I extend to all best wishes for a bright, prosperous and productive New Year as we enter 2017, the Forty-Fourth Year of our Community.
This year marks the mid-point of our Five-Year Strategic Plan for the period 2015-2019, a foundational element in the Community’s reform process. That process is geared towards ensuring that our people feel the impact of the integration movement in their daily lives. Integration is not merely about systems and institutions. It is mostly about people.
It is in the interest of developing our people that we are taking steps to ensure that they are fully equipped to address the requirements of the 21st century economy and society. Our Commission on Human Resource Development is developing a Regional Education and Human Resource Strategy with special attention to ICT in Education and Human Resource Development.
Convinced as we are that the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) is the vehicle through which we can achieve the growth and development, timely assessments will serve to ensure that we maximize its benefits for our citizens. Notwithstanding the substantial progress that has been made, Heads of Government will review its operations and identify ways to improve its delivery.
Our nations are well endowed with the requirements for pursuing a Green Economy including sources of renewable energy and forests that harbor a significant amount of carbon. As noted by the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, “the green economy can be seen as a lens for focusing on and seizing opportunities to advance economic and environmental goals simultaneously”.
The effects of climate change continue to bedevil our countries as exemplified by Hurricane Matthew. The need to conserve and protect our environment, therefore, becomes even more pressing. Such actions will also give us the opportunity to leverage the abundant forests and wetlands as well as the marine resources with which our Region is blessed and utilize them creatively to launch new pathways to social and economic development. This can be accomplished while ensuring that we help in the global commitment to limit the rise in global temperature to below 1.5 degrees.
The people of this Region have also made a considerable contribution to the global community in the sphere of culture. Later this year, our premier cultural exposition, the Caribbean Festival of the Arts (CARIFESTA), will be held in Barbados. The 13th edition of this grand festival, bringing together the peoples of CARICOM as well as the wider Caribbean, will take place under the theme ‘Asserting our Culture: Celebrating Ourselves.’ We certainly look forward to widespread participation to make the event a tremendous success.
The safety and security of our people and the Region is of paramount importance. As we move forward with implementing a regional Crime and Security Strategy, we will be building on the platform already established by concluding legal agreements with respect to Arrest Warrants and Asset Forfeiture, for example.
As Guyana assumes the chair of CARICOM, I would like to thank the Honourable Roosevelt Skerrit, the Prime Minister of Dominica, for his able leadership of the Community for the past six months. As I receive this baton, I will continue to guide our Community in the path of sustainable development which serves the interest of all its people.
2017 holds great promise for us to advance our integration process which can only be possible through the involvement and participation of all. Let us resolve to play our part in strengthening our Caribbean Community and to making regional unity a living, breathing experience.
Let that be one of our main resolutions as we celebrate the incoming year with family and friends and strive to make it a happy and prosperous 2017.
Once again a Happy New Year to all.