The Thirty-Fourth Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) was held at Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, from 4-6 July 2013. The Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, the Honourable Kamla Persad-Bissessar, chaired the proceedings.
Other members of the Conference in attendance were: the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Honourable Winston Baldwin Spencer; the Prime Minister of The Commonwealth of The Bahamas, Rt. Honourable Perry G. Christie; the Prime Minister of Barbados, Honourable Freundel Stuart; the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Dominica, Honourable Roosevelt Skerritt; the Prime Minister of Grenada, Dr. the Rt. Honourable Keith Mitchell; the President of the Republic of Guyana, His Excellency Donald Ramotar; the President of the Republic of Haiti, His Excellency Michel Martelly; the Prime Minister of Jamaica, The Most Honourable Portia Simpson-Miller; the Premier of Montserrat, Honourable Reuben Meade; the Prime Minister of the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis, Rt. Honourable Dr. Denzil Douglas; the Prime Minister of Saint Lucia, Dr. the Honourable Kenny D. Anthony; the Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. the Honourable Ralph Gonsalves; the President of the Republic of Suriname, His Excellency Desiré Delano Bouterse.
Belize was represented by the Honourable Wilfred Elrington, Attorney General and Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Associate Members in attendance were: Honourable Hubert Benjamin Hughes, the Chief Minister of Anguilla; Honourable Alden M. McLaughlin Jr, Premier of Cayman Islands and Honourable Dr. Rufus Ewing, Premier of Turks and Caicos Islands.
The Opening Ceremony took place at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s Port of Spain and was addressed by the Chairman of CARICOM, the Honourable Kamla Persad-Bissessar, outgoing Chairman, His Excellency Michel Martelly, President of Haiti, Prime Minister of The Bahamas, Rt Honourable Perry Christie, Prime Minister of Barbados, Honourable Freundel Stuart, Prime Minister of Grenada, Dr the Rt Honourable Keith Mitchell and Secretary-General of CARICOM, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque.
All speakers paid tribute to the Community on its 40th Anniversary and cited its accomplishments while agreeing that more needed to be done. They acknowledged the appropriateness of the theme of the anniversary: 40 years of Integration: Celebration and Renewal.
A ceremony of re-dedication to the thrust of the Treaty of Chaguaramas by all the Heads of Government of the Community was held on the date of the event at the same venue, the Chaguaramas Convention Centre. Statements were delivered by the current Heads of Government of the original signing countries, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.
Messages to the Conference are attached
During the Thirty-Fourth Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government, six Member States undertook twelve treaty actions. A breakdown of the treaty actions is provided below.
· Agreement establishing the Caribbean Community Accreditation Agency for Education and Training (Signature by Guyana, Montserrat and St. Vincent and the Grenadines)
· Agreement establishing the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (Deposited an Instrument of Ratification Barbados)
· Agreement establishing the Caribbean Knowledge and Learning Network Agency (Signature by Montserrat)
· Agreement establishing the Caribbean Public Health Agency (Accession by Jamaica)
· Amendment to the Agreement establishing the Caribbean Aviation Safety and Security System (Signature by Saint Vincent and the Grenadines)
· Amendment to the Agreement establishing the Caribbean Knowledge and Learning Network Agency (Signature by Dominica, Montserrat, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines)
· Protocol Amending the CARICOM Agreement on Social Security (Signature by Guyana and Montserrat) (Entry into force 4th July 2013).
THE ECONOMIC SITUATION FACING MEMBER STATES AND THE REGION:
A FRAMEWORK FOR REGIONAL GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT
Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community addressed the issue of the future of CARICOM economies and expressed concern that the current adverse economic circumstances of burdensome debt, fiscal unsustainability and low growth continue to be inimical to the achievement of self-sustaining economic growth based on strong international competitiveness, innovation, productivity and flexibility of resource use.
