Prime Minister Mia Mottley today called on Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member states to work in unity to tackle the myriad of issues affecting them.
Those issues – ranging from climate change to health concerns, blacklisting and crime and violence – came under the microscope as Heads of Government from the 15-member bloc began meeting in Bridgetown for their two-day 31st CARICOM Inter-Sessional Meeting.
During the opening session, Prime Minister Mottley who is the current CARICOM Chairman, called on regional states to “focus on the challenges and the response”.
“This is a critical moment for us as a community to understand that whether the challenges be with respect to chronic NCDs [non-communicable diseases] . . . or whether the challenge be the more talked about and definite existential crisis of climate affecting us . . . or whether it is violence that has genuinely become a public health disorder . . . or whether it is the challenges to our fiscal sovereignty, or whether it is the challenges of multilateralism that are taking and making aim at the integrity of our freedom of association as small groupings, we have to determine how best to confront these challenges,” she said.
Mottley insisted that there was strength in unity, adding that “whether it is at the level of countries or it is at the level of homes and communities, being kith and kin must stand for something”.
At the same time, the CARICOM Chairman said, some self-examination was required.
She said that while the CARICOM Secretariat was functioning with EC$30 million less than it did a decade ago and 40 fewer people than it had 30 years ago, leaders were still demanding more.
“We therefore need to ask ourselves whether we have the appropriate governance and funding models to ensure the sustainability of this family movement that is so vital to our being able to bring prosperity to our citizens,” said Mottley.
As such, she issued a challenge to the St Vincent and the Grenadines’ Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves to “come once again to us with a modality that can allow a more effective implementation of the decisions of heads of government, particularly as it relates to the CARICOM Single Market and Single Economy”.
Meanwhile, immediate past Chairman of CARICOM, St Lucia’s Prime Minister Allan Chastanet expressed confidence in Mottley’s leadership of the grouping, as he recalled several “troubling areas” he had started to tackle during his six-month stint and which needed more work.
Those included correspondent banking, blacklisting by the European Union, climate change, the ongoing political crisis in Venezuela, and issues relating to the situation in Haiti.
“Unfortunately, none of these issues have gone away and it will be up to the incoming chairperson to continue to lobby on our behalf because in most cases the urgency is even greater,” Chastanet said.
He called for continued lobbying on the reclassification of small island developing states (SIDS) by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), saying it was time they take into the consideration the region’s “vulnerability and the adverse implications of current protocols governing debt classification and our access to financing”.
“Moreover, we must redouble our efforts towards the establishment of a dedicated fund for SIDS,” said the St Lucian leader who also called for “environmental justice”.
Adding that the time had come for the regional integration movement to be accelerated in order to benefit citizens, Prime Minister Chastanet said that while much had been achieved in that area, there was still a lot more to be done.
Joining Prime Minister Mottley in her call for unity to tackle the challenges facing the region, CARICOM Secretary General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque highlighted the impact of climate change, the need to enhance technological capacity and expand foreign outreach.
“We have to build a resilient Caribbean Community. To do so necessitates an all-inclusive approach that embraces the skills, talents and resources of the public and private sectors, labour, civil society and, indeed, the entire society.
“It also requires cooperation and assistance from our friends in the international community. These combined and coordinated efforts will serve us in good stead as we try to build that resilience to combat the challenges we face, most particularly the existential threat of climate change,” he said.