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Remarks by Dr. Carla Barnett, CARICOM Secretary-General at the opening of the Twenty-Seventh Meeting of the Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR) in Roseau, Dominica, 23 May 2024

  • Dr. the Honourable Vince Henderson, Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Business, Trade and Energy of the Commonwealth of Dominica, and Chair of the Council for Foreign and Community Relations;
  • Senator the Honourable Kamina Johnson-Smith, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Jamaica, and Outgoing Chair of the Council for Foreign and Community Relations;
  • Honourable Foreign Ministers of the Caribbean Community and Other Heads of Delegation;
  • Ms. Elizabeth Solomon, Assistant Secretary-General, Foreign and Community Relations; 
  • Distinguished Delegates.

I am really very pleased to join you here in Roseau, Dominica for the Twenty-Seventh Meeting of the Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR). Chair, our sincere thanks to the Government and People of the Commonwealth of Dominica for the generous hospitality and excellent arrangements put in place for this Meeting. I also congratulate you, Minister Henderson, on assuming the Chair of the COFCOR. I am confident that under your leadership, the Council will advance its contributions to the sustainable development of the Community and to our standing on the global stage.

I also want to especially thank Outgoing Chair, Senator the Honourable Kamina Johnson Smith, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Jamaica, for her service to the Community over the past year. Minister Smith, during your tenure, the Community conducted multiple ministerial engagements with Third States, including India, the United Kingdom, and South Africa, even as we responded to critical regional issues. 

Esteemed Ministers, as you deliberate, the global context is increasingly challenged with threats to multilateralism, disregard for international law, and increased instability in many parts of the world. As Small Island and Low-lying Coastal Developing States, we are more vulnerable to these international fluctuations which continue to adversely affect our economies, environments, and societies.

Mr. Chairman, over the next two days, this Council will engage in critical discussions, including on climate change, a reality which becomes even more critical as we approach the 2024 hurricane season. Regular hurricanes seriously set back our development efforts, undoing hard-won progress, such as when Hurricane Maria devastated Dominica. Our Region bears the unfair burden of adapting to climate change though we have made no significant contribution to it.

Climate resilience cannot be realised without affordable resources necessary for infrastructural development. In our bilateral and joint engagements, we must continue, as a collective, to reinforce the urgency of reform of the global financial architecture, as proposed in the Bridgetown Initiative, to facilitate increased access to resources, at costs that we can bear, to address the impact of climate change on our economies and societies.

The Community is expanding beyond its traditional relationships, exemplified by our push for formal partnership with the African Union and expanded political dialogue. The Fourth International Conference on Small Island Developing States, to be hosted in Antigua and Barbuda next week, will also present an opportunity for Member States to engage with international partners, including especially SIDS outside our Community with which we have a common agenda regarding climate change and financing for development.

Honourable Ministers, the emerging non-traditional relationships, particularly between CARICOM and the Middle East, is one of great potential. The inaugural CARICOM-Saudi Arabia Summit, co-chaired by Dominica in 2023, and several engagements with the United Arab Emirates, are decisive steps toward establishing ties with the Middle East region. 

At this 27th Meeting of the COFCOR, the Council will receive the State Minister for Foreign Affairs of Qatar. Upcoming engagements, including with senior officials and ministerial level meetings with Japan, India, Brazil, Canada, and the Republic of Korea will all present opportunities to increase political dialogue and cooperation programmes.  

CARICOM has been demonstrating its commitment to diplomacy, multilateralism, and the peaceful resolution of conflict on multiple occasions such as our recent statements on the war on Gaza and recognition now, by all remaining Member States, of the State of Palestine.

This commitment to diplomacy is integral to the reputation of integrity that CARICOM has established on the international stage. Undoubtedly, this reputation has, in part, propelled significant interest by Third States in the Latin American and Caribbean region, and beyond, to deepen relations with CARICOM Member States, through Associate Membership of the Community.

With regard to the Office of the CARICOM Permanent Observer to the United Nations, this Council will consider the urgent matter and chart a course to fill this role.

In keeping with our commitment to uphold democratic traditions of our Region, a significant number of elections are due next year in Member States. Funding is needed to allow the Community to undertake various electoral observation missions.  We have already had advance notification from some of our Members  that this will be requested.

Honourable Ministers, I am certain that the open and robust discussions necessary for foreign policy coordination will bear fruit and lead to actionable outcomes to advance our collective interests beyond our 50 years of existence which we celebrate this year. Let us remain cognisant of what we can achieve together to enhance the development of our societies and the quality of life of the people of the Caribbean Community.

I thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.

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