A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE CARIBBEAN COMMUNITY  (CARICOM)

 
WEST INDIES FEDERATION
 
Established in 1958, the West Indies Federation comprised the ten territories of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica. Grenada, Jamaica, Montserrat, the then St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and Trinidad and Tobago.
 
The Federation was established by the British Caribbean Federation Act of 1956 with the aim of establishing a political union among its members.
 
Although a plan for a Customs Union was drawn up, emphasis was not placed on the economic aspect of Federation during the four years of its existence.  Economically, the Region remained as it had been for centuries, and not even free trade was introduced between the member countries during this period.
 
The West Indies Federation came to an end in 1962 but its end, in many ways, must be regarded as the real beginning of what is now the Caribbean Community.
 
The end of the Federation meant the beginning of more serious efforts on the part of the political leaders in the Caribbean to strengthen the ties between the  English-speaking islands and the mainland territories, Guyana and Belize,  by providing for the continuance and strengthening of the areas of cooperation that existed during the Federation.
 
To this end, in mid-1962, a Common Services Conference was convened to take decisions on these services, the major ones among them being the University of the West Indies (UWI), founded in 1948 and the Regional Shipping Services set up during the Federation, to manage the operation of the two ships donated in 1962 by the Government of Canada - the Federal Palm and the Federal Maple.
 
The Caribbean Meteorological Service was established one year later, in 1963 and, along with the UWI and the Regional Shipping Service, represented the heart of Caribbean cooperation directly after the end of the Federation.
 
In addition to the decision to continue the process of inter-state cooperation and notwithstanding the dissolution of the Federation, the year 1962 also market two important developments in the establishment of a Caribbean Community:  the attainment of independence by both Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago in August that year and with it, the power to control their own domestic and external affairs.

In announcing its intention to withdraw from the Federation, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago proposed the creation of a Caribbean Community, consisting not only of the 10 members of the Federation, but also of the three Guianas and all the islands of the Caribbean Sea - both independent and non-independent.

To discuss this concept, the then Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago Hon. Eric Williams convened the first Heads of Government Conference in July 1963, in Trinidad and Tobago.  This Conference was attended by the leaders of Barbados, British Guiana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.

At this Conference, the leaders of the four (4) Caribbean countries all spoke clearly of the need for close cooperation with Europe, Africa and Latin America.

The first Heads of Government Conference proved to be first in a series of Conference among the leaders of Commonwealth Caribbean Countries.  In July 1965, the meeting of the Premiers of Barbados and British Guiana and the Chief Minister of Antigua and Barbuda focused on the possibility of establishing a Free Trade Area in the Caribbean.

This move resulted in the announcement later that month of definite plans to establish a Free Trade Area. This was carried through in the same year when in December 1965, the Heads of Government of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados and British Guiana signed an Agreement at Dickenson Bay in Antigua and Barbuda to set up the Caribbean Free Trade Association (CARIFTA).

CARIBBEAN FREE TRADE ASSOCIATION (CARIFTA)

At the Fourth Heads of Government Conference held in Bridgetown, Barbados on 23-27 October 1967 it was agreed to establish CARIFTA formally, and to include as many Commonwealth Caribbean countries as possible in the new arrangement of December 1965.  It was also agreed that the Free Trade Association was to be the beginning of what would become the Caribbean Common Market, the establishment of which would be conducted through a number of stages towards the achievement of a viable economic community of Caribbean territories.

The CARIFTA Agreement came into effect on May 1, 1968, with the participation of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana.   1st August 1968 marked the formal entry of Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts/Nevis/Anguilla, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Jamaica and Montserrat.  British Honduras (Belize) joined in May 1971.

Emerging also from the 1967 Heads of Government Conference was the decision to establish the Commonwealth Caribbean Regional Secretariat on 1 May 1968 in Georgetown, Guyana, and the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) in October 1969 in Bridgetown, Barbados.

It was at the Seventh Heads of Government Conference in November 1972 that the Caribbean leaders decided to transform CARIFTA into a Common Market and establish the Caribbean Community of which the Common Market would be an integral part.

CARIBBEAN COMMUNITY (CARICOM)

At the Eighth Heads of Government Conference of CARIFTA held in April 1973 in Georgetown, Guyana the decision to establish the Caribbean Community was brought into fruition. The process through which it was established is set out in the Georgetown Accord.

