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Remarks by Senator the Hon Kamina Johnson Smith, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Jamaica, on the occasion of the Eleventh UK-Caribbean Forum, Kingston, Jamaica, 18 May 2023

Good morning.

Jamaica is honoured to host this Eleventh United Kingdom-Caribbean  Forum, and we are particularly pleased that we are able to do so, as this is the first in-person staging of the Forum in seven years.

Over the previous two days, it has been a pleasure to engage with the CARICOM Foreign Ministers and Secretary-General in the 26th Meeting of the COFCOR here in Kingston. May I therefore extend a special welcome to Foreign Secretary Cleverly, who is undertaking his first visit to the Caribbean since his appointment as the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs; and to the Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cuba, H.E. Josefina de la Caridad Vidal Ferreiro; and also to Ambassador Angie Martinez, who is representing the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Dominican Republic.   


The Eleventh UK-Caribbean Forum takes place alongside the 26th Meeting of the Council for Foreign and Community Relations which concluded yesterday and the Inaugural Jamaica-UK Strategic Dialogue scheduled to be held tomorrow. This Forum is an indication of the value of the partnership between CARICOM and the wider Caribbean, and the United Kingdom.

The United Kingdom is one of the Caribbean’s longest and most dynamic development partners. Our bond built on shared culture, trade, and crucial contributions that have been made and are being made by the Peoples of the Caribbean to the development of the United Kingdom. The value and strength of these connections is undeniable. We are therefore confident of productive engagement on our challenges, including treatment of the Windrush generation and the issue of reparatory justice.

In the twenty-five years since this Forum was first convened, it has remained the foremost mechanism for high-level political consultation and dialogue between the UK and the Caribbean. These engagements have led to deeper cooperation in areas that have been critical to our shared security, prosperity, and development.

Our engagement in this Forum has also allowed us to keep our finger on the pulse of emerging needs and opportunities in an ever-evolving global environment, thereby proving its resilience and flexibility as a tool for strategic engagement.

Since the Tenth Forum convened virtually in 2021, we have witnessed the tragic return of war in Europe. The security and humanitarian crises resulting from the war in Ukraine are undoubtedly being felt by our UK counterparts. Here in the Caribbean, its far-reaching impacts are also being felt, particularly in the form of ballooning food and energy bills. Furthermore, the associated sanctions continue to exacerbate an already fragile global economic situation in which smaller economies, such as ours, are disproportionately affected.

The Caribbean has long championed and will continue to champion, the principles of sovereign equality of States, territorial integrity, non-interference, the peaceful settlement of disputes, and adherence to international law. We urge countries to make efficient use of all existing mechanisms to address the global consequences of the war on developing countries, and to bring the conflict to an end.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

We in the Caribbean find ourselves on the frontlines of another kind of crisis, from which the casualties are steadily increasing. Scientists and experts continue to issue dire warnings that our very survival depends on not exceeding the Paris Agreement target of 1.5°C; that window is fast closing. The City of Kingston, where we are meeting today, is itself is set to reach climate departure this year. Kingston will be the second city in the world to experience this dangerous phenomenon where the climate begins to enter a new state and temperatures that were once considered extreme, become the norm.

The world can no longer afford to conduct business as usual. The Caribbean’s survival is contingent on ambitious climate action, and the fulfilment of climate financing commitments by the Global North. Both are urgently required. As we get closer to COP28, we must face the looming climate crisis with a sense of realism and a spirit of innovation. I am therefore heartened to learn, Foreign Secretary, of the UK’s own recognition of the dangers of climate change and commitment to ensuring that there is real action. We look forward to learning more on this during our deliberations.

Underscoring the multiple and interlocking challenges faced by the countries of the Caribbean, is the lack of financing for development. The lack of fiscal space due to high levels of indebtedness, and the inability to access grant and concessional financing due to OECD criteria for graduation, urges attention to new approaches to the international financial architecture aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

More narrowly, the Caribbean is championing a new multi-dimensional vulnerability index to allow greater flexibility as developing countries work towards true sustainable development – beyond mere recovery to our pre-pandemic levels. As the UK prepares to engage its G7 counterparts in Hiroshima, Japan, later this week, we would ask that it conveys these messages from the Caribbean, and undertakes to be an advocate for this region with which it is intimately and inextricably linked.

Opportunities to trade and invest are vital to our partnership. The CARIFORUM-UK Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) ensures continuity of preferential trading between our respective parties.  However, the key to the success of this Agreement will be the ability to take full advantage of the opportunities that it provides, which will include addressing the capacity constraints that we face.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Partnerships like the one embodied in the UK-Caribbean Forum, enable us to meet the moment and confront the challenges of our time. We will therefore embark upon an ambitious Agenda, crafted around three thematic areas: sustainable and economic development; security and immigration; and the promotion of common values and shared interests.

We will give focus to trade and investment and the operationalisation of the CARIFORUM-UK EPA; the cross-cutting issue of financing for development; strategies to address the climate and environment crises; and deeper cooperation in the areas of security, defence, education, and health. Our meeting will also consider the situation facing persons of the Windrush Generation, and the issue of reparatory justice. As we embark on these important and timely discussions, I encourage Colleague Foreign Ministers to engage in a spirit of openness and clear dialogue given our relatively short timeframe.

In closing, I would like to acknowledge and thank the Caucus of Heads of Mission in London and the CARICOM Secretariat for their role in the substantive preparations for today’s meeting.

I look forward to refining our Plan of Action and to agreeing on activities that are focused, actionable and measurable. I therefore anticipate active participation in our deliberations and that will enhance the sustainable development of our peoples.

I thank you.

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