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Remarks by the Incoming Chair of the Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR), the Hon. Vince Henderson, Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Business, Trade and Energy of the Commonwealth of Dominica at the Opening Ceremony of the Twenty-Seventh Meeting of COFCOR, 23 May 2024, Roseau, Dominica

  • Dr. Carla N. Barnett, Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM);
  • Senator the Honourable Kamina Johnson-Smith, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Jamaica and Outgoing Chair of the Council for Foreign and Community Relations;
  • Colleague Ministers of the Caribbean Community;
  • Ms. Elizabeth Solomon, Assistant Secretary-General, Foreign and Community Relations and Other Staff of the CARICOM Secretariat;
  • Distinguished Delegates.

On behalf of the Government and people of Dominica, it is my distinct honour to welcome you all to the Nature Island of the Caribbean. We are particularly delighted to host the Twenty-Seventh Regular Meeting of the Council for Foreign and Community Relations and hope that amidst our productive discussions, you can experience some of the natural beauty that Dominica offers. We are also pleased to demonstrate our state-of-the-art Geothermal Energy Plant, which we launched in July last year.

As we gather here today, I am reminded of the profound strength that comes from unity. The action-oriented agenda before us reflects the complex realities of our times. Indeed, our region has had to navigate the evolving global landscape as we address pressing regional issues such as climate change, energy, and food and nutrition security. In this regard, our collective voice and shared purpose are crucial as the COFCOR undertakes its work and provides policy guidance in advancing our shared vision and development goals. 

Colleague Ministers, our increased engagement with emerging partners, such as those in the Middle East, underscores our enduring commitment to maximising opportunities for the region’s benefit. The invitation extended to the State of Qatar, for engagement with the Council, reflects our belief in multilateral cooperation in support our shared priorities.

This follows on the inaugural CARICOM-Saudi Arabia Summit held in Riyadh last November and the CARICOM-Canada Summit in Ottawa just before that, in October. As Foreign Ministers, we must promote an environment that enables increased opportunities for collaboration, cooperation, and strategic partnerships.

Over the next two days, our deliberations will address several critical issues to build a more resilient and thriving Community for all. I must say that your presence here in Dominica signifies a strong commitment to strengthening our community ties and collaboration and I am appreciative of the fact that so many Member States are represented.

During our meeting, the Council will review important engagements with Third States and will be briefed on plans to commemorate the 2024 CARICOM-Japan Friendship Year. We will also receive details on the schedule for other technical-level engagements due this year with Brazil, Canada, India, and Korea, which will chart our development cooperation with these States.

Colleagues, the Council will continue to reflect on the geopolitical concerns directly affecting our sustainable development. We will receive updates on the Associate Membership applications of several Third States in the Region and also discuss the implications of enlargement as it relates to observers.

Moreover, the COFCOR will also review upcoming international meetings of significance to our Region, including the Commonwealth Heads of Government and the Summit of the Future that require our coordinated attention and the development of strong unified positions.

Among the breadth of issues demanding our attention is that of support for our sister nation of Haiti, including the Good Offices function of the Eminent Persons Group. On this, we are reminded of the meaningful progress yielded thus far and are encouraged to remain steadfast in our principled support.

On hemispheric and multilateral matters, we will receive updates from the Caucus of Ambassadors in Washington, DC and Permanent Representatives to the UN in New York on pertinent issues before those bodies.

Finally, there are Community Relations matters for this COFCOR of critical importance. We will continue to advance discussions on the respective border issues involving Member States, as we continue to support the maintenance and preservation of their sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Colleagues, I am looking forward to frank and robust discussions on the issues before us and over the upcoming year. It is my expectation that we will deliver tangible results for the benefit of our respective countries and peoples – results that provide a practical path to address our current challenges and facilitate long-lasting shared benefits through innovation, trade and investment, while deepening our ties.  

As I close, it would be remiss of me if I did not, on our collective behalf, thank the outgoing Chair, Senator the Honourable Kamina Johnson Smith, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Jamaica, for her excellent leadership during her tenure, at a time when our Region was confronted with many challenges. We are indebted to you, Minister Johnson Smith, for your expert stewardship of the Council over the past year, which has leveraged many opportunities for us to advance our partnerships with various Third States.

Colleagues, let us continue to work steadfastly to better the lives and livelihoods of this Community. Through open dialogue, continued cooperation, and a commitment to our shared values, we will navigate these complexities and forge a brighter future for the Caribbean Community.

Thank you.

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