Original signatories to the Treaty were Prime Ministers Errol Barrow for Barbados; Forbes Burnham for Guyana; Michael Manley of Jamaica; Eric Williams for Trinidad and Tobago.  By 1 May, 1974, all other members of CARIFTA had signed the Agreement to become full members of CARICOM, except Antigua and Barbuda and St. Kitts and Nevis.   They both signed the Agreement in July 1974.

In July 1983, The Bahamas became the 13th member ofthe Caribbean Community but not of the Common Market.

Suriname became the 14th Member State to join the Community in July 1995 and the Common Market in January 1996.

Haiti was formally admitted as the 15th Member State at the Twenty-Third Heads of Government Meeting, Georgetown, Guyana, on 2nd July 2002.

In July 1991, the British Virgin Islands and the Turks and Caicos Islands became the first Associate Members followed by Anguilla in July 1999. The Cayman Islands became the fourth Associate Member of the regional grouping on 16 May 2002; Bermuda became the fifth on 2 July 2003.

The three objectives of the Community at its inception were, economic integration, co-ordination of foreign policy, and functional co-operation in areas such as health, education and culture and other areas related to human and social development.

INSTITUTIONS OF THE COMMUNITY

The Community in responding to the need to prioritise certain social and economic issues has established a number of institutions and linked with several partners.

The institutions recognised by the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas are: Assembly of Caribbean Community Parliamentarians (ACCP); Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency (CDERA); Caribbean Meteorological Institute (CMI); Caribbean Meteorological Organisation (CMO); Caribbean Environmental Health Institute (CEHI); Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI); Caribbean Centre for Developmental Administration (CARICAD); and the Caribbean Food and Nutrition Institute (CFNI). The Caribbean Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ) and the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) are examples of institutions established by the Community subsequent to the ratification ofthe Revised Treaty.

Associate Institutions of the Community are the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), the University of Guyana (UG), the University of the West Indies (UWI), the Caribbean Law Institute and its Centre (CLI/CLIC) and the Secretariat of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).

Among the key partners in the integration process are the Caribbean Congress of Labour (CCL), the Caribbean Association ofIndustry and Commerce (CAlC) and the Caribbean Policy Development Centre (CPDC).

Faced with a multiplicity of negotiations the Community sought to streamline its negotiating structures. Thus, in 1997, the Caribbean Regional Negotiation Machinery (CRNM) was established to coordinate the Community's external negotiations. The areas of focus are negotiations for: the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA); the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union as part of the Group of African Caribbean and Pacific States (ACP) , and at the level of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

CARICOM SINGLE MARKET AND ECONOMY (CSME)

The decision, in 1989, to establish the CSME was a move to deepen the integration movement to better respond to the challenges and opportunities presented by globalisation.

Preparations for the establishment of the CSME included the negotiation of nine Protocols to amend the Treaty. These nine Protocols were later combined to create a new version of the Treaty, called formally, The Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas Establishing the Caribbean Community, including the CARICOM Single Market and Economy which was signed in 2001.

The main objectives of the CSME are: full use of labour; full exploitation of the other factors of production; competitive production leading to greater variety; quality and quantity of goods and services, thereby providing greater capacity to trade with other countries.

On 1 January 2006, the Single Market component of the CSME came into being, involving Barbados, Belize, Guyana, Jamaica, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago. The other Member States except The Bahamas and Haiti, which had not signified their intention to participate in the CSME, and Montserrat - a British Dependency, which must await the necessary instrument of entrustment from the United Kingdom - became part of the Single Market in July 2006. The framework for the Single Economy component of the CSME is expected to be in place by 2008.

CARIBBEAN COURT OF JUSTICE (CCJ)

The idea of a Caribbean Supreme Court is not a new one. From as early as the beginning of the 20th century, opinions were being expressed in support of such a court and at a meeting in 1947, West Indian governors reflected on the
need for a West Indian Court of Appeal.

Since then, at varying intervals suggestions were made for such a supreme court.

At the 12th Inter-Sessional Meeting of The Conference in 2001, Bridgetown, Barbados, the Heads of Government signed the agreement for the establishment of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), emphasising the central role ofthe Court in providing legal certainty to the operations of the CSME.

