Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretary General, Irwin LaRocque, Tuesday said that regional leaders were meeting against a background of global uncertainty, including the increasing threats to multilateralism, the spread of tensions and volatility arising from unresolved conflicts as well as the acceleration of the devastating effects of climate change.
“These issues demand that we act collectively to overcome the hurdles that confront us. We face an increasingly hostile international environment which demands more than ever that we come together to secure and promote our interests as a Community,” LaRocque told the opening ceremony for the two-day 31st Inter-sessional meeting of the Caribbean leaders.
LaRocque said that it was important for the regional leaders to continue to show unity within a changing global environment, praising the outgoing CARICOM chairman, St. Lucia’s Prime Minister Allen Chastanet for “ the sterling efforts you have been making to promote and defend the region’s interests, in particular, with respect to the need for funding to enhance our resilience, climate change and the challenges we face with blacklisting”.
He said that the scope of the agenda for the summit here “illustrates the breadth of issues which we, as a Community, must address to further consolidate our integration and to position ourselves advantageously in an increasingly complex and challenging global arena.
“Whether it is the imperative of making significant progress with the Single Market and Economy; securing our financial sector; safeguarding our fiscal sovereignty; enhancing our technological capability and capacity; protecting the health and security of our people; expanding our foreign outreach – it is with one goal in mind. We have to build a resilient Caribbean Community,” the region’s top public servant told the opening ceremony.
He said that to do so necessitates an all-inclusive approach that embraces the skills, talents and resources of the public and private sectors, labour, civil society, youth and indeed the entire society. “It also requires co-operation and assistance from our friends in the International Community. These combined and co-ordinated efforts will serve us in good stead, as we strive to build that resilience to combat the challenges that we face, most particularly, the existential threat of climate change.”
LaRocque said that the decision by the regional leaders to engage regularly with the private sector, labour and civil society “is an indication of our determination to be more inclusive in our deliberations and to embed and all-society approach to our development efforts”.
He welcomed also the presence of the representatives of the CARICOM Youth Ambassador Corp, noting “how can we benefit from the CSME and successfully conduct trade negotiations with third countries without the involvement of the private sector and labour?
“How can we maximise the use of technology for our development without the innovation and dynamism of the youth? How can we combat the scourge of crime and violence without the input of ideas and actions from civil society? “
He said that while the region must continue the fight to stave off the epidemic of chronic non-communicable diseases (NCD) it must also be fully aware of the coronavirus that “has been deadly, claiming more than a thousand lives globally so far and proving difficult to contain”.
He said he was pleased so far that “there are no cases in CARICOM” and that while the World Health Organisation (WHO) has deemed the risk to the Caribbean to be low, regional countries had adopted a pro-active approach and convened an emergency meeting of health ministers and stakeholders to discuss the issue.
“I must commend the collaboration that is taking place, as another example of the co-ordination that is required in addressing some of the challenges to our integration process and to have a positive sustained impact on the lives of our citizens,” he added.