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Remarks by the Chairman – 24th Meeting of COFCOR

OPENING REMARKS

BY HONOURABLE EAMON COURTENAY, MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS, FOREIGN TRADE AND IMMIGRATION OF BELIZE, ON THE OCCASION OF THE TWENTY-FOURTH MEETING OF THE COUNCIL FOR FOREIGN AND COMMUNITY RELATIONS (COFCOR), VIRTUAL, 6 MAY 2021

  • His Excellency Dr. Claude Joseph, Prime Minister ad interim of the Republic of Haiti and outgoing Chairman of the Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR);
  • Distinguished Colleague Ministers of Foreign Affairs;
  • Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community;
  • Senior Officials;

It is indeed a distinct honour for me to have assumed the Chairmanship of the Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR) and to address you on the occasion of the Twenty-Fourth Meeting of the Council. 

Colleagues, on behalf of each of us permit me to thank our outgoing Chairman, His Excellency Dr. Claude Joseph, Prime Minister Ad Interim and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Worship of Haiti, for his stewardship of the Council over the past twelve months.  Minister Joseph you have presided over our Council during a period of great international uncertainty and challenges that required our active involvement, and concerted advocacy to protect and promote the interests of small states like ours. 

Colleagues,

As you are all aware, for the small and vulnerable economies in CARICOM, the COVID-19 pandemic has severely worsened development challenges confronting the Region and which now requires new initiatives to tackle long-standing issues. We must therefore continue to raise our collective voices and advocacy to get the developed countries to respond positively to our call for the fair, equitable and timely access to vaccines. We also need to continue to impress upon our international development partners, including the international financial institutions, the need for a more enlightened approach to our urgent need for access to concessional financing and debt relief.

Colleagues, we should take pride in the level of coordination and cooperation which our Community engendered to effectively manage and respond to the pandemic within the region. It is truly a manifestation of the spirit and promise of our integration and underscored the value of the functional cooperation we have long nurtured. This experience should inspire us to focus more on “Community Relations.”

In three weeks the next hurricane season, which according to experts will be very active and dangerous, will begin. St. Vincent and the Grenadines and other neighboring islands will still be in recovery mode from the ravages and the extensive fallout of the volcanic eruption of La Soufriere. The fragility of our existence is real.

It is important that any dialogue in which we engage the international community includes discussions on the peculiar vulnerabilities of SIDS relative to sustainability and resilience.  As a Council, we will therefore need to position region to derive the required benefits from the outcomes of major upcoming hemispheric and international meetings such as the 9th Summit of the Americas and the 26th UN Climate Change Conference.

Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen, during the next two days, we will grapple with several issues of utmost importance to our Community. One of them is the recurring topic of coordination of foreign policy. Over the past years, the COFCOR has returned regularly to this issue because it is mandated by the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.  It is clear that there will be instances when we will have divergent positions.  However, we must strive to attain some form of minimum consensus, seek some form of common ground in order to maximise the weight of our collective voices and avoid division.  

A new issue of paramount importance which will feature on our agenda is migration. Given the increased flow of illegal migrants within our Community, and the resultant effects, we need to examine whether there should be a clear regional policy to guide the Community’s actions in dealing with the issue of migration.

The Mission of the Council for Foreign and Community Relations is clear and reflected in the comprehensive agenda that we will be considering during this Twenty-Fourth Meeting.  It is my expectation that our deliberations will be rich and productive.  I am confident that at the end, we will be well equipped to advocate on behalf of our Community, confident in our belief that together we can face the challenges that we must confront and grasp opportunities that lie ahead.

I cannot conclude my remarks without expressing my appreciation to the Secretary-General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, and the staff of the CARICOM Secretariat for their hard work in preparing for the convening of this Meeting during such a challenging time.

While their task of ensuring a successful COFCOR it not yet over, I want to take this opportunity to express my deepest appreciation to my own staff for their dedication and commitment as Belize takes on the mantle of the Chairmanship of the COFCOR for the next year.

5 May 2021

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