The CCJ is structured to have two jurisdictions - an original and an appellate.

In its original jurisdiction, the Court is an international tribunal with compulsory and exclusive jurisdiction for the interpretation and application for the Revised Treaty. In this regard it is tasked with the responsibility to hear and deliver judgment on:

  • Disputes arising between Contracting Parties to the Agreement;
  • Disputes between contracting parties and the Community;
  • Disputes between community nationals, contracting parties, Community institutions, or between nationals themselves.

In the exercise of its appellate jurisdiction, the CCJ considers and determine appeals in both civil and criminal matters from courts within the jurisdiction of Member States.

The CCJ mission is "the Caribbean Court of Justice shall perform to the highest standards as the supreme judicial organ in the Caribbean Community. In its original jurisdiction it ensures uniform interpretation and application of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, thereby underpinning and advancing the CARICOM Single Market and Economy. As the final court of appeal for member states of the Caribbean Community it fosters the development of an indigenous Caribbean jurisprudence".

The Court was inaugurated on 16 April 2005 in Trinidad and Tobago where its headquarters is located.

CHARTER OF CIVIL SOCIETY

Heads of Government at its Special Meeting in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, in October 1992, adopted the recommendation of the West Indian Commission that a Charter of Civil Society be subscribed to by Member
States of the Community.

In executing the directives from Heads of Government, the Inter-Governmental Task Force drafted a document that was refined by Ministers of Legal affairs and adopted by Heads of Government at their Eighth Inter-Sessional Meeting in 1997, St. Johns, Antigua and Barbuda.

Although member states are not legally bound by the provisions of the Charter, it sets out the principles that are intended to convert concepts such as good governance; fundamental human rights and freedoms and respect for cultural and religious diversity.

CONSENSUS OF CHAGUARAMAS

The 1999 Special Session of Heads of Government was held at Chaguaramas, Trinidad and Tobago. The theme of this meeting was 'Concluding the 20th Century/Commencing the 21st' and its specific focus was 'A Vision for the
Community in the Early Twenty-first Century' as well as 'Strengthening the Community's Institutions'.

To help shape this vision Heads issued the Consensus of Chaguaramas - a document setting out initiatives critical for moving the Community purposefully into the new millennium. They include:

  • Establishing a Quasi-Cabinet;
  • The introduction of a CARICOM passport;
  • Greater involvement of civil society in the integration process;
  • Involvement of opposition parties in the integration process; and
  • Review of the structure and functioning of community institutions.

QUASI-CABINET

Heads agreed to constitute a quasi-cabinet with individual Heads having responsibility for critical portfolios. These are:

  • SERVICES (including Information Technology and Telecommunications) - Antigua and Barbuda
  • TOURISM (including Land, Cruise, Suva Partnership Agreement provisions etc.) - The Bahamas
  • SINGLE MARKET AND ECONOMY (Including Monetary Union) - Barbados
  • SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT (including Environment and Disaster (Management and Water*) - Belize
  • LABOUR (including intra-community movement of skills) - Dominica
  • SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY - Grenada
  • AGRICULTURE, AGRICULTURAL DIVERSIFICATION AND FOOD SECURITY (including the Regional Transportation Programme for Agriculture (RTP)) - Guyana
  • EXTERNAL NEGOTIATIONS - Jamaica
  • HEALTH (including HIV / AIDS) AND HUMAN RESOURCE DEVELOPMENT - St. Kitts and Nevis
  • JUSTICE AND GOVERNANCE - Saint Lucia
  • BANANAS AND AIR TRANSPORTATION - St. Vincent and the Grenadines
  • COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT AND CULTURAL CO-OPERATION (including Culture, Gender, Youth and Sport) - Suriname
  • SECURITY (Drugs and Illicit Arms; and Energy) - Trinidad and Tobago

*Montserrat will work closely with Belize given its special interest in Disaster Management.

CARICOM PASSPORT

The introduction of the CARICOM passport is seen as an important symbol of regionalism and visible proof of common identity. It is also part of the measure to promote hassle-free travel for CARlCOM nationals. The format for this passport as outlined below was agreed by Heads:

  • The cover will have the logo of CARICOM and the words "Caribbean Community"
  • The Coat of Arms and the name of the Member State will also be featured on the cover.

