14 January 2022
- Hon. Eamon Courtenay, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Immigration of Belize, and Chair of the Community Council;
- Other Honourable Ministers and other Heads of Delegation;
- Deputy Secretary-General, other Members of EMC and Staff of the Secretariat;
- Distinguished Delegates;
- Ladies and Gentlemen.
I wish everyone a very happy and productive 2022, as I welcome all to this Forty-Eighth Meeting of the Community Council. This is the first for me as Secretary-General of our Community and for Dr. Alexis as Deputy Secretary-General.
The importance of this Council to the efficient functioning of our Community cannot be overemphasised. As the second highest Community Organ with primary responsibility for strategic planning and coordination, your role is even more crucial as the Community confronts the social and economic challenges of these pandemic times.
Other Ministerial Councils focus on their specific areas, but it falls to this Council to have the broad view and to prioritise their recommendations to advance the interests of our Community. It is your recommendations that are placed before our Heads of Government for decisions. It is this Council that approves the Community’s budget, and the mobilisation and allocation of resources to implement the plans and programmes arising out of the decisions of the Heads of Government. The latter is no easy task at a time when our already limited resources are even further constrained by the consequences and demands of the pandemic.
What this situation underlines, is the absolute imperative for the greatest urgency in the implementation of the principles and measures outlined in the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas. The road to recovery will be smoother, if paved with the tools and equipment provided by the Treaty. These times, more than ever, call on us to utilise to the fullest extent, the elements of what we are putting in place as an integration movement.
One year from now, we will be celebrating 50 years as the Caribbean Community. As we approach that milestone, the experience that we have gained along the way should guide us, as we seek to build on the lessons we have learned along the way and work even more closely together to build economic and environmental resilience.
Our activities this year should reflect priorities that need to be addressed in building that resilience, as we emerge from the crisis of COVID-19 and tackle the existential threat of climate change. I ask you to bear this in mind as you prepare the draft agenda for the Conference of Heads of Government to consider at its upcoming Thirty-Third Inter-Sessional Meeting.
That is one of the items on your agenda today. You are also being asked to approve the Secretariat’s Work Programme and Budget for the year, and look at the on-going reform process, specifically the restructuring of the Secretariat.
You will also receive an update on the continuing challenging situation in Haiti and the status of the applications for Associate Membership of the Community.
Chair, Ministers, the past year was eventful and testing for the Community. We battled with the health, education and economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. We rallied around our Member States of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Haiti, as they coped with the natural disasters of a volcano and an earthquake, respectively. We stood in solidarity with Haiti as the country grieved following the assassination of its President, Jovenel Moise. We bore the disappointment of the outcomes of COP26, which provide little hope for stemming the advance of global warming.
These issues should serve to spur us on to act with greater determination to achieve the resilient Caribbean Community that we desire and our people deserve. It is my hope that this first Ministerial Council Meeting for the year will set the tone and direction that will guide our Community along that path in 2022.
I thank you.