The Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM, which met for its 31st Inter-Sessional Meeting in Bridgetown Barbados from February 18-19, issued the following statement at the conclusion of the summit on Wednesday evening:
(CARICOM Secretariat) – The Thirty-First Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) was held in Bridgetown, Barbados, 18-19 February 2020. The Prime Minister of Barbados, the Right Honourable Mia Amor Mottley, Q.C; MP, Chaired the proceedings.
Other Members of the Conference in attendance were: Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Honourable Gaston Browne; Prime Minister of The Bahamas, Honourable Dr. Hubert Minnis; the Honourable Roosevelt Skerrit, Prime Minister of Dominica; Prime Minister of Grenada, Dr. the Rt. Honourable Keith Mitchell; Premier of Montserrat, the Honourable Easton Taylor-Farrell; Prime Minister of St Kitts and Nevis, Dr the Honourable Timothy Harris; Prime Minister of Saint Lucia, Honourable Allen Chastanet; Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. the Honourable Ralph Gonsalves; and Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. the Honourable Keith Rowley.
Belize was represented by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Honourable Wilfred Elrington; Guyana was represented by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Honourable Dr Karen Cummings; Jamaica was represented by Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator the Honourable Kamina Johnson-Smith; and Suriname was represented by the Vice President, His Excellency Michael Adhin.
Associate Members in attendance were: Bermuda represented by the Honourable Walter H Roban, Deputy Premier and Minister of Home Affairs; the British Virgin Islands represented by Premier, the Honourable Andrew Fahie; and the Turks and Caicos Islands, represented by Premier, the Honourable Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson.
Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, immediate past Chair of the Community, Prime Minister of Saint Lucia, Honourable Allen Chastanet and Chairman of the Community, Prime Minister of Barbados the Right Honourable Mia Amor Mottley, Q.C; MP addressed the Opening Session.
Foreign Minister of Canada the Honourable Francois-Phillipe Champagne and Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Baroness Patricia Scotland attended the Opening Session
The speakers emphasised the need for the Community to act in concert in order to overcome the challenges posed both within and from outside of the Region. The theme of CARICOM “as a family’ threaded through the presentations, along with praise for the regional institutions led by the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), and the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), as well as the CARICOM Secretariat for the co-ordination of the response to the Coronavirus.
The text of the speeches is available at www.caricom.org.
In a short ceremony, the Honourable Dr Hubert Minnis, Prime Minister of The Bahamas thanked the people of the Region, and in particular, the schoolchildren of Barbados for their assistance after the passage of Hurricane Dorian. The Prime Minister expressed appreciation for the donation of money, books and clothing to Bahamian school children by their counterparts in Barbados representatives of whom were present at the Opening Session.
(i) Protocol on Public Procurement and Declaration of Intent to Provisionally Apply the Protocol on Public Procurement
(ii) Agreement on the Return or Sharing of Recovered Assets and Declaration of Intent to Provisionally Apply the Agreement on the Return or Sharing of Recovered Assets
British Virgin Islands
(i) Revised Agreement Establishing the CXC
(ii) Agreement Establishing the Caribbean Accreditation Authority for Education in Medicine and Other Health Professions
St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Protocol on Public Procurement and Declaration of Intent to Provisionally Apply the Protocol on Public Procurement
Instruments of Ratification
Agreement on the Return or Sharing of Recovered Assets
Agreement Establishing the Caribbean Community Accreditation Agency for Education and Training
Instruments of Accession
Revised Agreement Establishing the Caribbean Agricultural Health and Food Safety Agency
Memorandum of Understanding
Memorandum of Understanding between the Caribbean Community and the Government of the United Arab Emirates for the Establishment of a Consultation and Cooperation Mechanism
CARICOM SINGLE MARKET AND ECONOMY (CSME)
Heads of Government reviewed progress of the CSME, and expressed their determination to increase the pace of implementation taking into consideration the financial and human resource constraints.
In that context, Heads of Government welcomed the offer of Barbados to help alleviate the human resource constraint by assigning two persons to assist the Secretariat.
Heads of Government also welcomed the offer from Jamaica to provide scholarships to assist Member States in building their Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) capacity.
Heads of Government further welcomed the provision of equipment from Jamaica to assist Member States in their efforts to identify easily the security features in the new CSME skills certificate.
They also agreed to review the governance structure to make it more supportive of effective implementation. To this end, Heads of Government agreed to hold monthly meetings via video conference.
