- Senator the Honourable Kamina Johnson-Smith, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Jamaica, and Chairperson of the Council for Foreign and Community Relations;
- Honourable E.P. Chet Greene, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Antigua and Barbuda, and Outgoing Chair of the Council for Foreign and Community Relations;
- Foreign Ministers of the Caribbean Community and other Heads of Delegation;
- Ambassador Donna Forde, Assistant Secretary-General, Foreign and Community Relations, CARICOM Secretariat;
- Distinguished Delegates.
It is a pleasure to come together, in person, for a Regular Meeting of the Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR). The in-person format for the Regular Meetings provides a much-needed opportunity to engage on issues that are critical to achieving the Community’s strategic objectives.
During this auspicious year in which we celebrate the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Caribbean Community, this gathering affords an opportunity for reflection and celebration of the Foreign Policy Coordination milestones that have supported the longevity and successes of our Community, as well as to acknowledge and refocus on those things we know we can do better.
I express appreciation to the Honourable E.P. Chet Greene, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Antigua and Barbuda and Outgoing Chair of the COFCOR, for his leadership of this Council during the past year.
I warmly welcome you, Senator the Honourable Kamina Johnson Smith, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, as Chair of COFCOR, and wish you a successful year. I also thank the Government and People of Jamaica for the warm welcome and excellent arrangements made for this Meeting. Madame Chair, that well-known Jamaican hospitality and organisational capability have ensured a good environment for these deliberations.
This Meeting is taking place against the backdrop of an international order burdened by several overlapping and mutually re-enforcing global crises. These include the negative economic and social impact of the COVID-19 pandemic; divisive and challenging geopolitical issues which undermine multilateralism; and the unjust impact of climate change on Small Islands and Low-lying Coastal Developing States that have not contributed to climate change. It is our responsibility to do the best we can to build resilience to the impact of climate change. At the same time, we must continue to advocate to ensure that those that caused – and continue to cause – climate change, do much more to moderate their impact and meaningfully support the resilience and recovery of those countries, like ours, which bear the greatest burden of climate change.
In this environment where geopolitical balances of power are in a period of great flux, the Region’s leadership on matters of global import remains essential. Over the next two days, this Council’s agenda will address how best to position the Community on the hemispheric and global stages and advance a coordinated and strategic approach to strengthen our external relations.
Member States of the Caribbean Community highly value the long-standing relationships forged with our external partners and the excellent spirit of cooperation which characterise these relationships. Solidarity with our partners, in a rules-based and principled context, has been mutually beneficial in the political, economic, environmental, health, scientific and technical spheres. We look forward to continued engagement with our trusted partners to further strengthen our collective actions.
With insightful discussions over the next two days, we can take significant strides to strengthen coordination of the Community’s foreign policy. I trust that our dialogue will be frank, robust, and most importantly, deliver innovative approaches and tangible results.
The Caribbean Community has a complex and formidable task at hand. However, our integration movement and our intra-community relations have already built a strong foundation on which we can continue to devise solutions to improve the lives and livelihoods of the people of the Region.
In a world where multi-lateral rules-based systems are under strain, CARICOM, as small states, must rely more than ever on focused and coordinated diplomacy based on those principles on which we are founded. We must bolster our relations with like-minded states, and continue to advocate for multilateralism, including a reformed United Nations.
Madame Chair, Honourable Ministers, let us fully utilise the opportunity that this Meeting provides for meaningful and results-oriented dialogue on strategies to strengthen coordination of our foreign relations for the well-being of the peoples of CARICOM.