Remarks by the Secretary-General of CARICOM, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque at the Opening of the 31st Intersessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM, Bridgetown, Barbados 18 February 2020
Madame Chair, Heads of Government, the scope of our Agenda illustrates the breadth of issues which we, as a Community, must address to further consolidate our integration and to position ourselves advantageously in an increasingly complex and challenging global arena. – CARICOM Secretary-General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque
Honourable Mia Amor Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados and Chairman of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community;
Honourable Allen Chastanet, Prime Minister of Saint Lucia and Out-going Chairman of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community;
Other CARICOM Heads of Government and Heads of Delegation;
Honourable Francois-Phillipe Champagne, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada;
Baroness Patricia Scotland, Secretary-General of The Commonwealth;
Heads of Regional Institutions;
Representatives of the Private Sector, Labour, Civil Society and our Youth;
Members of the Diplomatic Corps;
Representatives of the Media;
People of the Caribbean Community.
I welcome you all, as we gather in Barbados for the Thirty-First Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government. As always, the Barbadian hospitality and efficiency have ensured both that the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) family and our guests are well looked after, and arrangements for the conduct of the meeting are in good order. I am sure that all will join me in thanking the Government and People of Barbados, led by the Chairperson of the Caribbean Community, the Honourable Mia Amor Mottley.
Prime Minister, welcome to the Chair and I look forward to continue working closely with you in advancing the goals of our integration process.
In the last six months of 2019, the Community and I have had the considerable benefit of guidance from the Prime Minister of Saint Lucia, Honourable Allen Chastanet, the Outgoing Chair. I thank you, Prime Minister, for the sterling efforts you have been making to promote and defend the Region’s interests, in particular, with respect to the need for funding to enhance our resilience, climate change and the challenges we face with blacklisting.
Also, your ready response, along with Prime Minister Mottley, to visit The Bahamas and demonstrate the Community’s support after the devastation of Hurricane Dorian was a significant display of your leadership.
I must welcome to the Conference of Heads of Government, for the first time, the Honourable Joseph Farrell, the Premier of Montserrat. Premier, congratulations on your victory at the polls and we look forward to your views on the issues confronting our integration movement.
Madame Chair, Heads of Government, the scope of our Agenda illustrates the breadth of issues which we, as a Community, must address to further consolidate our integration and to position ourselves advantageously in an increasingly complex and challenging global arena.
Whether it is the imperative of making significant progress with the Single Market and Economy; securing our financial sector; safeguarding our fiscal sovereignty; enhancing our technological capability and capacity; protecting the health and security of our people; expanding our foreign outreach – it is with one goal in mind. We have to build a resilient Caribbean Community.
To do so necessitates an all-inclusive approach that embraces the skills, talents and resources of the public and private sectors, labour, civil society, youth and indeed the entire society. It also requires co-operation and assistance from our friends in the International Community. These combined and co-ordinated efforts will serve us in good stead, as we strive to build that resilience to combat the challenges that we face, most particularly, the existential threat of climate change.
The decision by our Heads of Government to engage regularly with the private sector, labour and civil society is an indication of our determination to be more inclusive in our deliberations and to embed and all-society approach to our development efforts.
And today, we have included representatives of the CARICOM Youth Ambassador Corps.
How can we benefit from the CSME and successfully conduct trade negotiations with third countries without the involvement of the private sector and labour?
How can we maximise the use of technology for our development without the innovation and dynamism of the youth?
How can we combat the scourge of crime and violence without the input of ideas and actions from civil society?
And we all must do our part to stave off the epidemic of chronic Non-Communicable Diseases and the spread of the global viruses that threaten to engulf us.
The latest of these, the coronavirus, has been deadly, claiming more than a thousand lives globally so far and proving difficult to contain. There are no cases in CARICOM.
Although the World Health Organisation WHO has deemed the risk to the Caribbean to be low, we adopted a pro-active approach and convened an Emergency Meeting of the Ministers of Health on the virus, with participation from the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO) the CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS) and the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA). The Regional Security System has also played a critical role in transporting samples for laboratory testing at CARPHA.
I must commend the collaboration that is taking place, as another example of the co-ordination that is required in addressing some of the challenges to our integration process and to have a positive sustained impact on the lives of our citizens.
The discussions over the next two days come against a background of global uncertainty, including the increasing threats to multilateralism, the spread of tensions and volatility arising from unresolved conflicts and the acceleration of the devastating effects of climate change.
These issues demand that we act collectively to overcome the hurdles that confront us. We face an increasingly hostile international environment which demands more than ever that we come together to secure and promote our interests as a Community.
I thank you.