- Honourable Frederick A. Mitchell, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Public Service of The Bahamas and Chairman of the Community Council Ministers;
- Other Honourable Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Other Heads of Delegation;
- Staff of the Secretariat;
- Distinguished Delegates
- Ladies and gentlemen.
I wish you a pleasant morning and warmly welcome each of you to the Fifty-First Meeting of the Community Council of Ministers.
I want begin by expressing deep condolences to the Government and people of Guyana as they continue to mourn the loss of 19 young lives in the horrific fire at the high school in the community of Mahdia. Our flags are flying at half-mast in solidarity.
As Heads met last night they noted that some Member States were already providing assistance and they are prepared to offer more so we will be following up with the authorities here in Guyana and in Member States in this regard.
As we all know, in just 6 weeks, we will celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Signing of the Treaty of Chaguaramas. Our Community has recorded many successes and accomplishments over the last 50 years, guided by the great regional visionaries who were the architects of our integration. During our first 50 years, the Community has had to grapple with a host of economic, social and environmental issues at the national, regional and global levels. We have done so with a degree of focus and intellectual leadership that has gained our Community a level of respect that belies our small size. We have done reasonably well – I call it a good net positive – on our journey so far and as we move into the next 50 years it will take an even greater effort to face the challenges that lie ahead.
The greatest of these challenges is, of course, the impact of climate change on our nations, our economies and our societies for, while we are not the source of climate change, we bear the greatest burden. So, as we move ahead we will continue to do what we can to ensure we do not become contributors to climate change, but even more importantly we will intensify our advocacy to convince those who cause climate change to do what is right to both reduce their emissions and improve access of SIDS, including CARICOM countries, to financing to address the impact of climate change.
The resilience of our Community is aptly captured in the official theme for the celebration of the 50th Anniversary. We are, indeed, 50 years strong, and we have a strong foundation to build on. The future calls on us to further strengthen that foundation, to accelerate sustainable growth, and build a safe and prosperous future for the next generation.
Members of this Council play a central role in the decision-making of the Community. Today’s agenda includes preparations for the upcoming 45th Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government, which will incorporate activities to mark our 50th year. We acknowledge the dedicated efforts of those Member States which have already started staging events to celebrate, reflect and set the stage to deepen regional integration.
We will also be discussing matters related to the functioning of this Secretariat. It lies to this Council to ensure that this Secretariat is appropriately resourced, efficiently organised to deliver the work of the Community effectively and support Member States in national implementation of regional decisions.
As you have done in previous Meetings, I encourage you to maintain the strategic focus that will allow us to address all these matters on the agenda with a focus on solutions I look forward to a productive discussion and clear decisions.
I thank you very much, Mr Chairman.