Heads of Government further agreed to establish a Prime Ministerial sub-Committee led by Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines and including the Heads of Government of Barbados, Belize, Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago to review the work of a previous group on issues of implementation, financing and institutional arrangements for governance. The sub-Committee would submit recommendations to the meeting of Conference in July 2020.
They recognised that the CSME is at the stage of implementation which requires the active and engaged participation of not only the public sector but all stakeholders including private sector, labour and civil society to ensure continuity and increased effectiveness in policy development and implementation.
Heads of Government, in recognising the urgent need to review the strategy for implementation, mandated the Prime Ministerial Sub-Committee on the CSME to develop a Strategy and Programme to address implementation for consideration and approval at the Forty-First Meeting of the Conference in July 2020 for approval.
REPORT OF THE COMMISSION ON THE ECONOMY
Heads of Government welcomed the Report of the CARICOM Commission on the Economy and the proposed initiatives for building resilient economies and easing the impediments to Doing Business in the Community.
Heads of Government engaged in an extensive exchange of views with the Chairman of the Commission and agreed that the Prime Ministerial Sub-Committee on the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) would consider the recommendations for adoption by the Community. They also agreed that the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and the CARICOM Development Fund (CDF) would participate in that review.
ENGAGEMENT WITH PRIVATE SECTOR, LABOUR AND CIVIL SOCIETY
Heads of Government engaged with representatives of the private sector, labour and civil society.
They welcomed the information from the private sector that the CARICOM Private Sector Organisation (CPSO) had been established as a non-profit organisation with headquarters in Barbados, as well as the private sector’s perspective on a strategy to increase regional production and address the region’s food security concerns.
Heads of Government also welcomed the offer by Trinidad and Tobago to provide two persons to assist the Community in developing the recommendations from the CPSO.
Heads of Government also received a presentation from the Caribbean Congress of Labour (CCL) which emphasised the need for a people-centred approach to development that supports social justice and social stability.
Heads of Government noted the presentations from the CPSO and the CCL and agreed the Prime Ministerial sub-Committee on the CSME would consider the recommendations and advise on the way forward.
Corona Virus – COVID-19
Heads of Government considered a Regional Approach to the Coronavirus – COVID19. They received a detailed briefing from Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) on the actions being taken throughout the Region to prevent the importation and transmission of the COVID-19 Virus.
Heads of Government recognised that the risk of transmission of the virus in the Region remains relatively low but that an outbreak could reverse economic gains of CARICOM States. They welcomed the communications strategy to increase public knowledge on actions being taken to prevent importation and or transmission of the Virus in the Region. They noted that the strategy was important to counter myths and misinformation thereby reducing potential social media hysteria associated with the fear of an outbreak in CARICOM Members.
Heads of Government welcomed the efforts by China to assist students and other CARICOM citizens in that country who cannot return home at this time and also welcomed the offer by China to provide support to the Region to address potential gaps in their response should any case of the COVID-19 be found. They mandated the Secretariat in collaboration with CARPHA, to explore the offer from China.
Heads of Government commended the work of the Regional and International Institutions and the CARICOM Secretariat led by CARPHA and the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) as well as the CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS), the Regional Security System (RSS), the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) and the CARICOM Secretariat in providing Member States with guidance to support national response efforts, while strengthening Regional Health Security.
Heads of Government expressed their empathy and support for China as it continues in its efforts to contain the virus. They noted that the virus does not affect people on the basis of ethnicity and hence discouraged any xenophobic or racist commentary or actions.
Heads of Government, concerned about the escalation of Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) in the Region, received a report with respect to the incidence of heart attacks which has accounted for the highest percentages of deaths amongst NCDs in most countries in the Region.
Heads of Government welcomed the proposals for preventative measures to arrest the trend through the implementation of a protocol aimed at transforming the care of those who suffer cardiovascular diseases. They reiterated the need to address the prevention of heart attacks and other complications of NCDs.
Heads of Government recognised that implementing the proposals would build CARICOM’s capacity to address the incidence of heart disease and in that regard mandated the CARICOM Secretariat, the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and the Caribbean Cardiac Society to prepare a Draft Regional Strategy aimed at identifying critical Regional public goods essential for operating that strategy.
Heads of Government expressed deep concern about the continuing high rates of crime and violence in the Community.
In agreeing to address the matter as a public health issue, Heads of Government will hold a Summit of Member States and a regional multi-disciplinary partnership in Trinidad and Tobago in early April.
Heads of Government also agreed that enhanced security would include measures to assist in minimising the risk of importation of the COVID-19 virus.
