Opening Remarks by Ambassador Irwin LaRocque
Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)
Twenty-Third Meeting of the COFCOR (virtual)
7-8 May 2020
- His Excellency Dr. Claude Joseph, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Haiti and Incoming Chair of the COFCOR;
- Hon. Peter David, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Grenada and Outgoing Chair of the COFCOR;
- Foreign Ministers of the Caribbean Community
- Senior Officials
- Staff of the CARICOM Secretariat
I welcome you all to the Twenty-Third Meeting of the Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR). I wish to extend a special welcome to Minister Joseph who is not only attending his first meeting of the COFCOR but also assuming the Chairmanship of this Council. Honourable Minister, we look forward to your leadership and you can certainly count on our support.
I also welcome the participation of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Business and Diaspora Relations of the Commonwealth of Dominica, Dr. the Honourable Kenneth Darroux, who is also participating in his first meeting of the COFCOR. The Community welcomes your valuable participation.
Let me take this opportunity to express sincere appreciation to the Honourable Peter David, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Grenada and Outgoing Chair of the COFCOR, for his energetic leadership and capable stewardship during his tenure in the role.
Ministers as you are all aware, our world faces a new multifaceted threat – a global health, social and economic crisis in the form of the novel Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
Our unity as a region is being put to the test in a very crucial way as we respond to the impact of the pandemic. The accent has been placed on coordination under the technical guidance of CARPHA and PAHO and the Ministers of Health who have been meeting regularly, as well as by the political input and support of Heads of Government who have held two Special Meetings on the related issues. The assistance of CDEMA has also been mobilized.
Honorable Ministers, in addition to the ongoing challenges brought on as a result of the pandemic, we are fast approaching the annual Atlantic hurricane season. The climate experts forecast that the 2020 season will be above average in the number and magnitude of the predicted hurricanes. These twin threats will certainly test the resilience of our Community.
We need to continue to actively engage our international development partners with one voice as we are all in this fight together. In this regard, Foreign Ministers have been called upon to engage their international counterparts to further the advocacy initiative undertaken by the Chair of Conference who has written to global Leaders and financial institutions seeking their support for the position of CARICOM on access to concessional financing and overcoming the hurdles that bar such access.
In this regard, the Community welcomes support from countries like the UK and the US, and others like the Kingdom of Norway which has supported our efforts to keep issues of importance to us on the international agenda where we are not represented. Issues such as climate change and the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been raised at the Joint Ministerial Committee of the Boards of Governors of the World Bank and the IMF in Oslo in April by Norway’s Minister of International Development. We look forward to exploring further co-operation when we interface with the Foreign Minister of Norway, Her Excellency Ine Eriksen Søreide, during this meeting.
Among the other pressing issues, the COFCOR will deliberate on are matters related to the Community’s diplomatic outreach. CARICOM enjoys relations with countries in all corners of the world and must continue to develop and balance these relations while being open to new partners and initiatives. A weakened multilateral system, and the impulse of individual countries to rush to look inwards during these unprecedented times, are all the more reason for the Community to continue to reach out to its existing partners while expanding its relations with new partners. These considerations are outlined in a discussion paper presented to this meeting.
One of the great successes of the Community and particularly of the COFCOR is the ability to project the single, united voice of the Community in the international arena. Foreign policy coordination will be of critical importance in positioning and guiding the Community through these uncertain times. I sincerely believe through our discussions over the next two days we can take significant strides in strengthening that co-ordination.
Ministers and senior officials, I wish us all a successful meeting, one that will strengthen our coordination of foreign policy and promote our strategic interests for the benefit of the citizens of the CARICOM Community.
