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Representatives of United Nations Specialised Agencies
Representatives of CARICOM Associated Institutions;
Other Distinguished Guests;
Ladies and Gentlemen

It is with a deep sense of satisfaction that we convene this the Second General Meeting between Representatives of the Caribbean Community and its Associate Institutions and of the United Nations System. Our First Meeting was held in New York, in May 1997, immediately following the signing of the Cooperation Agreement between the Secretariat of the United Nations and the Secretariat of the Caribbean Community. That this Meeting is being held for the first time in our beautiful Caribbean Region of the Community is a special source of pleasure and inspiration. It is therefore my privilege to welcome you and to express our sincere gratitude to the Government and people of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas who in their tradition of hospitality have created the environment for a fruitful Meeting over the next few days.

The mandate of this Meeting lies in Resolution 53/15 adopted in 1998 at the Fifty-Third Regular Session of the General Assembly, which at paragraph 7, `Recommends that the Second General Meeting Between Representatives of the Caribbean Community and its Associate Institutions and of the United Nations System be hosted . . . in the Caribbean Region in order to review and appraise progress in the implementation of the agreed areas and issues and to hold consultations on additional measures and procedures as may be required to facilitate and strengthen cooperation between the two organisations.’

As we being our work, therefore, it seems appropriate to recall the context in which we are meeting, especially in relation to the changing global environment since we last met some three years ago.

Since we met in 1997, the pace of the process of global free trade has accelerated; global environmental disasters have become increasingly frequent, as a result of the `El Niño’ and ‘La Niña’ phenomena; technological advancement has transformed communications; the incidence of AIDS has risen to epidemic proportions and the drug culture has become a global threat, with its corruptive influence on vulnerable communities worldwide.

Nearer to home, Member States of the Community have witnessed the erosion of preferential treatment for their commodities, concurrent with dwindling resource flows.

It is against the backdrop of these developments that we meet not only to review progress to date but to chart the direction of future cooperation.

The Caribbean Community Member States have always emphasised the important role the United Nations plays in promoting the development agenda that emphasises peace and stability, equity, justice, good governance and poverty alleviation.

This role is all the more important as our Member States strive to be active participants in the complex and evolving trade and financial arrangements. Despite our favourable positions in the human development index and the poverty index, we are severely constrained by the peculiar vulnerabilities of our circumstances as small states, both in terms of our economies and physical environment.

The many disadvantages associated with vulnerabilities of small states to external economic stocks and natural disasters are well known. These special circumstances together with accelerating globalisation, present challenges for the future of our Member States.

In fact, the very concept of smallness not only connotes our susceptibility to external shocks and natural disasters, to which I earlier alluded, but often serves as a determining negative influence on resource flows.

Our peculiar circumstances impel that Small States should be the focus of special treatment, in terms of a more responsive approach to our needs. Continued support, adequate in quality and quantity, is therefore required if we are to succeed in the uphill struggle to ensure sustained development of the Region.

Member States have accepted the reality of such challenges and have sought to examine realistic possibilities, taking into strategic consideration, our constraints and strengths. A process of reorientation has begun, as we seek to ensure that Member States are positioned `ahead of the game.’

As the Caribbean Community prepares itself for the challenges of the future, it has sought to deepen its work on the Single Market as well as widen the scope of its membership. The Republic of Haiti, whose fledgling democracy is a concern of the Community, is one final legal step away from fully becoming one of our members, increasing our population from 5 million to 11 million, which increases the challenges faced by Member States.

The new global environment and severe constraints on development resources have taken their toll on the Caribbean, as elsewhere. They have introduced elements of social tension and disruption. As Member States strengthen their commitment to our Charter on Civil Society, and nurture systems and mechanisms for good governance, we look forward to the support of the UN to our fledgling institutions – the Assembly of Caribbean Parliamentarians and the proposed Caribbean Court of Justice.

In response to these challenges, the Community has created, and in some instances adapted, mechanisms to enhance Member States’ flexibility in coping with these changed circumstances. The Regional Negotiating Machinery (RNM) has been created to spearhead international and hemispheric trade negotiations, critical to income and employment generation in the Region. As another mechanism, the Conference of Heads of Government have agreed to assign to each Leader, responsibility for spearheading the progress in a particular vital element in the integration process. Provisions have also been made for the greater involvement of Stakeholders (the private sector, political opposition, NGOs and the wider civil society) in advancing the regional integration process.

I wish now, to make a few observations concerning the subject of `the implementation of agreed areas and issues,’ in accordance with the mandate for this Meeting, mindful though I am that these matters will be dealt within greater detail at Item 5 on our Agenda.

At our First Meeting in1997, our discussions focused on six (6) priority areas namely:

 (i) the development of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy;

(ii) positioning CARICOM in the global economic environment;

(iii) institutional and legal development;

(iv) poverty eradication and social development;

(v) sustainable development of Small Island Developing States; and

(vi) state security, governance and development.

Since that Meeting, the Community has created, and in some cases adopted, various mechanisms to enhance our flexibility, especially in response to global and regional changing circumstances.

