THE CARIBBEAN COMMUNITY (CARICOM)
AMBASSADOR IRWIN LAROCQUE
ON THE OCCASION OF
THE INAUGURAL MEETING OF
THE CARICOM-CANADA FOREIGN MINISTERS’ GROUP
19 FEBRUARY 2021
- Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada;
- Honourable Eamon Courtenay Minister of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Immigration of Belize;
- Dr. the Honourable Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines;
- Hon. Joseph Farrell, Premier of Montserrat;
- Other Honourable Ministers;
I wish to start by congratulating you Minister Garneau on your appointment as Minister of Foreign Affairs. That this meeting is taking place so soon after you assumed office is testimony to your personal commitment to Canada-CARICOM relations.
I wish to join with Minister Courtenay in thanking Canada for putting in place this new formal engagement platform.
It is designed to further enhance this special relationship which has been developed over the years; a relationship that has been strengthened by the people-to-people dimension.
The agenda before this Meeting today is a clear reflection of the priorities and concerns shared by CARICOM and Canada.
This Meeting is being convened against the background of an international environment marked by the multifaceted challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
While we have done fairly well in managing the pandemic, it has devastated our vulnerable economies. This has resulted in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) describing the Caribbean as the worst economically affected Region in the world.
The ability to rebound from the devastation depends on our achieving regional herd immunity, through widespread vaccination of our populations.
Our Member States have signed on to the COVAX Facility, but would need access to more vaccines than the 20 percent which we will receive. Given the difficulties to achieve that goal, CARICOM has written to the World Health Organization (WHO) asking for a global Summit to address equitable access to vaccines.
We take note of the statements by some G7 countries that they will either share a portion of their national vaccine stock or make contributions to the COVAX Facility.
As we confront the challenge of this pandemic, we do so while continuing the battle against climate change which poses an existential threat to our Region through the ravages of intense storms, drought, and its other impacts.
The need for economic, social and environmental resilience could not be more urgent.
Honourable Ministers, in closing, I must thank Canada for its assistance to our Community during this difficult period, and express my appreciation for the funding being provided for the independent review of our Regional Institutions.
I look forward to a successful and productive meeting.
I thank you.