BY HIS EXCELLENCY DR. THE HONOURABLE CLAUDE JOSEPH, MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND WORSHIP OF THE REPUBLIC OF HAITI, ON THE OCCASION OF THE TWENTY-THIRD MEETING OF THE COUNCIL FOR FOREIGN AND COMMUNITY RELATIONS (COFCOR), VIA ZOOM, 7 MAY 2020
Honourable Charles Peter David, Minster of Foreign Affairs and Labour of Grenada and Outgoing Chairman of the Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR),
Colleague Ministers of Foreign Affairs,
Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community,
Ladies and gentlemen.
It is a great pleasure for the Republic of Haiti, and me personally to assume the Chairmanship of the Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR). While I am delighted to take up this position and to address this august body, I am saddened that the international health crisis caused by the eruption and spread of the COVID-19 pandemic has compelled us to meet virtually thus preventing me from having the opportunity to welcome you all in person to Port-au-Prince.
Let me take this opportunity to express appreciation, on behalf of all my colleagues, to the Honourable Charles Peter David, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Labour of Grenada for his enlightened stewardship of the COFCOR during the past year. From all accounts, he was able to represent the interests of our community very well during his tenure. I wish to take this opportunity also to thank the Secretary General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque and the staff of the CARICOM Secretariat for the excellent arrangements that they have put in place for the convening of this Meeting during such difficult time.
As you are aware, the regional integration process of the Caribbean Community represents an important component of Haiti’s foreign policy. In this regard, my assumption today as Chairman of the COFCOR represents a milestone in my country’s history as a member of CARICOM. As I start my tenure, I am aware of the many challenges confronting the Community, especially in the face of COVID19 which has been characterized as a global pandemic by the World Health Organization. This situation will be most devastating for several CARICOM countries and I believe that it would be necessary for us to take collective actions as far as possible. In this regard, as the Chairman of COFCOR, it is my aspiration to continue along the same lines as my predecessor, and for this I will count on the support of each of you, my fellow Foreign Ministers, and that of the CARICOM Secretariat for a successful term.
May I take this opportunity to renew Haiti’s firm commitment to actively participate in the work of the Organs and Institutions of our Community.
Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am sure you would agree that our meeting today is taking place against the backdrop of an ever-changing global environment that is characterised by deeply divisive and challenging issues which have impeded cohesion which in turn has led to greater uncertainty and unpredictability. More specifically we are being confronted with the escalation of transnational organized crimes and regional conflicts, terrorism, climate change and its attendant problems, geopolitical competitions and issues of governance.
At the regional level, our Community continues to be faced with a range of development challenges which hinder the sustainable development process of our respective countries. I am referring to global warming and climate change, the use of GDP as the solely criteria for determining access to concessional financing, particularly in the aftermath of major natural disasters, correspondent-banking, blacklisting.
To this existing list is added the increasing incidence of the Coronavirus pandemic whose dire consequences on the economic growth of the Caribbean region are already being felt. According to a study recently published by the Inter-American Development Bank, Caribbean tourism-driven economies could face a seventy-five per cent reduction in tourism arrivals during 2020.
These obstacles in our region have the potential to affect our continuous efforts at sustained development of our countries. This Twenty-third Meeting of the COFCOR therefore gives us the opportunity to deliberate on critical issues facing our region, while at the same time mapping out a way forward.
Colleagues, the Draft Agenda before us this morning is a substantive one. We will have the opportunity to discuss and strategize on the best way to benefit from existing mechanisms of cooperation between CARICOM and a number of its international partners. We will also be afforded the opportunity to assess the Community’s participation in sub-regional, hemispheric and multilateral institutions in which we hold membership. Moreover, our deliberations will include a reflection on some issues of importance for the Community such as the increasing incidence of the COVID-19 pandemic on international relations and, the need for CARICOM to strengthen its Election Observation mechanism.
Colleagues, despite the challenges of conducting the meeting virtually I trust we will still be able to have frank and robust discussions on the issues before us and deliver results for the benefit of our community, so that when our Heads of Government next meet, they will have a well-determined set of conclusions from our consultations on these and other issues that are on our Agenda.
I thank you
7 May 2020