Australia to address COFCOR on relationship with Pacific Island States
CARICOM’s relationship with Australia comes to the fore once more as the 13th Annual Meeting of COFCOR convenes in Dominica over the next two days. Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Stephen Smith will address CARICOM’s COFCOR (Council for Foreign and Community Relations) on a number of issues.
Recently designated Australian Ambassador to CARICOM Philip Kentwell spoke on their “overarching interest”. He said Australia’s focus would centre on building better relationships between the Pacific Island Region and the Caribbean Islands. A process, he noted, where Australia’s knowledge of small-island-state, vulnerable-country issues would be helpful.
Kentwell’s appointment follows the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between CARICOM and Australia in November of 2009. In that MOU, Australia pledged the sum of US$60M to development efforts in the region. Before his official installation, Kentwell traveled to all of the CARICOM capitals except Haiti to meet with leaders and other government officials. These visits were fact-finding missions for the Australian Government which will be working through an Aid Agency in Canberra, Australia.
The subject MOU covers several areas of collaboration that are at the forefront of the region’s attention. These include climate change and emergency management, regional integration and trade facilitation, diplomacy, renewable energy, food security and agricultural cooperation, sports, youth, culture, education and human rights.
According to Kentwell, Smith will address the Council at the meeting on scholarships, diplomatic training and Institution Building. In an attempt to avoid preempting his Minister, he said that he could not elaborate further on the details up for presentation. He did however comment on the fact that although Australians have been traveling to the region for years in pursuit of sport, there has been a lack of investor and trade relations. Outside of those fostered through the Commonwealth and World Trade Organisations the time has come to “… broaden, deepen and strengthen …” relations between the two regions.
Dominica’s Minister for Employment, Trade, Industry, and Diaspora Affairs the Honorable Dr. Colin McIntyre will chair the two-day meeting. The matters to be tabled for discussion range from Border Issues to Piracy in the Gulf of Aden.
Other issues include a focus on the response to Haiti by CARICOM nations, with emphasis on future responses in cases of such cataclysmic events. The ‘geopolitical dynamics’ of the hemisphere will be looked at and closely following those will be the previously mentioned border issues which are currently stand between Guyana and Venezuela as well as Belize and Guatemala.
The member states’ relations with other countries outside of the Community are going to be discussed by the delegates and will take into consideration the Agency’s relations with a number of International Organizations.