International — 12 July 2013 — by Adele Ramos

Elrington reports to CARICOM on BZ-Guat relations

Belize was the only member not represented by Head of Government

The 34th Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community, held in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago from July 3-6, 2013, concluded over the weekend and a communiqué issued at the close of the meeting highlights the major outcomes.

Information provided in the communiqué shows that Belize was the only one of 15 CARICOM countries not represented by its Head of Government.

According to the release, Belize was represented by Attorney General and Minister of Foreign Affairs Wilfred Elrington.

At the meeting, Elrington updated the gathering on ongoing efforts by Belize to find a final and definitive resolution to the unfounded claim by Guatemala over Belize’s territory.

“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,” said the communiqué issued by the Heads of Government.

They, furthermore, urged the parties to set an early date for holding the simultaneous referenda and called on the international community to continue supporting the process under the Organization of American States.

Coming out of the CARICOM meeting, held under the theme: 40 years of Integration: Celebration and Renewal, a number of other outputs were reported.

Of ceremonial significance was the re-dedicaton to the thrust of the Treaty of Chaguaramas by all the Heads of Government of the Community, which was held on July 4. The original signatories of the treaty were Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, and their current heads delivered statements at the rededication.

Reform in CARICOM

Leaders also spoke of the structured, effective implementation of the transformation of the Community and its Secretariat, and the reform process that is designed to attain that transformation.

At last week’s meeting, they noted the progress report on the reform process, welcomed the appointment of “change drivers” in each member state, and noted the commencement of national consultations for the preparation of the Community Strategic Plan.

Single Domestic Space to be renewed

The CARICOM leaders mandated the CARICOM Secretariat, in collaboration with CARICOM IMPACS (Implementation Agency for Crime and Security) and other relevant agencies, to coordinate and commence discussions on the strategy for the reintroduction of the Single Domestic Space (SDS) in the interest of hassle-free travel in the region.

Among the issues to be tackled, according to the communiqué, is improved coordination among airlines in the Caribbean, and improved service quality.

Self-sustaining economic growth

One of the major topics of discussion was the future of CARICOM economies.

Burdensome debt, fiscal unsustainability and low growth, the leaders said, make it hard for countries in the region to achieve self-sustaining economic growth in a manner that will help countries to be strongly competitive on the international front, while being innovative, productive and flexible with the use of their resources.

Coming out of the meeting, therefore, the leaders agreed to deepen the regional framework for growth and development. This would be achieved by putting into place a development strategy that brings stakeholders more into the loop. This strategy must furthermore expand the knowledge, innovation capability, and entrepreneurial capacity of CARICOM nationals so that they can, in turn, be engaged in more competitive and higher value-added economic activities.

The CARICOM leaders decided on the following immediate actions:

(1) Design and execute a resource mobilization strategy to facilitate targeted interventions by Governments which would catalyze and ignite growth in CARICOM States.

(2) Adopt a stabilization and growth agenda. Under this agenda, constraints on competitive production should be removed. Governments should also proactively facilitate and support the private sector, aimed at catalyzing growth in critical economic sectors.

Persons with disabilities and special needs

The Government of Haiti undertook a highly praised initiative to launch into the spotlight the need for special focus on people with disabilities and special needs.

The Heads of Government confirmed their full support for the proposal by Haiti to convene a high-level meeting to discuss persons with disabilities and special needs, and urged that a regional dialogue should commence to address the issues and challenges facing people with disabilities and special needs.

Reparations for native genocide and slavery

Heads of Government reported that they have considered the issue of “Reparations for Caribbean Slavery and Native Genocide” and they received the submissions from the Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies Professor Hilary Beckles and a legal team to facilitate their deliberations.

They also report that an undertaking has been given by all states to establish national reparation committees and to convene their first meeting as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, Barbados will chair the CARICOM Reparations Commission made up of the chairs of National Reparation Committees. Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Haiti, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Suriname will also provide oversight for the Commission, and a representative of a research unit at the University of the West Indies will also help drive the issue.

Treaty actions

The communiqué informed that 6 member states undertook twelve treaty actions, which included the following:

(1) Guyana, Montserrat and St. Vincent and the Grenadines signed the Agreement establishing the Caribbean Community Accreditation Agency for Education and Training.

(2) Barbados deposited an instrument of ratification for the Agreement establishing the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency.

(3) Montserrat signed the Agreement establishing the Caribbean Knowledge and Learning Network Agency. Jamaica acceded to the Agreement establishing the Caribbean Public Health Agency.

(4) Saint Vincent and the Grenadines signed the Amendment to the Agreement establishing the Caribbean Aviation Safety and Security System.

(5) Dominica, Montserrat, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines signed the Amendment to the Agreement establishing the Caribbean Knowledge and Learning Network Agency.

(6) Guyana and Montserrat signed the Protocol Amending the CARICOM Agreement on Social Security, which came into force on July 4, 2013.

Next HOG meeting

According to the communiqué, 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.

In accordance with CARICOM’s rotation schedule, St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves will chair the Conference of Heads of Government for the six-month period commencing 1 January 2014.

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