Against the stark reality of a world that is closing opportunities for young people to emigrate and follow in the footsteps of their foreparents, CARICOM is opening doors, building connections, and making a larger space for them in the region.
Many of those expansive opportunities for Barbadian and other young people of the region already exist in Caribbean Community agreements to which most governments have signed on. Many more are on the way to present openings for school, college, and university leavers to seamlessly relocate across the 15-nation grouping to take up jobs and live.
This was core message delivered to a group of young people ranging in age from about 17 to 29 when they sat with Barbados’ Ambassador to CARICOM, David Comissiong, and the organisation’s Assistant Secretary General for Trade and Economic Integration, Joseph Cox.
“All across the world some countries are building physical walls; other countries are building walls based on laws and regulations. All of these walls, whether physical or legislative, are being built to keep out people who look like us,” Comissiong told the young group assembled in the Ministry of Youth yesterday for a session titled, ‘A conversation on CARICOM’.
“The only place that is taking down barriers and saying let us create a space that will be reserved for the young people of the Caribbean is CARICOM,” he added.
Comissiong spoke of the freedom to travel within the region and the facility of the CARICOM Skills Certificate which already exists. He explained that these provisions have opened doors for young people to move seamlessly across the region to live and work, using whatever skills they have acquired.
Offering an example of the enormous opportunities ahead, he spoke of how Free Movement and Skills Certificates make available a wide array of resources to the average Barbadian young person.
He noted that while Barbados has a land mass of just 166 square miles, Guyana, the largest of the CARICOM countries, accounts for 83,000 square miles. Other countries that dwarf this island in size are Jamaica, Belize, Haiti and Trinidad and Tobago.
“Altogether, CARICOM is 70-times the size of Barbados with a collective economy 17-times that of this island,” he said, pointing out that resources carry with them opportunities beyond the shores.
The Ambassador singled out the CARICOM Skills Certificate facility as being a ticket to freedom for young people. He pledged to use it as a lever and ‘as a motivator to our young people’ to ensure more persons who acquire skills can use it with assets ranging from academic qualifications, trade certification, music certification, to farming certification.
Assistant Secretary General Cox pointed out that though the range of skills enabling CARICOM citizens to work unhindered in another territory is now limited, “our heads of government have mandated that by 2021 there will be absolute free movement of labour, for those that are willing”.
“You have opportunities, you have a market. CARICOM is a market. You’re not limited to remain in one country,” he said.
He added that supplementing the 2021 opening of the labour market, a number of financial and other laws and regulations are being harmonised to ensure those who chose to relocate have the same experience as in their original territory.
“We got you covered… The foundation is being laid and has been laid for you to have a bright future,” he remarked.
Tirshatha Jeffrey, a Barbados CARICOM Youth Ambassador, and one of the organisers of the forum, said that many young people are unfamiliar with the nature and functions of CARICOM.
“It is time for us to read the policies, to go on CARICOM.org to see for ourselves what CARICOM is about,” she urged.
Adding that despite the important rules and policies, “at the end of the day, CARICOM is flesh and blood, not just policies,” she said. “The only difference is where we stopped off on the boat. But somewhere along the line we’ve lost site of the fact that we are really one people,” she added.
The other Youth Ambassador, Chad Monerville, announced a coming programme targeting Barbadian young people. “Part of our mandate, one of the key programmes that we will be launching come September 2019, would be the CARICOM badge programme. This is essentially to break down the insular and xenophobic influences that face the region.”
He said it will be aimed at schools and youth organisations such as Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, “for persons to get involved in what CARICOM is; to know the ins and out so that we can, in the long and medium term, get a [youth] buy-in”.