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Remarks by Dr Carla N. Barnett, Secretary-General, CARICOM on the occasion of the Opening Ceremony of the Forty-Sixth Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM

It is a distinct pleasure to address you at this Opening Ceremony of the Forty-Sixth Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). I am particularly pleased to welcome you to Georgetown, Guyana, the seat of the CARICOM Secretariat, the Headquarters of the Community, where we have enjoyed the warm hospitality of the Government and People of Guyana for over fifty years.

It is fitting, as we continue to celebrate our landmark 50th Anniversary year, and as we did in Trinidad and Tobago in July 2023, that we gather in the home of one of the four signatories to the Original Treaty of Chaguaramas, the framework and compass for our regional integration movement.

On behalf of the Community, I express heartfelt appreciation to our host and Chairman of the Conference, His Excellency President Mohamed Irfaan Ali, for the gracious hospitality he has extended, and the excellent arrangements which have set the stage for a very productive three days of work.

Excellency, I have no doubt that under your guidance as Chairman of the Conference, and with the support of your colleague Heads of Government, the Secretariat and the Regional Institutions, the interests of our Region will be accelerated.

Over the last six months of 2023, our Community was ably led by the Honourable Roosevelt Skerrit, Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Dominica. We thank him for his unwavering commitment to his role, which has brought tangible results for our Member States. At the same time, we warmly welcome the Honourable Dickon Mitchell, Prime Minister of Grenada, to the Bureau of the Conference, and look forward to his robust involvement in advancing the interests of the Community.

Allow me to recognise the exceptional musical talent of the Region whose extravaganza, “Sounds of the Caribbean”, brings such verve and colour to our Opening Ceremony. Their combined sound is further illustration of what we achieve through effective coordination and collaboration as a Region.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The matters before us at this 46th Regular Meeting will have significant impact on the direction of the Community. The Region’s resilience, adaptability and development will be examined in detail, as well as account taken of where we are as a Region. This will allow us to pool our collective wisdom and devise sustainable solutions to the threats and challenges that we face.

Significant technical and policy work has led to accomplishments in various areas, including food and nutrition security, advancing aspects of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), border security, air and maritime transportation, among others. We worked with stakeholders to help find solutions to the multi-dimensional crisis in Haiti. We are committed to retain the Region as a Zone of Peace, despite various border controversies and despite the passage of guns and dangerous drugs through our lands and seas.

As we continue to tackle these and other issues during this 46th Meeting, our dedicated hours in plenary, caucus and retreat sessions will be focused on moving our integration movement determinedly forward in the best interests of our Region and its citizens.

Later this week, we will be joined by our Special Guest, His Excellency Luiz Inacio da Silva, President of the Federative Republic of Brazil. Exchanges with him, as well as with high-level guests from Canada, the United States, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United Nations, will allow us to continue robust engagement with diverse international partners on matters crucial to the sustained development and transformation of our Region.

CARICOM speaks loudly and clearly in the international community. Our determined advocacy has helped to spur positive change for critical hemispheric and global issues. The decision at COP28 in December 2023 to operationalize the Loss and Damage Fund; and growing acknowledgement in the international community that the Bridgetown Initiative presents a more relevant financial approach to addressing the unique needs of our Region, are but two examples of the impact of CARICOM’s advocacy.

We also proudly note Trinidad and Tobago’s Presidency of the 78th United Nations General Assembly; Guyana’s election to the United Nations Security Council and its current Presidency of that body; and Saint Lucia’s election to the Presidency of the Executive Board of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Congratulations too, to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, which is completing a successful year as Pro Tempore President of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), the first CARICOM country to undertake this role. These are all impactful forums where our Region has a voice in addressing complex and multi-faceted global issues.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Our past and present generations of leaders have established a solid foundation for us to build on. Our more than 50 years of existence demonstrates that the Caribbean Community remains a viable integration movement. We have shown a keen appreciation of the developmental priorities that are critical to the Region’s peace and prosperity. The stage is well set for this new generation to engage its innovativeness, ingenuity and dynamism to secure and improve on the collective gains so far achieved.

Mr Chairman, as you carry us forward, as the standard-bearer for CARICOM for the next six months, there is a heavy regional and global agenda which demands our undivided attention and active engagement, in spite of the ever-present vagaries of the global landscape.

Let us, therefore, harness the wisdom of our 50 years of existence, learning from what we have done well and what we know we can do better, and move forward with passion and determination to overcome today’s challenges.

Let us welcome active participation from our youth, our women, civil society, labour organisations and the private sector, our indigenous peoples, our creatives and our athletes. Let us ensure we constantly work to bring all on board to keep our integration movement growing and beneficial to the welfare of our people.

We owe no less to the people of the Caribbean Community, at home and in the Diaspora.

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.

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