As the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) community observes its golden jubilee, the Hon. Philip Davis, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance and Chair of CARICOM, called for leaders attending the 44th Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM to unite to build a stronger, more resilient and prosperous region.
“In celebrating the institutions and achievements of these five decades, the many peoples of our region should look back and rightly feel a sense of pride in all that has been gained, and the value added to the region. But it also presents an occasion to look forward, to seize the opportunity to collaborate, to co-operate, and, through our collective effort, build a stronger, more resilient, and more prosperous region,” said Prime Minister Davis.
The Heads of Government meeting officially opened Wednesday, February 15, 2023 in the Grand Ballroom, Atlantis Resort, Paradise Island. The two-hour ceremony showcased the culture of The Bahamas and featured performances by national institutions and local entertainers.
The three-day meeting (Feb. 15-17) brings together heads of government, honoured and distinguished guests from within and beyond the Caribbean region. Among them, Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada; Dr. Carla Natalie Barnett, Secretary General, CARICOM; a U.S. delegation led by Brian Nichols, U.S. Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs; and John Kerry, U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate; and heads of international financial and trade organizations.
Also present were: Her Excellency Leslia Miller-Brice, Bahamas High Commissioner to CARICOM; Cabinet ministers, parliamentarians, senators, representatives of the judiciary, the diplomatic corps, senior government officials and former Prime Ministers Perry Christie, Hubert Ingraham, and Dr. Hubert Minnis.
The CARICOM 50th anniversary theme is ’50 Years Strong: A Solid Foundation to Build On.’
Prime Minister Davis noted the joint celebration of the 50th anniversary of The Bahamas’ Independence, and the 50th anniversary of the founding of CARICOM. He said, “And as it is in The Bahamas, so it is that our region also faces a host of opportunities, and an array of challenges. We should take great comfort from the fact that our forebears came together fifty years ago, exactly for this purpose: to take full advantage of the opportunities of our time, and to implement solutions to the challenges that confront us.”
He underscored key highlights of the meeting, which is expected to offer in-depth discussions on recurring and new issues of climate change, reform of the global financial architecture, the crisis in Haiti, food security, human trafficking, guns and drugs smuggling among others.
Said Prime Minister Davis, “The turmoil and suffering there continue to worsen. As a near neighbour, The Bahamas is under great strain, and many other countries in our region are also heavily impacted. We will all benefit if Haiti is again a fully-functioning state. We should learn from the failures of past efforts to help, rather than use those disappointments as an excuse for inaction. I pray that we can agree a series of concrete steps to help move towards a solution for the Haitian people, and the region as a whole.
“We have learned that inaction has its own costs and consequences.”
On climate change he said, “Nowhere is that more the case than on the issue of climate change, which threatens to upend lives around the world, and presents an existential threat to so many of us in this region. Yet, even though we in the CARICOM region are especially vulnerable to the rising sea levels and temperatures, erosion of our coastal communities, and hurricanes which are more frequent and more intense — by working together, we show that we are not powerless. I have no doubt that in joining our voices last year to present an agreed position at COP27, we helped to influence the shift in position relating to ‘Loss and Damage’ arising from the impact of climate change.”
Moreover, Prime Minister Davis said issues of investment and co-operation in education, infrastructure, food and energy security, will help to support collective national development.
“For all the loss and havoc wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic, it did teach us valuable lessons about what’s important, and about what we need to do to save lives and livelihoods. For example, here in The Bahamas, we have in the past talked about the need to ensure food security. But since the advent of the pandemic, we recognized that the need to be able to feed ourselves was not just an economic nicety, but a matter of survival.”
On other “priority” issues he urged the leaders to seek to strengthen their collective response to end the smuggling of guns and drugs and do all they can to wipe out the misery of human trafficking.
“Whether the issues are old or new, in order to make lasting progress, we must address and promote our narrow national self-interests firmly within the framework of the interests of us all. None of us will be safe until we are all safe.
“None of us will develop sustainably or securely, if we leave our neighbours behind. None of us will truly prosper if our resources are forever taxed by the poverty and instability of those nearby.
“Going it alone will not work. This is not to say that while we continue to strengthen and build our region, we should dilute or abandon the founding principle of our nation states, namely the right to self-determination.
“As neighbours, we should continue to embrace each other, and know that we will all succeed if we hold fast the threads that bind us together,” said Prime Minister Davis.
During the opening ceremony Prime Minister Davis also conferred the 13th CARICOM Triennial Award for Women on the Rt. Hon. Dame Janet Bostwick, who has championed the cause for the empowerment and improvement of the status of women and girls in The Bahamas and the region.
The Caribbean Community was established on 4 July 1973 with the signing of the Treaty of Chaguaramas. Member states are: Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago. Associate members are: Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands and Turks and Caicos Islands.
By KATHRYN CAMPBELL/Bahamas Information Services
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