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Remarks by Dr. Carla Barnett, Secretary-General of CARICOM, at the CARICOM-South Africa Ministerial Meeting via video conference on 22 March 2022

(CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Georgetown, Guyana) – Your Excellency Grace Naledi Mandisa Pandor, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of the Republic of South Africa;

Senator the Honourable Kamina Johnson Smith, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Jamaica, and Chair of the Council for Foreign and Community Relations;

Other Honourable Ministers;

Distinguished Delegates;

Ladies and Gentlemen.

I welcome today’s Meeting between Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Republic of South Africa as a mark of renewal of high-level interaction between CARICOM and the Republic of South Africa.

Past engagements between CARICOM and South Africa have taken place at the highest political level. Our Region’s leaders met with the late President Nelson Mandela in Saint Lucia in 1998, and with then Presidents Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma, in 2003 and 2009, respectively. More recent engagements have occurred in the margins of international fora such as meetings of the Commonwealth Heads of Government.

South Africa, during its African Union (AU) Chairmanship, facilitated CARICOM countries to access the Africa Medical Supply Platform for vaccines during the COVID-19 pandemic. This was followed by a series of reciprocal visits between African and Caribbean leaders, which led up to the First CARICOM-Africa Summit held in September 2021.

Earlier past week, we were pleased to participate in a Symposium hosted by the PJ Patterson Institute for Africa-Caribbean Advocacy on Strengthening Cooperation between Africa and Caribbean States.

This Meeting of Foreign Ministers, therefore, marks another positive step towards continuing dialogue generally with Africa, but specifically with the Republic of South Africa as we seek to deepen collaboration, and propose solutions for the global challenges we face.
Excellencies, CARICOM has enjoyed strong political ties with South Africa. The Community was public and unrelenting in its opposition to apartheid. Today, our advocacy focuses on current challenges, such as the accelerating negative impact of climate change, the urgent need to reform the global financial architecture to achieve greater equality and relevance, building food and nutrition security, and threats to regional security.

Climate change challenges the sustainable development of the Region. CARICOM countries and other Small Island Developing States (SIDS) do not contribute significantly to climate change, but the impact of climate change causes losses annually. When hurricanes occur, CARICOM countries can and have experienced multiples of GDP in losses in a few hours, as was the case of Dominica when Hurricane Maria hit in 2017. We count on partners such as South Africa, a country with rich and diverse ecosystems and where the impact of climate change is also accelerating, to support advocacy on this matter in multilateral fora.

The ongoing dire situation in Haiti continues to be of grave concern. Efforts are in train to facilitate a transition to peace, stability and democratic governance. CARICOM looks forward to continued collaboration with and support from the international community for the Multinational Security Support (MSS) Mission authorised by the UN Security Council, and for critical humanitarian assistance and commitment to support Haiti as it seeks long term social and economic development. CARICOM will continue to press for the international community to meaningfully support the long-term development needs of Haiti, beyond current efforts, which focus on security and political stability.

Ministers, a short but substantive agenda is before this Meeting. The issues for discussion are a clear reflection of the great significance that both CARICOM and South Africa attach to this important relationship, and the value of working collaboratively to improve the well-being of all our peoples.

In anticipation of very productive discussions, I thank you.

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