She has been hailed as one of the very few leaders of a regional organization to bring about meaningful change in the area of business development and trade in the last decade.
Described as a gem of the Caribbean, regionalist and dedicated worker, outgoing Executive Director of the Caribbean Export Development Agency Pamela Coke-Hamilton, came in for high praise last Friday from a number of regional and international development partners.
Coke-Hamilton, who has been at the helm of Caribbean Export for the past eight years, will assume a new role at the end of next month at UNCTAD in Geneva, Switzerland.
During a cocktail reception at the Mahogany Ridge, Chairman of the board of directors of Caribbean Export and Cabinet Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister Cecile Humphrey praised Coke-Hamilton’s work over the years.
“Her work to date is impressive and is a testament to regional integration. She has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to the deepening of economic and technical cooperation and trade in the region,” said Humphrey.
Highlighting some of Coke-Hamilton’s successes during her tenure, Humphrey said she was responsible for numerous regional private sector development programmes which have been bearing fruit.
“These include the launch of the Women Empowered Through Export platform, the flagship publication Caribbean Export Outlook and innovative platforms for market penetration such as Design Caribbean, Caribbean Essence [Fashion] and Caribbean Kitchen,” she added.
Humphrey recalled that while there have been numerous challenges over the years, Coke-Hamilton has been unyielding in her attempts to ensure success of the organization and regional businesses and she always had the interest of the Caribbean at the forefront of whatever she did.
“As in any organization, there have been peculiar challenges from time to time during her tenure, but I believe the dignity she has displayed during the very trying times is exemplary,” said Humphrey, adding that her departure should not be seen as a loss “but an opportunity for the region’s voice and concerns to be advocated and heard more often and more loudly in the international community”.
Coke-Hamilton will assume her new role as Director of International Trade on Goods, Commodities and Services at UNCTAD in Geneva, Switzerland at the end of August.
Humphrey congratulated her on her new post, thanked her on behalf of Barbados and noted that Caribbean leaders should be proud, not only for the work that Coke-Hamilton has done since joining the Caribbean Export in 2010, “but of the fact that such a person grew out of the institution for the region and within the process of Caribbean regional development”.
Director General of the CARIFORUM Directorate Percival Marie said it was a bittersweet moment for him as Coke-Hamilton embarked on her new journey.
“It is unfortunate that she is leaving us at this time when we are dealing with Brexit, when we are dealing with post-Cotonou and when the force of the economic partnership between ourselves and the EU has not really been realized. We continue to be challenged by those matters,” said Marie.
However, he acknowledged that the trade specialist was going to an institution where she could still help the region’s export development efforts.
During the function, which was dotted with applause, a somewhat reserved Coke-Hamilton recalled that the many ups and downs during her tenure made the journey an incredible one for her.
“I have learned that God is still God of the hills and the valleys,” she said.
She insisted that a critical ingredient of the agency’s success so far has been strategic partnerships.
“When you strip away all the activities, the title, the money, the politicking, the façade, what is really essential? And I have come to one conclusion – relationships. What is the essence of this life and what will endure long after projects fade and accolades are forgotten and cast aside on the shores of time? What remains are the roots that have been planted,” said Coke-Hamilton.
Some of those relationships, she said, allowed her grow “in ways I never expected and enabled me to be on the front lines of helping to build the capacity of those who form the base of our economic growth and future development – the private sector”.
“It has been a signal honour to carry this torch and be a part of a new and innovative method of advancing the growth agenda,” she said, adding that her desire has always been to add value to humankind “and make the world a better place”.
Coke-Hamilton noted that numerous agencies and governments have provided invaluable support over the years, but she singled out the European Union (EU), saying had it not been for that agency “Caribbean Export would not be the success it is, and frankly may not even exist. That is the truth”.
Thanking those who have been instrumental in helping to raise her son Matthew, through what she said were some challenging periods, Coke-Hamilton also thanked the management and staff of Caribbean Export, saying they were very hard workers.
Newly appointed Minister in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Sandra Husbands described Coke-Hamilton as a gem and pointed to her persistence and ability to get things done.
“We are looking forward to all the good things that she will do when she leaves our shores. I want to say the best way to honour Pamela is to continue cooperation and partnerships for the things that she has given her life for, to continue to support what she has made sacrifices to build,” Husbands recommended.
Coke-Hamilton, who joined the Caribbean Export Development Agency in 2010, was responsible for forming strategic partnerships and the development and implementation of several programmes aimed at increasing trade among targeted groups of entrepreneurs across CARIFORUM countries. (MM)