CARICOM Secretary-General Dr. Carla Barnett believes that the regional body has made enormous progress in the past 50 years, from the establishment of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). However, Dr. Barnett is of the view that much more can be done to advance the work of the community.
Addressing a symposium today to mark the 50th Anniversary of the Caribbean Community, Dr Barnett said though the regional and global environment has changed considerably since the signing of the original Treaty of Chaguaramas in 1973, and the Revised Treaty of 2001, the fundamental objectives and principles of regional integration remain more valid than ever.
“The lag in the implementation of an efficient transportation system has adversely affected intra-regional trade and the ease of travel for people throughout the Community. The non-tariff barriers that impeded the flow of trade have created unnecessary friction. Actions by officials at points of entry threaten to become a deterrent to CARICOM citizens wishing to visit or seek employment in another Member State, as is their right under the Revised Treaty. The joy of the Single Domestic Space when our Region hosted Cricket World Cup in 2007 is now a distant memory!” the CARICOM Secretary General explained.
She said none of the challenges facing CARICOM is insurmountable. The Secretary General said CARICOM intends to overcome its challenges as it looks forward to the next 50 years.
CARICOM has four pillars – Economic Integration, Human and Social Development, Foreign Policy Coordination and Security Cooperation – and according to the Secretary-General, those pillars remain the primary focus as the Community rise to the challenges of the new era.
She noted the need for flexibility of action, receptivity to change and clarity of purpose and vision, in adapting the CARICOM integration framework to address the changing national, regional and global imperatives.
“Recent initiatives indicate that there is awareness of the need to design and/or redesign regional initiatives as prevailing circumstances change. One of the most consequential of those initiatives upends a traditional practice,” the CARICOM Secretary-General reasoned.
In March 2022, the Heads of Government agreed to adopt a Protocol on Enhanced Cooperation which allows a sub-group of Member States that are ready to implement a decision, to do so, with other countries.
This replaces the former process which required all Member States to agree to move forward before any could.
Dr Barnett said the change is a significant marker on the path of reforms in the way the Community conducts its affairs.
Additionally, in an effort to meet today’s demands, the Inter-Governmental Task Force (IGTF) on Treaty Revision will be re-established, in due course, to review and update the Revised Treaty, the Secretary-General said.
In the area of Food and Nutrition Security, Dr Barnett said the region is advancing its plans to reduce our Food Import Bill by 25% by the year 2025.
“We are therefore in the process of implementing an agri-food systems strategy to reduce reliance on extra-regional imports of food, enhance production and trade of regional agricultural products, and provide greater access to a supply of nutritious foods,” Dr Barnett said.
Those efforts are being led by Guyana’s President, Irfaan Ali who has responsibility for Agriculture within CARICOM.
It was noted that agri-food investment will not only enhance food and nutrition security, but also serve as an engine for broader economic growth, prosperity and stability of the Region on a sustainable basis.
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