at seeing us through to this day.
Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen, although the establishment of this Agency was a collective effort, we could not have gotten to this point without the conceptual leadership and guidance of the Honourable Sir George Alleyne, OCC. Tribute must also be paid to Dr. Jerome Walcott of Barbados who, served as Interim Director.
Also critical was the steadfast and continuing support of the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO). From the inception, Dr. Mirta Roses, the immediate Past Director of PAHO, invested much of the Organisation’s technical support and funding to see this to fruition. This commitment remains with the current Director, Dr Carissa Etienne, as evidenced by the Organisation’s continued support.
Let me take this opportunity to thank the Government of Trinidad and Tobago for its total commitment to CARPHA from the onset in 2007, including a commitment to providing the Headquarters. We also recognise our development partners for their strong support and look forward to this being continued – I refer in particular to the European Union, Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States, Argentina, Brazil, and the World Bank.
Dr. Hospedales, you and your team have the exciting task of starting an institution of which much is expected. You can rest assured that the CARICOM Secretariat will continue to assist in whatever way we can to ensure this child becomes a healthy adult. We all have a stake in this institution, keeping to the forefront the words of the Nassau Declaration The Health of the Region is the Wealth of the Region.