It is intended that the CARICOM passport will create awareness that CARlCOM Nationals are Nationals of the Community, as well as a specific country.

Thus far, the following countries have issued the CARICOM passport:

  1. Suriname - 7 January 2005
  2. St Vincent and the Grenadines - 2005
  3. St Kitts and Nevis - 2005
  4. Dominica - 2005
  5. Antigua and Barbuda - 2006
  6. Saint Lucia - 6 January 2007
  7. Trinidad and Tobago - 24 January 2007
  8. Grenada - 29 January 2007
  9. Guyana - July 2007

All other Member States are expected to introduce the CARICOM Passport by 31 December 2007.

Those States, which have not yet done so, are attempting to deplete their existing stock, before issuing the new CARlCOM Passport.

GREATER INVOLVEMENT AND PARTICIPATION OF CIVIL SOCIETY IN THE INTEGRATION PROCESS

Since 1973 the Community has institutionalized annual exchanges with different groups to discuss issues of concern/interest. The initial discussions were conducted through meetings between a Joint Consultative Group (JCG) and the Common Market Council of Ministers.

The JCG comprised:

  • The private sector, through the Caribbean Association of Industry and Commerce (CAlC, a private sector umbrella body);
  • Labour, through the Caribbean Congress of Labour (CCL); and
  • Consumers, through the Caribbean Consumers Committee (CCC).

Over time the CCC ceased functioning. Private sector and labour representatives, however, continued to meet with the ministers through the JCG and from the late 1980s, began holding exchanges directly with Heads of Government instead of the Council of Ministers. In 1995, the NGO community began participating in the JCG, through the Caribbean Policy Development Centre (CPDC) - an NGO umbrella body.

In 2002, under the theme Forward Together, all civil society groups and Heads of Government came together at a conference in Guyana to begin the process of institutionalising a consensus-building forum on CARICOM development strategies.

INVOLVEMENT OF OPPOSITION PARTIES IN THE INTEGRATION PROCESS

Heads of Government also agreed at their meeting in Chaguaramas that Community issues should be seen as politically neutral ground at the national level and the political opposition should be brought in 'as partners into the framework of the consultation in the regional integration process'. The decision was taken in the spirit of inclusiveness and as part of the effort to ensure that as many segments of our society as possible, are afforded the opportunity to contribute to charting a direction for our Community's development.

Consultations have been initiated through briefings of opposition leaders by the Secretary-General.

Heads of Government also agreed that the Assembly of Caribbean Community Parliamentarians (ACCP) was an appropriate institution through which opposition leaders would also be able to meet to discuss issues critical to the Region's development.

In 2005 the first meeting of Heads of Government and Leaders of Parliamentary Opposition took place in Saint Lucia.

REVIEW OF THE STRUCTURE AND FUNCTIONING OF COMMUNITY INSTITUTIONS

As the integration movement deepens, numerous demands are being placed on key regional institutions, such as the CARICOM Secretariat. In an effort to address this situation, and further accelerate the implementation of decisions, Heads of Government agreed that the structure and functioning needed to be reviewed in order to strengthen the process.

A team of consultants was appointed to conduct a review of the structure and functioning of the CARICOM Secretariat and the findings and recommendations of that group were submitted in 2002. The recommendations of this group are being considered as part of a broader thrust - launched in 2003 - to review governance of the Community's integration process.

PAN CARIBBEAN PARTNERSHIP AGAINST HIV/AIDS (PANCAP)

  • The challenging circumstances of the integration movement do not only pertain to its economic welfare. In fact, the Region as a whole has not been spared the impact of the deadly scourge of HIV/AIDS, drug abuse and narco-trafficking. This has led to the establishment of PAN CAP at the February 2001 Meeting of the CARICOM Heads of Government and endorsed by the Nassau Declaration on Health 2001. The Partnership aims to scale up the response to HIV/AIDS in the Region.

    Its specific mandate is:

    To advocate for HIV / AIDS issues at government and highest levels;
  • To coordinate the regional response and mobilise resources both regional and international;

    To increase country-level resources, both human and financial, to address the epidemic.

PANCAP is in partnership with several international funding agencies and receives support from a few regional institutions.
 

 
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