Distinguished people of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM),
I wish you a Happy New Year 2011. As we welcome the
second decade of the century and the New Year 2011,
we must prepare ourselves to face and surmount the
challenges which continue to confront us. The end of
the first decade of this century was marked by the
triumph of the human spirit over the ravages of
nature as exemplified by the courage and resilience
of the Chilean, Pakistan and Haitian people.
One year ago this month, two significant events
occurred which have had lasting effects on our
Community. The first was the calamitous earthquake
of 12 January which devastated our Member State
Haiti, taking a terrible toll in human lives and
wreaking widespread destruction of property. The
tragedy has continued with the dilatory response of
the international community in meeting its financial
pledges to assist in the reconstruction of Haiti.
By year’s end not even a quarter of the amounts
pledged had been delivered with the consequent
deleterious, ruinous and slothful effect on the
rebuilding process. The Caribbean Community,
spearheaded by the Special Representative of the
Heads of Government to Haiti, the Most Honourable P.
J. Patterson, will continue to use every opportunity
and seek to devise fresh initiatives in order to
accelerate the process in 2011. The situation in
Haiti has been exacerbated by the outbreak of the
cholera epidemic which, apart from having already
claimed close to 3,000 lives, has stretched beyond
the limit, the capacity of the Haitian Authorities
already overburdened by the challenges posed in the
aftermath of the earthquake.
The Caribbean Community recommits itself to
continuing and intensifying its assistance to its
beleaguered Member State in the year ahead.
The second event was the Special Summit on Youth
Development which took place in Paramaribo, Suriname
at the beginning of the year. At that landmark
event, the report of the Caribbean Community
Commission on Youth Development was presented to
Heads of Government. The years of research and the
voice of the Youth at the Summit clamoured for a
quickening of the pace of the integration process
and for the greater involvement of the young people
of our Community in its decision-making.
That cry for the “quickening of the pace” was
heard by Heads of Government and was translated into
active consideration of new governance structures to
improve the rate of implementation. One of the main
ideas in taking the necessary steps will be tested
in this coming year with the establishment of the
Permanent Committee of CARICOM Ambassadors (PCCA).
This body heralds a new dawn for our Community. The
Committee, in order to succeed, will need the full
support of all, including the Heads of Government.
Our Administrative structure, particularly our
Secretariat, will also be undergoing changes with
the retirement of our long-serving
Secretary-General, Sir Edwin Carrington. I would
like to take this opportunity to record the greatest
appreciation to Sir Edwin for his tireless and
inspiring leadership over the 18 years that he
served the Governments and Peoples of the Caribbean
Community in that position. His is an example of the
kind of devotion and commitment necessary if we are
to achieve the goal of a viable, prosperous and
secure Community for All. The Community will show
its appreciation, when it confers on him its highest
honour, the Order of the Caribbean Community (OCC).
As we approach 2011, one of the greatest dangers
to the existence of our Community of small island
and low lying coastal states remains the effects of
climate change – not least that of sea-level rise.
As a world leader in the battle to restrict the
limit of greenhouse gas emissions to ensure that
global temperature does not rise more than 1.5⁰
Centigrade above pre-industrial levels, the
Caribbean Community is striving to ensure its very
survival. Already in the Pacific region, island
states are losing land to the rising seas and this
should serve as a warning for us to be even more
strident in our demands to the industrial giants
that we need them to limit the levels to no more
than 1.5 for us to stay alive.
It is against this background and many other
challenges, including the continuing effects of the
global financial and economic crisis on our
countries, that we enter the New Year. We are
convinced that unless we believe in our integration
movement and so demonstrate by strengthening its
bonds significantly, unless we continue to build on
the co-operation with each other, unless we are
prepared to use all the skills and tools at our
disposal to build a strong CARICOM Single Market and
Economy – particularly those available through
Information and Communication Technology – we will
not be able to combat those challenges successfully.
Let us resolve therefore to make this year a
watershed year in the history of our integration
movement – a year in which a new generation of
CARICOM leaders at all levels ensure that they play
their part in building a strong, resilient and
dynamic Caribbean Community and thereby take their
place in history.
I wish you all a Happy, prosperous and productive