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Remarks by the Outgoing Chair of the Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR), Senator the Hon. Kamina Johnson Smith, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Jamaica, at the Opening Ceremony of the Twenty-Seventh Meeting of COFCOR, 23 May 2024, Roseau, Dominica

  • Dr. Carla Barnett, Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM);
  • Honourable Dr. Vince Henderson, Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Business, Trade and Energy of the Commonwealth of Dominica and Incoming Chair of the Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR);
  • Colleague Foreign Ministers;
  • Your Excellency Mr. Soltan bin Saad Al-Muraikhi, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of Qatar;
  • Ms. Elizabeth Solomon, Assistant Secretary-General and staff of the Directorate for Foreign and Community Relations of the CARICOM Secretariat;
  • Members of the Media;
  • Ladies and gentlemen.

Bon jou! (Dominican kwéyòl – Good morning)

Let me begin by extending my delegation’s sincere appreciation to the Government and people of the Commonwealth of Dominica for the warm hospitality extended since our arrival in the beautiful city of Roseau and for all the arrangements that have been put in place for this Twenty-Seventh Meeting of the COFCOR.

It is indeed a pleasure to join Minister Henderson in his beautiful ‘nature island’, as he assumes the COFCOR Chairmanship. Minister/Vince, I offer you Jamaica’s full support as incoming Chair, as we continue to navigate major regional, hemispheric and international issues.

I am confident our Colleagues will agree that 2023 was quite active and very productive indeed. Please allow me a few minutes to reflect on some of the issues that dominated the foreign and community relations agenda in the past year.

Last May provided the honour of hosting you all for the 26th Regular Meeting of the COFCOR as our colleague Chet handed over the Chair. We were pleased that at the same time we were also able to host the 11th UK-Caribbean Forum – the first in-person staging since 2016. At that meeting, CARICOM and the United Kingdom signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the establishment of a Consultation Mechanism to facilitate greater cooperation, signalling a commitment to ongoing dialogue and engagement between the two sides.

As a region, we strengthened our ties with a number of Third States and regional blocs, including Canada, Japan, South Africa, and the United States, as well as SICA and CELAC. It may be recalled that on the margins of the 53rd OAS General Assembly in June 2023, the CARICOM-Canada Foreign Ministers’ Group Meeting was held. At that Meeting, we reiterated the value of our deep and longstanding partnership with Canada, and recommitted to common objectives concerning areas such as climate action, access to finance and regional security.

This year also marks 30 years since the formal establishment of CARICOM-Japan relations and having received the logo at COFCOR last year, 2024 is notably being commemorated as CARICOM-Japan Friendship Year.  Both the SG and I have had the privilege of marking its importance in Japan.

In the margins of the 57th SICA Summit in Placencia, Belize, we convened a meeting of CARICOM-SICA Foreign Ministers which served as a strategic ministerial exchange on key regional priorities for both sub-regions, in particular trade facilitation, transportation and digital transformation.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Having been unable to align her dates for attendance at our 26th COFCOR, we convened a CARICOM-South Africa Ministerial Meeting in March this year during a visit to Jamaica by South Africa’s Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Her Excellency Grace Naledi Mandisa Pandor. This engagement allowed us to explore collaboration between Africa and the Caribbean region through mechanisms such as the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and the Afreximbank which has established an office in Barbados.

With regard to Community Relations, priority focus was placed on the multifaceted situation impacting our fellow CARICOM member state Haiti. At both the Conference of Heads and COFCOR levels, we continue to support unabated efforts, through the CARICOM Good Offices initiative, towards peace, stability and development in Haiti. In my capacity as Chair of the COFCOR, I was invited to address a private meeting of the UN Security Council regarding the 11th March high-level meeting and earlier in February, an international pledging event in support of Haiti, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on the margins of the G20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It has indeed been a privilege for me to have held the COFCOR Chairmanship during the commemoration of the Fiftieth Anniversary of CARICOM.  It was a particular pleasure to have had the Secretary-General and Foreign Ministers participate in a commemorative tree planting ceremony as part of the celebratory activities during the 26th COFCFOR meeting. The ongoing year-long celebrations have acknowledged the strength and pride of our integration movement as well as our aspirations for the future.

As it relates to the state of global affairs, our keen attention and concern have been occupied by the increased tensions and conflicts including the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza and associated human suffering, the threats to the integrity and sovereignty of Guyana, as well as the ongoing territorial dispute concerning Belize.

In the area of candidatures, we advanced on our coordination efforts with the establishment of a Working Group to Review the Principles for the Selection of CARICOM Candidatures, following the recommendation of the 26th COFCOR Meeting. As Chair of the Working Group, Jamaica will present a final report during this Twenty-Seventh Meeting. 

Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Without a doubt, the COFCOR has continued to set the pace and the priorities of our extra-regional interactions. Our shared commitment to the strengthening of the regional bloc promotes not only the advancement of our Community but also the advancement of our individual nations. As there is strength in numbers, there is strength in coordination. Let us strive to play as a team. We will encounter the occasional divergence in views but we should always be able to find solutions in the interest of our collective development as a region.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

As I close, I wish to extend my warmest congratulations once again to Minister Henderson on his assumption of the COFCOR Chairmanship. I am confident that your experience and direction will serve the COFCOR well. I wish to acknowledge and thank the CARICOM Secretariat for their valued support during my Chairmanship and look forward to a fruitful and action-focused Twenty-Seventh Meeting in lush, beautiful Dominica. I thank you.

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