Climate change is high on the agenda of issues that will be discussed at the 21st Session of the Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR) that officially opened at the British Colonial Hilton on May 7. Representatives from nineteen countries are in The Bahamas this week for the meeting, which is being attended by CARICOM Foreign Affairs Ministers and their Senior Officials, the Secretary-General of CARICOM Irwin Larocque, Senior Officials of CARICOM and Senior Officials of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), as well as guests and representatives from Germany, Belgium, Norway, Romania and the United Nations. COFCOR determines relations between the Caribbean Community and international organizations and third states and promotes the development of friendly and mutually beneficial relations among the Member States.
Mr. Larocque said the delegates will be busy discussing a number of issues of importance to the Member States.
“In addressing how best to position the Community on the hemispheric and global stages, you will be seeking to advance a coordinated strategic approach to strengthening our external relations, with the consequent benefits to our people. “This meeting is taking place at a time when the region is still recovering from the climatic disasters of September 2017. What was destroyed in a matter of hours will take years and more than $5 billion to rebuild,” he said. “The reality of the effects of climate change as evidenced by the intensity and frequency of those mega storms demonstrates the urgency of addressing this existential threat to our community. Our charge, therefore, is to reduce vulnerability to these disasters and the effects of climate change by building a climate-resilient community.”
The goals of COFCOR are to:
Promote the development of friendly and mutually beneficial relations among
Establish measures to coordinate the foreign policies of the Member States of
the Community, including proposals for joint representation, and seek to ensure,
as far as practicable, the adoption of Community positions on major hemispheric
and international issues;
Coordinate the positions of the Member States in intergovernmental
organizations in whose activities such states participate;
Collaborate with COTED in promoting and developing coordinating policies for
the enhancement of external economic and trade relations of the Community;
Coordinate, in close consultation with the Member States, Community policy on
international issues with the policies of States in the wider Caribbean Region in
order to arrive at common positions in relation to the Third States, groups of States
and relevant inter-governmental organizations; and
Undertake any additional functions remitted to it by the Conference arising under
Minister of Foreign Affairs the Hon. Darren Henfield will chair COFCOR for one year,
effective April 2018. He expressed his pleasure in hosting this meeting and said he
looks forward to a fruitful outcome. “Over the next two days, we will engage in fruitful and productive discussions on how we can solidify our engagement, whilst simultaneously strengthening our very important relations with a number of third states,” he said. “As a council, we must dissect the outcomes of the recent Summit of the Americas and the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings, held in Lima, Peru, and London, England, respectively. By doing so, we will position ourselves to derive collectively the best benefits for our region.” Minister Henfield also noted the importance of climate change to the discussions. “With just 24 days before we enter the next hurricane season, which experts suggest will be more active than the last one and with Antigua & Barbuda, Dominica and The Bahamas, Turks, and Caicos and others in the region, all yet in recovery mode, any such dialogue must include the peculiar vulnerabilities of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) relative to sustainability, resilience, and access to development financing at concessionary rates and which consider vulnerability over GDP and GNP,” the Minister added. Minister Henfield also hosted a special lunch where guest speaker UN Special Representative for International Migration Louise Arbor spoke extensively about migration. On May 8, there will also be breakfast and lunch hosted by the United States and Canada, respectively and after a number of closed COFCOR Plenary meetings there will be a closing reception held at Government House. The delegations depart on Wednesday, May 9.