Heads of Government emphasised that this serious problem was a regional one and all our citizens should be aware that this period was difficult for all Member States and a time for sacrifice notwithstanding that a few Member States were performing better than others. The situation facing the Community was grave requiring the strength of a regional approach. The reversal of these economic circumstances was therefore of utmost importance to the future of CARICOM economies.
Heads of Government agreed to deepen the regional framework for growth and development through the pursuit of a development strategy which engenders inclusiveness of all stakeholders and which would lift the knowledge base, innovation capability, and entrepreneurial capacity of CARICOM Nationals to engage in competitive, higher value-added economic activities.
Specifically, the Conference noted the comments by foreign financial and economic commentators which tarnished the credibility of CARICOM Member States thereby affecting their ability to raise the financial resources required to drive growth and development. Further, Heads of Government reiterated their commitment to sound and prudent economic management even as they strived to overcome the challenges resulting from the worst economic and financial crisis of this century.
Accordingly, Heads of Government agreed to give immediate consideration to –
(i) design and execution of a resource mobilization strategy to facilitate targeted interventions by Governments to catalyse and ignite growth in CARICOM States;
(ii) adoption of a stabilization and growth agenda which emphasizes the removal of constraints on competitive production as well as proactive facilitation and support for the private sector aimed at catalyzing growth in critical economic sectors;
Heads of Government charged the Bureau of the Conference along with the Head of Government with Lead Responsibility for the CSME, Honourable Freundel Stuart, with the responsibility of advancing this decision and in this regard, the Secretariat would circulate a comprehensive programme within one month for the consideration of the Bureau.
TRANSPORTATION IN THE REGION
Heads of Government with regard to the Single Domestic Space (SDS), in the interest of hassle-free Travel in the Region, mandated the CARICOM Secretariat in collaboration with CARICOM IMPACS and other relevant agencies to coordinate and commence discussions on a strategy for the SDS.
They referred this matter and a number of other issues in this sector to the Bureau of Heads of Government including better co-ordination among airlines in the Region with a view to providing a better service.
REFORM PROCESS IN CARICOM: STATE OF PROGRESS
Heads of Government recalled that the Reform Process was designed to facilitate the structured, effective implementation of the transformation of the Community and its Secretariat, in alignment with an agreed Community strategic thrust for the benefit of the people.
Heads of Government noted the progress report on the Reform Process and welcomed the appointment of change drivers in each Member State and also noted that the national consultations for the preparation of the Community Strategic Plan had commenced and an indicative schedule had been agreed to by the Change Drivers.
Heads of Government also welcomed the finalisation by the Community Council of the Terms of Reference for the Review of the Regional Institutions and agreed that the Review of the Community Institutions was a priority activity given its importance to the overall Reform Process in the Community.
PROPOSAL FOR A HIGH-LEVEL MEETING ON PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES
AND SPECIAL NEEDS
Heads of Government welcomed the initiative of the Government of Haiti to bring the issue to the Conference. They acknowledged that a society could be judged by the manner in which it treated its vulnerable citizens.
Heads of Government recognised that developments such as Climate Change, the repercussions of the international economic and financial crises, and natural disasters had worsened the condition of poor, vulnerable and marginalized groups in our societies.
In that regard they acknowledged that the differently-abled were the most affected given that they are usually among the most marginalised.
Heads of Government therefore took the opportunity of this Conference to begin a regional dialogue to highlight and address the issues and challenges being faced by such persons.
Heads of Government gave full support to the proposal by Haiti to convene a High level meeting on persons with disabilities and special needs.
MEMBERSHIP AND ASSOCIATE MEMBERSHIP OF THE COMMUNITY
Heads of Government welcomed the report of the Technical Working Group (TWG) established to review and provide recommendations on the terms and conditions of Membership and Associate Membership of the Community.
They also agreed that the applications for Associate Membership of the Community by French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique and Curaçao and St. Maarten would require further deliberation at the level of Heads of Government.
INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATIONS TECHNOLOGY (ICT)
Heads of Government acknowledged that the world was evolving from an information society to becoming a global internet/digital economy characterised by the strategic use of knowledge and creativity. They also acknowledged that the knowledge economy had changed how economies create value, and how and what jobs were created.
Heads of Government therefore agreed that ICT issues would receive focussed attention at the Twenty-Fifth Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference in 2014 to be held in St Vincent and the Grenadines in the first quarter of the year.
In that regard they mandated that the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) ICT meet urgently under the Chairmanship of the Lead Head of Government with responsibility for ICT to consider the ICT Action Plan, the proposal for a Single CARICOM ICT Space and other relevant ICT issues and make recommendations to the Twenty-Fifth Inter-Sessional Meeting.
THE UNITED NATIONS POST 2015 DEVELOPMENT AGENDA: CARICOM’S
PERSPECTIVES AND PRIORITIES
Heads of Government acknowledged that the new international development approach embodied in the United Nations Post 2015 Development Agenda would be instrumental in fashioning the global financing agenda for developing countries. The Caribbean Community therefore needed to organize itself for effective participation in the processes, so that the strategic interests of the Region received the attention they deserve.
Heads of Government agreed to the establishment of a regional task force to co-ordinate the substantive engagement of the Community in the work to define the post-2015 development agenda and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and preparations for the Third SIDS conference to be held in Samoa in 2014, in a manner that assured due account of CARICOM priorities and concerns.
They further agreed that the regional task force should include representatives from Member States on the Open-Ended Working Group on SDGs and the Inter-Governmental Committee on Financing Sustainable Development.
THE ISSUE OF REPARATIONS FOR NATIVE GENOCIDE AND SLAVERY
Heads of Government considered the issue of Reparations for Caribbean Slavery and Native Genocide and received submissions from the Pro Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies Professor Hilary Beckles and a legal team to facilitate their deliberations.
Heads of Government were unanimous in their support for action on this issue and agreed that a committee under the Chairmanship of the Prime Minister of Barbados and consisting of the Chair of CARICOM and the Heads of Government of Guyana, Haiti, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Suriname will oversee the work of a CARICOM Reparations Commission made up of the chairs of National Reparation Committees and a representative of a research unit at the University of the West Indies to drive the issue. An undertaking has been given by all states to establish national reparation committees and to convene their first meeting as soon as possible.
The approach would be to hold a development conversation and to use all reasonable avenues to reach an amicable solution
HUMAN RESOURCE DEVELOPMENT, HEALTH AND HIV/AIDS
Heads of Government welcomed the launch of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and looked forward to its positive role in reducing current rates of premature deaths from NCDs, AIDS and injuries by at least twenty-five per cent by 2025 and reducing the upward trend in avoidable hospitalisations and the upward cost spiral in health care. They also acknowledged the sterling contribution of the Pan Caribbean Partnership on HIV and AIDS (PANCAP) in the regional fight against HIV.
Heads of Government urged the repositioning of health in the regional development agenda, as well as the agendas of development partners and banks given the sector’s critical importance to society. They also agreed to continue to prioritise action with regard to NCDs and in this regard, congratulated Suriname and Jamaica on the recent passage of national legislation for stricter tobacco control and urged other Member States to accelerate their efforts to address this issue. The Heads also commended the Rt Honourable Dr. Denzil Douglas, Prime Minister of St Kitts and Nevis for his leadership and advocacy in addressing the regional health agenda
With regard to the financing of tertiary education in the Region, Heads of Government supported the request from Professor E. Nigel Harris, Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies that multi-stakeholder national conversations be convened to consider non-traditional approaches to financing tertiary education in the Region.
Heads of Government agreed to devote a Special Session of Twenty-Fifth Intersessional Meeting of the Conference in 2014 to Human Resource Development.
Heads of Government urged that Member States take early action to sign, ratify and apply provisionally the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty which was adopted earlier this year.
