The 45th Meeting of Heads of State and Government of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) began Monday at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, marking the 50th anniversary of the signing of the bloc's foundational Treaty of Chaguaramas. The event was also attended by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
Also in attendance will be Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, China's Deputy Foreign Minister Hua Chunying, and South Korea's Prime Minister Han Duck-soo.
The regional bloc includes Bahamas, Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, Saint Lucia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.
During the opening ceremony, Caricom Secretary-General Carla Barnett underscored the role Caricom since then in spearheading the formation of the African, Caribbean, and Pacific States (OACPS), leading negotiations with Europe on preferential trade agreements, fighting for UN recognition of small island and low-lying coastal developing states (SIDS).
Our leaders are also present at the International Court, prioritizing health and the Nassau Declaration in 2001. No one can question the excellence of the Caribbean Public Health Agency which has an example of leadership in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, she said.
Barnett also highlighted the legacy of the so-called founding fathers of Caricom, such as Arthur Lewis, William Demas, Alister McIntyre, and Nita Barrow, and said that it has demonstrated that with strength and consistency, collaboration and integration can be achieved.
In addressing the challenges, Barnett said some areas cry out for improvement such as transportation, free movement of citizens, and crime and insecurity, particularly in Haiti. We are dealing with a multi-faceted crisis, crime and security, constitutional and political, humanitarian, in our most populous member state, Haiti. As our Community seeks to assist the Haitian people in finding effective solutions to the crises, we have appointed a Group of Eminent Persons who have begun to facilitate dialogue among key Haitian stakeholders, she said.
The Caricom Secretary-General also insisted on the importance of food security, the need to reduce food imports, and the urgency of advancing a digital development strategy to increase productivity and build sustainable livelihoods, especially for young people. She also highlighted Caricom's resilience and resolve, despite changing global realities, to stay on the integration course.
Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Keith Rowley recalled what happened in Chaguaramas on July 4, 1973, and honored the bloc's founding fathers. The late Prime Ministers Errol Barrow of Barbados, Forbes Burnham of Guyana, Michael Manley of Jamaica, and Dr. Eric Eustace Williams of Trinidad and Tobago, were leaders who understood that our strength as small states lies in our unity, he said.
Initially made up of four nations, Caricom now has 15 Member States and five Associate Members, while Martinique and the Netherlands Antilles are expected to join soon.
In his speech, Guterres also urged to help alleviate the suffering of the Haitian people: I come here from Haiti; the security situation is appalling, humanitarian needs are increasing and there is still no political solution in sight. But I came with hope and optimism,” he said.
Blinken is due in Port of Spain on July 5, 2023. From there he will travel to Guyana on a state visit the following day.