BLACKLISTING, DE-RISKING AND WITHDRAWAL OF CORRESPONDENT BANKING
Heads of Government view the strategy of blacklisting and de-risking which lead to the withdrawal of correspondent banking services, as an existential threat to the economic security of CARICOM Member States.
Heads of Government expressed appreciation for the opportunity to meet with members of the United States Congress Financial Services Committee to address the deleterious impact of de-risking on CARICOM Member States. That meeting resulted in a number of outcomes aimed at building the capacity of respondent banks in the Community and changing the risk perception of CARICOM States by US Government agencies. Heads of Government commended the CARICOM Ambassadors in Washington DC, USA, for their sterling work in advancing the CARICOM Advocacy against De-Risking.
Heads of Government deplored the ongoing unilateral, arbitrary and non-transparent blacklisting strategy employed by the EU and now by individual European States like France and the Netherlands. They noted that while some Member States have been delisted, other Member States are still negotiating with the European Union (EU) to be de-listed or to avoid further blacklisting.
They stressed that the defensive tax measures threatened by the European States could have serious financial repercussions on vulnerable CARICOM States and their ability to attract the investments needed to build resilient economies. The measures have the potential of causing devastating economic, social and political consequences for our States as a result of the harm that will be inflicted on our global image, our economic competitiveness and resource mobilization efforts.
Heads of Government agreed that the ongoing actions of the European Union constitute a blatant violation of their sovereignty. They reiterated the call for the creation of an appropriate intergovernmental tax body with the adequate means and powers to set standards and rules which support an equitable and universal approach to an international tax governance infrastructure.
Heads of Government expressed appreciation for the efforts of the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda on behalf of the Region with respect to correspondent banking.
RESILIENCE AND DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION
Heads of Government recalled their approval of the CARICOM Single ICT Space as one of the key inputs to digital transformation and to building technological resilience. They identified the removal of roaming rates within the Community as a key component of that initiative.
In that regard, Heads of Government welcomed the efforts of the Rt Hon Dr Keith Mitchell, Lead Head of Government for Science and Technology who along with Colleague Heads, are advocating for the telecommunications operators to institute a modest fixed single CARICOM roaming rate for CARICOM nationals. The rate would include local and regional voice calls, data and over time will include more services.
Heads of Government agreed that a technical Committee, with oversight from the Prime Minister of Grenada, will conduct the negotiations towards eliminating roaming rates.
Heads of Government also approved a Committee on Caribbean Science and Technology Integration to develop a modern Science, Technology and Innovation Policy for the Caribbean Community with associated project proposals. Heads of Government were of the view that the work of the Committee could enable Member States to exploit and harness the ideas and ingenuity of our people as well as our vast wealth in natural resources.
Heads of Government expressed the view that this could forge new incomes streams for our Community and engender responsible approaches and policies to strengthen Science and Technology integration and the development of the Region.
Heads of Government received an update on the most recent developments between Belize and Guatemala.
Heads of Government recalled the undertaking by both countries and the Organisation of American States (OAS) to engage in the design and development of a mechanism of co-operation for the Sarstoon River and urged both countries and the OAS to reinvigorate their efforts to this end.
Pending a resolution of the case before the International Court of Justice, Heads of Government urged Belize, Guatemala and the OAS to continue implementing fully the Confidence Building Measures that have been in place since 2005. They also expressed support for the crucial role of the OAS in the process aimed at resolving the dispute, arising from Guatemala’s claims on Belize, and further called on the international community to continue supporting the OAS Office in the Adjacency Zone.
Heads of Government re-emphasised their unwavering support for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and security of Belize.
Heads of Government noted that the International Court of Justice has scheduled a hearing for the week of 23 March 2020, at which Guyana will submit its oral pleadings as to why the Court was properly vested with jurisdiction by the United Nations Secretary General for a final resolution to the controversy between Guyana and Venezuela.
Heads of Government reiterated their full support for the judicial process that is intended to bring a peaceful and definitive end to the long-standing controversy between the two countries.
Heads of Government further reiterated their firm and unswerving support for the maintenance and preservation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Guyana.
Heads of Government reviewed the situation in Haiti, and recognised the complexity of the issues. They recognised there was a multiplicity of views as to the way forward.
Heads of Government agreed to despatch a team of senior officials led by the Secretary-General to Haiti to meet with all relevant stakeholders.
EXCHANGE OF VIEWS WITH SPECIAL GUESTS
Heads of Government welcomed the Foreign Minister of Canada, the Honourable Francois-Phillipe Champagne, who set out an agenda for strengthening ties between his country and CARICOM.