Heads of Government welcomed the establishment of an Interpol Liaison Office within the CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS). They noted that this was with a view to later transforming that Liaison Office into a regional sub-directorate or regional sub-bureau of Interpol. This office will enable greater access to Interpol data bases by IMPACS in support of CARICOM regional and national security measures.
Heads of Government were of the view that this appointment demonstrated the international recognition of and support for the CARICOM regional security architecture developed under the Fourth Pillar of the Community.
SITUATION IN THE TURKS AND CAICOS ISLANDS
Heads of Government endorsed a report from a Ministerial Fact Finding Mission to the Turks and Caicos Islands, led by the Foreign Minister of The Bahamas, to get an appreciation of the current situation in that Associate Member.
The team met with Government, the Parliamentary Opposition, private sector, non-governmental organisations, the clergy, bar association and former Ministers of Government. Copies of the report would be transmitted to the British Government, the TCI Government and the Leader of the Parliamentary Opposition.
The Heads of Government received an update on the efforts of Belize and Guatemala to find a final and definitive resolution to the Guatemala claim. They expressed concern that Guatemala has reneged on the agreement to hold a referendum on 6th October 2013 in accordance with the Special Agreement between Belize and Guatemala to submit Guatemala's Territorial, Insular and Maritime claims to the International Court of Justice of 2008, and emphasized the importance of preserving the Special Agreement which commits both parties to resorting to the International Court of Justice for a final determination of the Guatemalan claim.
The Heads of Government urged the parties to set an early date for holding the simultaneous referendum and called on the international community to continue supporting the process under the Organisation of American States and to engage the parties to assist in their efforts to reach a final settlement. They commended the OAS Secretary General for his Good Offices and for the role of the OAS in the Adjacency Zone.
The Heads of Government expressed satisfaction over the excellent state of relations between Guyana and Venezuela which has enabled the two countries to continue to implement a vibrant programme of cooperation.
The Heads of Government noted that both countries remained committed to the Good Offices Process of the United Nations Secretary General under the Geneva Agreement of 1966 and reaffirmed their support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Guyana.
Heads of Government welcomed the signing by Suriname and the Caribbean Community of a Host Country Agreement in respect of CARIFESTA XI, to be held in Suriname 16-25 August 2013. The CARIFESTA Host Country Agreement sets out the legal and operational framework in which the new mandates for the management and staging of the Festival are to be implemented.
Heads of Government noted that this was one of the key requirements in the new CARIFESTA model, as agreed by Member States in 2007. They further observed that the call for restructuring this regional festival was made at CARIFESTA VIII in 2003 in Suriname, the country which has now taken the lead in setting the new direction of the Festival by being the first to sign the Host Country Agreement.
EXTERNAL TRADE ISSUES
Heads of Government examined the issues related to the Community’s external trade with a view to advancing negotiations for a pro-development trade agreement with Canada and expediting the implementation of the trade agreements with Cuba and the Dominican Republic.
Stressing the need to accelerate the pace of negotiations, they endorsed the importance of securing continued duty-free trade with Canada while the negotiations for a WTO-compatible comprehensive trade and development agreement continued.
With respect to the Dominican Republic and Cuba, the Heads of Government re-emphasised the need for a positive approach to negotiations with respect to the further expansion of access in discussions with the Dominican Republic and Cuba.
EXCHANGE OF VIEWS WITH SPECIAL GUESTS: (CG)
President of the Republic of Venezuela
Heads of Government met with the leader of Venezuela, His Excellency President Nicolas Maduro who underlined that Venezuela and CARICOM had a shared history of struggles and challenges, a common Caribbean vocation, and a relationship of solidarity initiated by President Chavez. President Maduro emphasized the need for a renewed effort together in weaving more profound relationships in the framework of an economic bloc.
