- Senator the Honourable Kamina Johnson Smith, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Jamaica
- Her Excellency Dr Carla Barnett, Secretary-General, CARICOM,
- Ambassador Donna Forde, Assistant Secretary General, Foreign and Community Relations
- Distinguished Colleague Ministers of the Caribbean Community, CARICOM
- Senior Officials of CARICOM Member States
- Staff of the CARICOM Secretariat
I wish to express tremendous gratitude to our host the Government and People of Jamaica for their warm hospitality and the excellent service which is on display for us all to see. I also would like to commend the leadership and staff of the CARICOM Secretariat for its collaborative role in executing what we anticipate will be a successful COFCOR. Permit me to use this opportunity to address the COFCOR as the outgoing Chairman, where we championed the rights of our people, by addressing the needs of our Region in an attempt to elevate the livelihoods of our citizens, while enhancing CARICOM’s presence on a global stage.
Throughout my Chairmanship, operating in a post COVID world certainly has presented its sheer amount of challenges, however, through our resilience and collective efforts we have provided opportunities to further develop and diversify the Region’s economies which the citizens of CARICOM have benefitted.
Colleagues, I believe that it is imperative for us to utilize our respective talents to continue the work of the signatories of the original Treaty of Chaguaramas, in advancing the Caribbean region’s economies, uplifting the standard of living for our citizens, while strengthening the process of integration. It is especially important for the excellent work of CARICOM to be echoed across the Region and throughout the globe given that we are about to celebrate 50 years as an organization. For this we must once again thank the CARICOM Secretariat for the tremendous work it has done over the years in growing this institution, which is the oldest surviving institution in this hemisphere and the developing world. Nonetheless, I believe that there are still areas which we must continuously address such as Community Relations.
With a common language and shared culture our Region should be closer than its present state. Colleagues, unlike other institutions such as the European Union, we are not landlocked and are separated by the sea. The pandemic has further exacerbated the issue of affordable regional travel. In order to achieve CARICOM’s “Pillars of Regional Integration” it is necessary for us to address this issue of regional travel with the urgency that is required. Our respective Member States, along with the Secretariat need to devise workable plans and solutions to provide affordable air and maritime travel. This requires lobbying efforts through the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and overseas Missions to friendly nations for developmental assistance. Additionally, I wish to encourage the Secretariat to further create an environment that will foster stronger Community engagement through improved internal relations. Through this we will have a much better Caribbean Community where our people can express their talents and innovative capabilities to further lend to Regional development.
Over the next two days we will engage in various topics relevant to the Community while holding several bilateral. The Eleventh UK-Caribbean Forum will immediately follow the conclusion of the COFCOR. I believe that this will present the ideal opportunity for CARICOM to hold serious dialogue with the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs and UK Government on matters surrounding development. Assistance in areas such as education, security, climate resilience and improved infrastructure should feature high on our agenda, as this will lend to the overall development of the Region. Furthermore, the fight for reparations which is so dear to CARICOM must be presented to our UK counterparts as a collective concern for an injustice that was perpetrated against our forebears.
Additionally, the 5th CARICOM-Mexico Summit will allow for further enhancement in our Regions with Mexico. Mexico has long been a friend of the Caribbean Community and we must note the importance of Mexico to our Region.
Colleagues, further allow me to commend our fellow Member State in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, which currently serves as the President Pro Tempore of CELAC. It is admirable for such a small nation to serve in this capacity for an institution that serves to unite the Caribbean and Latin America. I wish to pledge on behalf of Antigua and Barbuda our full support during your Presidency and I know that the entire Caribbean Community will do their part in supporting the initiatives of our fellow Member State.
Today, we meet at a time overshadowed by conflict within our Community. The grim situation in Haiti has presented a challenge not only in that Member States but throughout the Region. I am of the firm belief that we must work collectively to devise solutions to address this situation. Ultimately, the decision on the direction that Haiti will forge upon depends primarily on its citizens. Therefore, there must be national consensus within Haiti, and those of us on the outside must have the patience to allow for self-determination by the Haitian people. Moreover, the Russian-Ukraine conflict still presents a challenge on the global stage with its ever-lingering economic effects affecting our economies and livelihoods. We must continue to advocate for a swift resolution to this conflict before it escalates further, for our very lives depend on it.
In closing, I wish to congratulate my colleague Minister Johnson Smith, on her assumption as Chair of the COFCOR. I have always known you to be an advocate for CARICOM and its endeavours. I am assured that your leadership and determination will serve to advance the COFCOR. I pledge my continuous support during your tenure as we work assiduously towards advancing the work of our Governments and this noble institution. Our Region has been long known for its resilience, determination and fortitude and I am confident that with our combined efforts, we will be able to succeed in all of our aspirations. With this I wish us all a successful meeting over the next two days.