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Remarks by the Secretary-General of CARICOM, Amb. Irwin LaRocque, (21st Meeting of the Council of Ministers of CARIFORUM) Grenada

In giving these remarks, let me begin by applauding and thanking the Government and people of Grenada for the hospitable environment provided for this Twenty-First Meeting of the Council of Ministers.  The well-known hospitality of Grenada will certainly go some way to ensuring very productive discussions.

I would also like to take this opportunity to convey sincere gratitude to the outgoing Chair, the Honourable Carlos Morales Troncoso, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Dominican Republic.  His effective leadership during his chairmanship has guided the constructive deliberations and decision-making of the Council of Ministers.  

At the same time, I wish to officially welcome the Chairman, the Honourable Oliver Joseph, who is no stranger to CARIFORUM Meetings. With such experience behind him, I am sure that he will guide our deliberations in an astute manner.  I look forward to working with you Mr Chairman, over the next year in that capacity.

It is also my pleasure to welcome to his first meeting as Director General, Mr Percival Marie who is also well versed in CARIFORUM matters. We also have two new directors in the CARIFORUM Directorate, Mr Carlos Wharton, Director, EPA Implementation and Mr Eugene Petty Director, Development Cooperation.  I welcome them both.

I would also like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the contribution of Mr Ivan Ogando Lora, the former Director General of the CARIFORUM Directorate during whose tenure Intra-CARIFORUM relations improved.

Honourable Ministers, this Meeting is taking place under a similar global financial and economic environment as the previous Meeting of the Council of Ministers.  Not much has changed in that regard.  CARIFORUM States, with a few exceptions, are still in the process of recovery from the global financial and economic crisis which has presented enormous challenges to the Region.  With the well-known added problems associated with Small States, including low growth, high indebtedness, vulnerabilities to natural disasters and low resilience to external shocks, the challenges are compounded and have become even more formidable.  Most of our Member States are faced with fiscal challenges while at the same time access to concessionary funding is declining due to graduation or differentiation.

It is against this background, Ministers, that this meeting will be considering the 11th EDF Caribbean Regional Indicative Programme.  I have been informed that due to differentiation which is now being applied by the European Union, the National Indicative Programmes of many of our Member States have been reduced while the Regional Indicative Programme has been increased from 165 to 350 million euros. The National Indicative Programme has been an important source of financing for development programmes at the national level. With its reduction, it is therefore important that as we seek to allocate the regional resources, we must ensure that programmes and projects agreed upon, address the challenges which our Member States currently face, and have a real impact on the lives of the people of the region.  The programming of these resources must be informed by the Joint CARIFORUM-EU Strategy already agreed to by both parties.

The 11th EDF regional programme is likely to contain a number of innovations such as the introduction of multi-country programming as an implementation modality.  This provides for two or more Member States to have one joint or common project which would qualify as a Regional Programme.

I believe that we must welcome this innovation since it provides the scope for our Member States to secure direct benefits from the Regional Programme.  We must, however, ensure that the value of resources to be allocated to multi-country programmes within each priority area is determined by this Council. This Council should agree on which multi-country programmes are to be financed from the Regional Programme in order to ensure transparency, equity and involvement of all our Member States in that process.

As we identify the priority areas for financing, one critical cross-cutting issue which should permeate whatever interventions are eventually agreed upon, is that of human capacity development in the public and private sectors.  Without human capacity development, CARIFORUM as a region cannot achieve global competitiveness, neither can it build sustainable economies.  Similarly, we cannot achieve sustainable development without building institutions, nationally and regionally, capable of continuing to deliver services when project-related financing in particular areas would have ceased.

The process of the 11th EDF Programming has already begun.  The Draft Concept Paper, reviewed by the Special Meeting of Ministers of CARIFORUM held in June this year was further discussed and fine-tuned at a Regional Stakeholders Consultation held in Georgetown in September.  This Meeting will be called upon to consider the recommendations of the regional stakeholders and finalise the Concept Paper, as a clear Statement of the objectives and priority areas for support under the 11th EDF.

Honourable Ministers, the Agenda also contains other important issues relevant to development cooperation, trade, and governance, to be addressed by the Meeting. 

We will receive a status report on programming under the 10th EDF Regional Indicative Programme.  I am pleased to note that by the end of December 2013 this region will have completed, well ahead of the other ACP regions, the programming of the entire amount allocated under the 10th EDF, with the final approval of the last three Programmes.  These are Crime and Security Cooperation, Civil Society Participation in the Regional Development and Integration Process, and Support for Wider Caribbean cooperation.

We must as a region, along with our implementing agencies which include international organizations, make every effort to ensure that we are able to draw down on the 10th EDF resources in a timely manner so that our overall implementation record may be improved.

Another item on the agenda relates to the CARIFOUM – EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).  Effective implementation of the EPA is important to the future development of the CARIFORUM Region.  The EPA makes provisions for a comprehensive review not later than five years after signature to determine its impact on the development of the region.  The Secretariat has engaged the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (UNECLAC) to assist us in preparing for the review.  This report will be available before the end of the year. The joint review by CARIFORUM and European Union will take place in the first quarter of 2014.

The issue of governance will also be before you today.  This will include the legal personality of CARIFORUM, the institutional relationship between CARICOM and CARIFORUM and the financial sustainability of the CARIFORUM Directorate.  These are issues that will have to be addressed as CARIFORUM matures as a regional co-operation arrangement.

Ministers, this Council meeting is taking place at a crucial time in the evolution of relations between the European Union and the ACP and your deliberations today should take into account this reality. I therefore look forward to insightful and fruitful discussions leading to decisions which would have a beneficial impact on our region’s development.

I thank you.

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