NASSAU, The Bahamas – The 44th Regular Meeting of the Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) provides regional leaders with an opportunity to make long-lasting decisions for its people for the next 50 years and beyond, Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Dr. Carla N. Barnett said Wednesday.
The Meeting of the Regional Heads of Government of CARICOM is being held in New Providence against the backdrop of the Caribbean Community’s approaching of its 50th Anniversary. (The Meeting runs February 15-17). Similarly, The Bahamas will observe a Golden Anniversary with the celebration of its 50th Anniversary as an Independent nation, July 10, 2023.
The Caribbean Community and Common Market was established in 1973 with the signing of the Treaty of Chaguaramas. Barbados, Jamaica, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago, were the four signatories. CARICOM came into effect on August 1, 1973.
Secretary-General Barnett said while there will be time in the coming months to assess the Community’s achievements and justifiably celebrate the landmark anniversary: “For this evening and over the next two days, the focus of attention is on the pressing issues of the day.”
Dr. Barnett was addressing the Official Opening Session held in the Grand Ballroom, Atlantis, Paradise Island. Bahamian Prime Minister and Minister of Finance and CARICOM Chair, the Hon. Philip Edward Davis, K.C., delivered the Keynote Address. Other speakers included Dr. the Hon. Terrance M. Drew, Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, and His Excellency E. Chandrikapersad Santokhi, President of the Republic of Suriname, the outgoing Chair of CARICOM whose address was done via video.
Secretary-General Barnett told her audience that Member States, and indeed the global community of nations, continue to face many challenges. She said while many of the regional economies began to rebound from COVID-induced contractions, those economies were affected by sharp inflation and shipping bottlenecks. COVID-19, Dr. Barnett said, continues to hover, while the conflict in Ukraine, carries on.
The Secretary-General said Member States also faced the continuing onslaught of Climate Change, with the destruction caused by storms, rain events and drought.
“Our hard-won development gains continue to be threatened by these challenges,” Secretary-General Barnett said. “At this Meeting, decisions on issues such as Climate Change, Food Security, and Community Governance, will have a lasting and positive effect on the Region over the next fifty years.”
Dr. Barnett said that even as progress is being made on some fronts, CARICOM, “and indeed the wider international community,” continue to struggle to help Haiti resolve its multifaceted crises.
“We will continue our efforts to assist all stakeholders in Haiti to ensure a Haitian-owned resolution to the crises.”
Secretary-General Barnett said the Regional Heads made a number of “consequential decisions” at the 43rd Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government in Paramaribo, Suriname (July 3-5, 2022). One of those decisions was the convening of the 44th Meeting as a Regular Meeting, not an Intersessional, and follows the agreement to establish a calendar of six (6) Meetings of the Conference annually, with regular in-person Meetings being held in February and July, and virtual intersessional meetings scheduled during the year.
“The Conference in July also agreed in the context of the bilateral relationship with the United States, to urge for the removal of the sanctions on Venezuela to allow, among other things, for progress on the exploitation of cross-border natural gas fields between Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela. This advocacy has borne fruit with the announcement last month by the United States to waive sanctions on Venezuela to allow for the joint project to proceed.
“We will have to show the resilience and fortitude of the Haitian people, as we strive to overcome challenges and advance the initiatives to improve the lives of all citizens of our Caribbean Community. That goal – to create a safe, sustainable, prosperous and viable Community for all — has been the guiding principle of our efforts over the last 50 years, and will continue to guide us over the next 50 and beyond,” Dr. Barnett stated.