43rd CARICOM heads of government confront recurrent challenges

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By Caribbean News Global contributor

PARAMARIBO, Suriname – The 43rd CARICOM heads of government are confronted with recurrent challenges of regional transportation, climate change, food security, albeit new public health crisis of COVID-19 and monkeypox.

July 4 marks the 49th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Chaguaramas, “an opportune time for us to pause and reflect on the many experiences we have had while in pursuit of regional integration,” prime minister of Grenada, Dickon Mitchell, declares. “Over the last 49 years, we have had many moments of celebration coupled with moments that required solemn reflection, still all the while envisioning the future.”

Looking at a vision for CARICOM, the newely elected prime minister of Grenada proffered that “we must also my friends, bolster support for all our regional organizations including the Association of Caribbean States (ACS ) and Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and where CARICOM must be at the center of enhanced cooperation for our region.”

Transportation

Philip J. Pierre, prime minister of Saint Lucia, addressing the 43rd regular meeting of CARICOM, said:

“CARICOM needs LIAT or CARICOM needs a better version of LIAT. Unless one of our island-owned carriers emerges as a truly regional carrier, not only in terms of countries covered but with a philosophical commitment to making regionalism work for CARICOM citizens, then our regional aspirations will continue to be an elusive dream.

“Saint Lucia, therefore, stands willing to work with CARICOM to find solutions to our regional transportation challenges and will assist in any effort designed to find a lasting, reliable, and sustainable airline or consortium of airlines, to service the region.”

External challenges

“Whenever we are faced with external challenges, not of our own making, I am always guided by the words of the late prime minister of Barbados Owen Arthur that “we should face it and fix it.” I am also always guided by the warning of our respected colleague, the distinguished prime minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, that we should avoid the reflexive learned helplessness which arguably stems from an inherited colonial consciousness,” said prime minister Pierre.

Small and vulnerable countries

CARICOM Secretary-General, Dr Carla Barnett, at the opening ceremony of the 43rd regular meeting of CARICOM, said:

“Our Community is also appreciative of the presence of the United Nations Secretary-General, His Excellency Antonio Guterres, whose advocacy on behalf of small and vulnerable countries like ours has been truly outstanding.

“… we gather here in the immediate aftermath of two broader summits, one hemispheric and the other more global. The results of those discussions, particularly at the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, USA, have the potential to have a positive impact on the social, environmental and economic aspects of our lives.

“This comes at a time when we are being severely tested by the numerous global challenges, which collectively have a deleterious effect on our ability to return to, much less maintain, our trajectory of growth and development. As much as the insights gleaned and the promises made at those fora can assist us, in the final analysis, it is what we do for ourselves that will make the difference. And, making that difference in the lives of the people of the community is what has been the impetus driving the initiatives which we have been undertaking.

Food security

Secretary-General, Dr Carla Barnett, continued: “It is evident in the energy with which we have been addressing the issue of food production and security led by the president of Guyana, and supported by a Ministerial Task Force. This has gone beyond focusing on the objective of cutting the regional food import bill by 25 percent by 2025, important as that is, to encompassing comprehensive actions, to create an agri-food sector that will finally put our region on the road to self-sufficiency. This work has become even more crucial given the global food crisis first triggered by the supply chain difficulties, and then vastly worsened by the Russian invasion of Ukraine involving two countries that produce a significant amount of the world’s grain and wheat.

“The World Food Programme estimates the ripple effects of the war could increase the number of people facing severe food insecurity by 47 million in 2022. And, as the UN Secretary-General pointed out recently: “This year’s food crisis is about lack of access. Next years could be about lack of food.” It is why all stakeholders must come together to ensure that our agri-food initiative makes a difference in the lives of our people, particularly the farmers and fisherfolk.”

Climate change

“Just as important as food and nutrition security is the existential threat of climate change. The latest report of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change last cautioned that without immediate and deep emissions reductions across sectors, limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius will be beyond reach. The impact of that reality is already manifesting itself in our region. As prime minister Davis of The Bahamas reminded us recently, his country has suffered more than four billion United States dollars (USD 4 billion) in loss and damage from hurricanes and storms, since 2015.

“It is why we have been so forceful in our advocacy for greater access to climate financing to help us adapt to the phenomenon, as well as to respond to loss and damage caused by climatic events. There has been headway and we will continue the struggle along with our partners among the global Small Island and Low-lying Coastal Developing States (SIDS), because success in this fight will definitely make a difference in the lives of our people.”

Going forward

“A major consideration, in going forward, is striving to make a difference in the lives of our youth. Sixty percent of the population of the Caribbean Community is under the age of 30. Our young people are central to our efforts at building a sustainable and resilient society. We must, therefore, never cease in our attempts to create opportunities to develop and utilise their creativity and innovative skills, and to explore avenues to facilitate youth involvement in planning and preparation for the future,” said Secretary-General, Dr Carla Barnett.

At the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Heads of Government meet in Suriname from 3-5 July, the implementation of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), food security and governance will be among the key matters for consideration.

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