In this regard he proposed the reactivation of the Joint CARICOM-Venezuela Commission based on the long-standing trade and investment agreement which could lead to increased trade, investment and economic and other activities. In this regard several proposals were put forward touching on security, air and sea transportation, energy, a social and cultural plan, and developing ties between CARICOM and Mercosur.
Heads of Government concurred that many of the initiatives proposed touched on issues with which the Community grapples and on which cooperation could be furthered. They welcomed the assurance of the continued legacy of former President Chavez and expressed their appreciation for the aid provided. They also viewed the visit as being symbolic of the tangible measures being taken to strengthen the relationship.
President of the Dominican Republic
Heads of Government met with President Danilo Medina of the Dominican Republic. He informed that the meeting with CARICOM Heads was taking place at a special moment as a few days ago the Dominican Republic, in keeping with its emphasis on regional integration, had become a full member of the Central American Integration System (SICA) and of the Petro-Caribe Economic Zone.
The President was of the view that this meeting was therefore an opportunity to strengthen ties with CARICOM and it was a natural space for trade, cooperation and integration in view of the geographic proximity of the two parties as well as their historical and cultural links. He added that the natural evolution of processes with the Community had led to the strengthening of trading links and it was therefore a perfect time to reflect on expanding the borders and the market of the Community. In this regard, the Dominican Republic had earlier requested membership of the Community and was still interested.
The Heads of Government indicated their intention to deliberate on the matter and revert to the Dominican Republic.
Heads of Government met with the Prime Minister of Equatorial Guinea Honourable Vicente Tomi in the absence of the President who is also the President-in-Office of the ACP Group. The Prime Minister underlined the importance of the recent 7th Summit of the ACP that took place in his country. The resulting outcome document, the Declaration of Sipopo, was a milestone and a point of inflection in the direction of the ACP. The grouping needed to reinvent itself in order to have greater weight in international affairs. To this end, an Eminent Persons Group had been established including three members from the Caribbean.
In reviewing the common challenges faced by members of the grouping, the Prime Minister singled out the new "differentiation" framework of EU aid which would reduce the quantum of development resources for Middle Income ACP Countries. He reaffirmed the importance of ACP solidarity in support of penalised countries. The CARICOM Heads of Government shared the view that the Summit had set a platform for further cooperation and that the grouping needed to renew itself and to reassert its relevance.
Heads of Government received a succinct presentation from the Secretary-General of the Organisation of American States (OAS), His Excellency Jose Manuel Insulza on a report entitled Drug Problem in the Americas. The Report sets out a number of scenarios. The SG proposed holding consultations with the CARICOM Secretariat and IMPACS as part of the process of discussion on this critical issue leading to a Special Meeting of the OAS General Assembly. He also informed that though interdiction increased considerably in the region, drug trafficking continued to be a scourge. He underlined the importance of more effectively addressing the problem of addiction and of crime and violence.
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
Heads of Government welcomed the Special Envoy of the United Arab Emirates, the Honourable Matar El Tayer who expressed interest in building a relationship with the Community and expressed readiness to share their knowledge in areas of transportation.
FORTIETH ANNIVERSARY OF INDEPENDENCE OF THE BAHAMAS
Heads of Government extended congratulations to the Commonwealth of The Bahamas as it prepares to celebrate its Fortieth Anniversary of Independence. Heads of Government received an invitation from the Prime Minister to attend the celebrations.
DATE OF THE TWENTY-FIFTH INTER-SESSIONAL MEETING OF THE
In accordance with the Rotation Schedule, Dr. the Honourable Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, will assume the Chair of the Conference of Heads of Government for the six-month period commencing 1 January 2014.
The Twenty-Fifth Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference will be held in St. Vincent and the Grenadines at the end of January or early February.
Heads of Government expressed appreciation to the Government and people of Trinidad and Tobago for their warm and generous hospitality during their Thirty-Fourth Regular Meeting.
Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago
6th July 2013
See full document here