The Single Market and Economy is almost a reality. It is heralding the free movement of goods and services, as well as skilled labour and capital, in response to market opportunities. In recognition of the exciting progress we have made in advancing the Single Market and Economy, the Community acknowledges the cooperation received from the UNDP, under Phase II of the project on `The Creation of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME)’ approved in July 1999. The Twentieth Meeting of the CARICOM Heads of Government, held in Trinidad and Tobago 4-7 July 1999, publicly recognised the value of this support to advancing work on the CSME. Such invaluable support from the United Nations for the operationalisation of the Protocols will help to promote public awareness in the Region; and enhance the process of implementing the new arrangements under the revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.

On the issue of positioning CARICOM in the Global Economic Environment, the Region has received active support in preparing for the next round of the WTO’s Multilateral Trade Negotiations, in monitoring global developments, and in the necessary enhancement of the telecommunications environment.

With regard to the issue of institutional and legal development, collaboration between CARICOM and the UN has focused, for the most part, on building regional capacity for the preservation, protection and promotion of intellectual property rights. As an example, the CARICOM Music Industry Development (CARMID) project is being implemented. With its emphasis on Copyright, it is expected that the legal and institutional framework for the development of the music industry will be strengthened. CARMID will also promote organised, entrepreneurial approaches to Caribbean music by developing linkages with the international music industry. So far, a model Draft Copyright Legislation has been prepared for Member States, in an effort to pave the way for their accession to the relevant Copyright Conventions. Draft explanatory Memoranda and Articles of Association have also been prepared for CARICOM associations of musicians and entertainers.

Turning now to poverty eradication and social development, I wish to note the outstanding contribution that CARICOM/UN cooperation has made to social policy formulation and social planning, employment generation, youth development, the advancement of women, health services, and protection and promotion of the rights of the child.

In this regard, mention should be made of the issue of sustainable development of Small Island Developing States. There has been great focus on the implementation of the SIDS Plan of Action (POA). We are especially grateful for the approval by the Fifty-Fourth Session of the UN General Assembly last December of the Draft Resolution entitled “Promoting and Integrated Management Approach to the Caribbean Sea area in the context of Sustainable Development”. This Resolution is a significant accomplishment and a definitive step towards the governance of the Caribbean Sea. The Caribbean Community and the UN System Agencies have also been working together on such critical areas as tourism development, waste management, fisheries development, and disaster management. Such cooperation has indeed strengthened the response capabilities of SIDS.

The major thrust of the collaborative efforts vis-a-vis State Security, Governance and Development has been the implementation of the Plan of Action for Drug Control Coordination and Cooperation. However, another aspect of collaboration under this theme was the support the Region received from the UN System, on behalf of Guyana and St Kitts and Nevis, in the management of intra-state conflict and of tendencies towards fragmentation, respectively.

Friends and colleagues, this Second General Meeting must seek to intensify and further strengthen the existing relations between the Caribbean Community and the United Nations System agencies. Clearly, as we look towards the 2000-2001 biennium, it is imperative that we address some of the critical issues that will affect Member Countries in the wake of the new global environment. High on the list of issues for collaboration must be trade and competitiveness, support for regional integration, sustainable development, environmental protection, institutional capacity building, and democracy and good governance.

It is against this background that the Caribbean Community welcomes the Representatives of the United Nations System present at this Meeting. The Caribbean Community pledges its renewed commitment to continuing the activation of the Cooperation Agreements it has concluded with the various UN Specialised Agencies and acknowledges the support mobilised through these Agencies.

We specially recognise the very strong support our Community has been receiving from the United Nations at the sub-regional level; and, in this regard, I point to the Meeting of the CARICOM and ECLAC/CDCC Secretariats that took place at ECLAC’s Sub-regional Headquarters, Trinidad and Tobago, on 21 July 1998.

The two critical outcomes of that meeting were the identification by both Secretariats of common areas of interests for possible joint action and the determination of modalities for collaboration. This provides the clear indication that the Caribbean Community and ECLAC have jointly embarked upon the implementation of the cooperation enshrined in the Memorandum of Understanding signed in 1995.

We are therefore encouraged by the support received from the UN System and will like to suggest that there is even greater scope for building on this cooperation between CARICOM and the UN, as our Small States grapple with the challenges, and seek to exploit the opportunities, in the wake of trade liberalisation and globalisation.

Our responses to these challenges and opportunities, including our thrust towards a Single Market and Economy, demonstrate in a very practical way that the Caribbean Community is pro-actively responding to the new challenges of the global arena, despite our small-state constraints.

In closing, I wish to highlight the fact that the Agenda for this Second Meeting embraces a number of key issues for continued collaboration between CARICOM and the United Nations System. Chief among these are the preparations for the five-year review of the various international conferences and specific programmes for the future cooperation.

I am confident that this Second General Meeting will serve to deepen cooperation, foster greater collaboration between CARICOM and the United Nations and forge agreement on practical actions that must be pursued, in collaboration with the UN, in strengthening the integration process in the Region. In so doing, I am certain that the outcomes of this Meeting will respond to the special interests of our small developing countries, as they make greater strides towards economic, social and political development.

Thank you.

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