Features — 19 January 2016 — by Adele Ramos
Belize chairs CARICOM Council of Ministers meeting in Guyana

GUYANA, Fri. Jan. 15, 2016–Belize Foreign Affairs Minister, Hon. Wilfred “Sedi” Elrington, chaired the 37th Meeting of the CARICOM’s Council of Ministers held in Guyana on Friday, January 15.

A key part of Friday’s deliberations was shaping the agenda for the upcoming Twenty-Seventh Inter-Sessional Meeting of CARICOM Heads of Government to be held in Belize in February, a news release from the CARICOM Secretariat said.

Among the items that will be on that agenda are development finance, climate change, and foreign policy as well as correspondent banking relations. The Heads of Government meeting will be preceded by a meeting of finance ministers of the region.

The CARICOM Committee of Ambassadors, the preparatory body for The Council, also met on Wednesday and deliberated on the issues for the agenda. The occasion also saw the appointment of Daniel Gutierrez as Belize’s first Ambassador to CARICOM, who said that the diligent efforts which were made to identify the hurdles in the region’s path and propose a Strategic Plan for the Community must be matched by action.

In addressing the gathering of Caribbean ministers on Friday, Minister Elrington said that it is “resolute collective action” that will enable the region to surmount the challenges it faces.
“Our endeavors will demand perspicacity and resolution from all of us in leadership positions, given the very daunting challenges which now confront our world,” he said.

“What we now need is to commit to making our governance arrangements more flexible and dynamic, and to revise those arrangements for our integration movement to become more effective and relevant to the needs of the peoples of CARICOM,” Elrington added.

(l-r) Assistant Secretary-General Dr. Douglas Slater; Chef de Cabinet Ms Glenda Itiaba; CARICOM Secretary-General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque; Hon. Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Belize and Chairman of the Community Council of Ministers; Deputy Secretary-General Manorma Soeknandan; Legal Counsel Safiya Ali


Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, CARICOM Secretary-General, assured the Caribbean Community Council of Ministers on Friday that the Secretariat is proceeding apace with implementing the Community Strategic Plan 2015-2019, including the preparation of a Strategic Business Plan for the Secretariat, guided by the recently established Change Management Office.

Ambassador LaRocque said that “…all our plans and activities are geared towards the sustainable development of our Community, through building our economic, environmental, social and technological resilience.”

He noted that CARICOM’s 43-year history has demonstrated that the region’s achievements have been rooted in collective action.

“As recently as last December, that unity proved its immense worth at the COP 21 in Paris. Our unified approach resulted in the attainment of favorable outcomes on an issue of existential importance to us—climate change,” LaRocque said.

Secretary-General’s Remarks, Community Council Jan 2016 from Caribbean Community on Vimeo.

Elrington said that the outcome of the 21st Conference of the United Nations Parties on Climate Change (COP 21), the 3rd Conference on Financing for Development, the Post-2015 Development Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals all have great potential to boost CARICOM growth and development and to make the region more resilient.

“We as leaders are now tasked with the most critical part of the work: to use our coordinated foreign policy to advocate at every opportunity for urgent implementation of those decisions,” Elrington said.

In his remarks, Elrington also encouraged sister CARICOM nations who have not yet done so to make the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) their final appellate court.

“Belize is exceedingly pleased with the excellent results it has had from that court to date,” Elrington said.

Of note is that Antigua and Barbuda is planning on holding a referendum later this year to decide whether it will join Barbados, Guyana, Belize and Dominica in making the CCJ that country’s final appellate court.

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