- Honourable Eamon Courtenay, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Immigration of Belize, and Chair of the Community Council;
- Other Honourable Ministers and other Heads of Delegation;
- Deputy Secretary-General, other Members of EMC and Staff of the Secretariat;
- Distinguished Delegates;
- Ladies and Gentlemen.
It is my pleasure to welcome all of you to this Forty-Ninth Meeting of the Community Council of Ministers and I am particularly pleased that some Ministers are here in person. We are moving closer to full in-person meetings. This is an indication that we are learning how to navigate this new normal, it is not going back to the old way of working. We acknowledge that COVID will be here for some time, even as we seek to emerge from the damage it has been doing to our economies, our societies and our lives.
There is much more work to be done to rebuild economies, to address issues in the health systems and the education sector. It is a recovery that must take place, even in the midst of other ongoing crises such as the climate emergency, burgeoning debt in many of our countries, food insecurity which we are seeking to address in a strategic way.
We are preparing for the 43rd Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government in July, in Suriname against this really complicated backdrop. Such preparations are one of the main responsibilities of this Council, the second highest Organ in our Community’s governance structure. As the designated preparatory body for Meetings of the Conference, this responsibility includes considering, endorsing and clarifying matters to be brought before the Meetings of the Conference.
This, however, is not the only responsibility for this Council. This Council is responsible for planning and coordination in the areas of economic integration, functional cooperation and external relations. It is in this role that work of this Council is of importance to the Community in its efforts not only to recover from the pandemic, but also to reform the way the Community’s business is conducted, so that the Region is better able to withstand the next crisis, and to truly build resilient economies and societies.
There is perhaps no better time than now for this Council to reorient its work to focus in the other aspects of its mandate under the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas. As the second highest Community Organ, this Community Council is tasked with:
“(a) approving the programmes of the Community on the basis, inter alia, of proposals emanating from other Community Organs;
(b), amending proposals developed by the Ministerial Councils or request them to develop proposals for the achievement of Community objectives, and have responsibility for promoting and monitoring the implementation of Community decisions in the Member States.”
The issue of how we go about improving the way we conduct our affairs so that from decision-making to implementation is an efficient and effective exercise, has engaged our Community for some time.
Last March in Belize at its Inter-Sessional Meeting, the Conference, in recognizing the importance of revising the systems of governance of the Community with a view to strengthening the implementation of Community decisions, asked me to establish a small working group to make recommendations for improvements in governance to the Meeting in Suriname in July.
This work has begun and I hope that today we can engage on some of the issues that go to the functioning of this important Organ of the Community. We look forward to your discussions and recommendations to inform the document that is being prepared for the Conference in July, as the first step in the process of strengthening Community governance.
Efforts to improve the governance systems of the Secretariat have also been on-going. Today, Ministers will be invited to consider the Draft CARICOM Secretariat Strategic Plan 2022-2030. It seeks to strengthen the results-based approach to our work to ensure more efficiency, effectiveness and to promote innovation.
As we prepare for the 43rd Regular Meeting of the Conference, you will consider the agenda and also hear from Suriname on the logistical preparations. As we approach the 50th Anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Chaguaramas proposals for commemorating this important milestone are also before you.
I look forward therefore to a very lively engagement and a productive Meeting today.
I thank you!