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THE ORDER OF THE CARIBBEAN COMMUNITY (OCC) : AN AVOWAL OF EXCELLENCE

 
A distinguished cadre of West Indians have, over the years of CARICOM's existence, illuminated the path to integration by their excellence in thought and action, and transformative roles in national and regional development. It is thus symbolically appropriate that the Insignia created for the Caribbean Community's highest award, the Order of the Caribbean Community (OCC) is a representation of the sun signifying "the illustrious and distinguished nature of the persons" who are recipients of the Region's highest and most prestigious honour.

In every region of the world, there are people who exceed the call of duty in advancing their territory's development, and who are conspicuous by the excellence of their accomplishments. A proposal emanating from the Government of Trinidad and Tobago in 1987 recognised the need to acknowledge such Caribbean nationals whose legacy in the economic, political, social and cultural metamorphoses of Caribbean society is phenomenal. This vision for honouring legendary figures of the Region was unopposedly shared by fellow CARICOM Member States and thus it was at the Eighth Conference of Heads of State and Government of CARICOM in 1987 that the proposal was unanimously adopted.

An Inter Governmental Agreement establishing the Order of the Caribbean Community entered into force on 28 May 1991. The Agreement makes provision for the honouring and conferral of the award on nationals of Member States of the Caribbean Community who have a record of outstanding service and contributions to the political, social and cultural development of the Region.

The appointment of an Advisory Committee for the Order of the Caribbean Community by the Conference of Heads of Government gave effect to the administrative machinery for the conferral of the OCC awards.

The Inter-Governmental Agreement assigns roles and responsibilities to Member States, the Advisory Committee and the CARICOM Secretariat for the operation of the award scheme. Member States are required to ensure legislative provisions are made for enforcing the terms and conditions of the 1991 Agreement and nominate candidates whom they feel deserve the honour because of their contributions to national and regional development.

Proposals by Member States for nominations are channelled through and considered by the Advisory Committee which plays a key role in monitoring the awards process. Recommendations are submitted by the Advisory Committee to the Conference of the Heads of Government for approval. The Advisory Committee is tasked to review the operation and administration of the OCC which is a function of the CARICOM Secretariat.


The Insignia of the OCC
Its designer, Standhope Williams of Guyana, captures the splendour and beauty of the Caribbean Region succinctly in the Insignia for the OCC. The Insignia, as a representation of the sun, aptly symbolises the tropical environment of which the Caribbean boasts, but more significantly the distinctive character and record of achievements of awardees. The rays of the sun are presented as four prominent points which depict the four cardinal points.

The logo of the Caribbean Community is inset as the centrepiece of the Insignia. The interlocking "C" of the logo and the outer circle of the sun combine to form OCC. The broken chain effect of the logo is the expression of "the freedom of the geographical chain of fourteen countries linked together by their common history, culture and aspirations and their integration movement". The Rainbow in the Insignia symbolises "the multiplicity of races of people present in the Caribbean Region: and "the natural beauty and colourful nature of the Region, as exemplified through tourism and the celebrations of Carnival and other festivals in the various Member States". A second distinctive feature, the two wavy bands, characterises the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, which wash the shores of Caribbean territories.

Selection and Entitlements The OCC award is a celebration of excellence among the peoples of the Region and the commitment of many to the ongoing process of development and improved conditions of living for citizens of Member States. Honourees represent the interest of their Nation States and the Region in the wider international arena and by their service, craft a niche for the Caribbean in the international community.

The common criteria used to inform the selection of the recipients include their contribution:

 
  • To the political, cultural and social development of the Community and the consequent impact on the equality of life of the peoples of the Caribbean
  • To raising the self-esteem of the peoples of the Community
  • To forging a stronger Caribbean identity within the Community and in the diaspora
  • To projecting the excellence of the Caribbean people on the world scene

The highly esteemed recipients of the Order of the Caribbean Community are rewarded for their outstanding contribution to the Caribbean by the conferral of specific privileges and entitlements. The title "Honourable" precedes the name of the recipients which carries the suffix O.C.C. Members of the Order are accorded the privilege of free movement among Member States of the Community and are issued with a travel document which is assigned similar status to a diplomatic passport. The right to reside in and be gainfully employed in any Member State, as well as the right to acquire and dispose of property, as would citizens of Member States, is entitlements granted to Members of the Order. A decorated red laissez-passer signed by the Secretary-General of CARICOM is given as a token of the award to recipients, their spouses and children under 18 years of age. The Insignia of the O.C.C. set in gold and the Ribbon of the Order are presented to those honoured.
 
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