Heads of Government expressed their appreciation for the assistance granted by Canada in various fields, and looked forward to the initiatives proposed by the Foreign Minister to advance relations.
RELATIONS WITH THE COMMONWEALTH SECRETARIAT
Heads of Government expressed their gratitude for the range of activities undertaken by the Commonwealth Secretariat whose added value redounded to the benefit of Small Island and low-lying coastal Developing States (SIDS), and further expressed their overwhelming support for the renewal of the term of office of the Secretary-General.
PROPOSED CARICOM-AFRICAN UNION SUMMIT (JUNE 2020, AFRICA)
Heads of Government, recognising the increasing contact between Member States and African countries, accepted the offer of Kenya to host the first CARICOM-African Union Summit in June 2020.
They expressed the view that such a meeting would contribute to strengthening the relationship between the two regions, particularly in trade, investment and cultural ties.
Heads of Government noted that the visits of the Presidents of Ghana and Kenya to the region and by the Prime Ministers of Barbados and Jamaica to Africa demonstrated a rekindling of interest on both sides to forge deeper ties. They also noted that a CARICOM Office had been opened in Kenya last December during a visit to that country by the Prime Minister of Barbados.
Heads of Government further noted that changes in the current international environment have resulted in multilateralism being weakened, with the concurrent emergence of increasing instances of unilateralism and interventionism by the major international actors, underlined the need for greater unity of action by the developing world.
FIFTEENTH MEETING OF THE UNITED NATIONS CONFERENCE FOR TRADE AND DEVELOPMENT, (UNCTAD XV) BARBADOS, 18-23 OCTOBER 2020
Heads of Government congratulated Barbados on its selection to host the Fifteenth Quadrennial United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD XV) which will be held in that Member State from 18-23 October 2020.
They noted that the Conference would be preceded by two Ministerial Meetings on Small Island low-lying Developing States (SIDS) and Least Developed Countries (LDCs) on 15-18 October 2020.
Heads of Government recognised that UNCTAD XV provided a unique opportunity for the Region to highlight key trade and development issues of importance to Member States.
Heads of Government called on the Regional committee established by the Community Council to meet as soon as possible, with a view to developing a Regional negotiating strategy and to ensure the active involvement of Member States during the Conference.
Heads of Government welcomed the opportunity that UNCTADXV provided for the staging of an appropriate regional event observing the 75th Anniversary of the founding of the United Nations.
GROUP OF 77 AND CHINA
Heads of Government congratulated Guyana on its assumption of the Chairmanship of the Group of 77 and China. They assured Guyana of the required support and accepted Guyana’s expression of appreciation.
Heads of Government noted that the upcoming Third South Summit in April 2020 in Uganda under Guyana’s chairmanship is expected to set the tone of enhancing the unity and cohesion of the Group.
IV MINISTERIAL OF THE ENERGY AND CLIMATE PARTNERSHIP OF THE AMERICAS (ECPA)
Heads of Government recalled that in its capacity as Chair of the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas (ECPA), Jamaica will host the IV Ministerial Meeting of the ECPA on 27-28 February 2020, under the theme: Energy Resilience and Investment Opportunities.
They expressed satisfaction at the level of regional participation.
REGIONAL PLATFORM FOR DISASTER RISK REDUCTION IN THE AMERICAS AND THE CARIBBEAN
Heads of Government recalled that Jamaica will host the Seventh Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in the Americas and the Caribbean, which will take place from 8-10 July 2020.
Heads of Government emphasised that given the importance of advancing national and regional efforts to galvanise disaster risk financing, Member States were encouraged to participate
DATE OF THE FORTY-FIRST REGULAR MEETING OF THE CONFERENCE (JULY 2020, ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES)
This Meeting will held in St. Vincent and the Grenadines on 2-3 July 2020, under the Chairmanship of the Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Heads of Government reiterated their concern over the enhanced sanctions announced by the US Government under Title III of the Helms-Burton Act which strengthen the US economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba. They denounced as unjustifiable the application of laws and measures of an extra-territorial nature that are contrary to international law.
Heads of Government also expressed their deep appreciation for the medical assistance provided by Cuba to the Member States of the Community over the years that helped build their health sectors to the benefit and wellbeing of their people. They acknowledged that, of their own first-hand knowledge, the persons sent had added tremendous value to helping their citizens. They repudiated the statement that this medical assistance given by the Cubans was a form of human trafficking.