This year has been a “tumultuous” one for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), which tested the regional body’s resolve, CARICOM Chairman Freundel Stuart has said.
However, Stuart, the Prime Minster of Barbados, said there were some noteworthy achievements which demonstrated “in no uncertain terms” the value of the integration movement to the people of the Caribbean and the influence it can exert on the international scene when it acts as a united force.
“The year 2015 tested our resolve, but this Community has shown time and again that it has the wherewithal not only to withstand challenges but also to provide solutions to whatever problems arise. The basis of its strength is its collective force and it is that which we must use as we continue the efforts to build a secure, principled, viable and sustainable Community for all of our citizens,” Stuart said in an end of year message.
“We are now at the end of a tumultuous year, 2015, and stand on the threshold of 2016, with all that it promises,” he added.
The CARICOM Chairman did not elaborate on what tested the institution’s resolve, but its member countries continued to face economic hardships, while several faced natural disasters, among them Dominica which was ravaged by Tropical Storm Erika, something the Prime Minister noted. In addition, the Community’s flagship programme, the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), has failed to gain momentum and regional leaders were divided over a candidate for Commonwealth Secretary General, an issue over which Prime Minister Gaston Browne of Antigua and Barbuda wrote Stuart a stinging letter in early July challenging the Barbadian Prime Minister’s assertion that the leaders, at their annual summit in Barbados, had agreed to allow the Bureau to handle the matter.
Baroness Patricia Scotland, the candidate nominated by Dominica and supported by Barbados, was elected to the post, an achievement which Stuart referred to in his message.
“In November, as the year came to a close, we celebrated the election of the second CARICOM national and first woman to be elected as Secretary-General of the Commonwealth. The election of Patricia Scotland of Dominica promises a new era for the Commonwealth and for the Caribbean Community within that organization,” he observed.
In his message, a review of the institution’s achievements throughout the year, Stuart touched on efforts to improve the operations of the CSME, “which remains the best option to promote growth and bring prosperity” to the people of the region; the search for options to stimulate growth and reduce “the crushing debt burden” which member countries faced and the establishment of the Caribbean Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency.
However, at the top of the list was the role the region played in the recent climate change agreement reached in Paris recently by 195 countries.
He said it demonstrated the important role the region can play in the global community when it adopts common positions and present them as one body.
“This past year has demonstrated in no uncertain terms the value of the Caribbean regional integration project to our Caribbean Community (CARICOM), and the influence that our united front can wield in the international arena.
“The importance of this unity was never more apparent than when the world grappled with issues of critical importance to the Community and other Small Island and Low-lying Coastal Developing States (SIDS). The outcome of the United Nations Framework Conference on Climate Change 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21), the Paris Agreement, has given us hope that we can confront this existential challenge. Our Region was united on this issue and we can be proud of what we achieved in Paris for SIDS [Small Island Developing States],” he stressed.