May 21, 2022 News
Kaieteur News – Foreign Ministers of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) met virtually on Wednesday last for the Twenty-Fifth Meeting of the Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR) where among other things, there was a clarion call for Small States to rely more than ever on focused, organized and coordinated diplomacy.
This is in addition to the need for bolstering relations with like-minded states, and continuing to advocate and ensure that the region’s interests are protected and promoted.
The plea was had by CARICOM Secretary General Dr. Carla Barnett during the opening session and was grounded in the internal agenda for the remainder of the year, namely the several multilateral engagements for which the community must prepare itself for.
According to Dr. Barnett, these include the Ninth Summit of the Americas, the Twenty-Sixth Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) next month, the Seventy-Seventh Session of the United Nations General Assembly and COP27 later this year.
“All of these processes will have a significant impact on international development priorities and relations; As such, they will also have an influence on developments in our Region.”
With this in mind, Dr. Barnett adumbrated “as Small States, we must therefore rely more than ever on focused, organized and coordinated diplomacy. We must seek to bolster our relations with like-minded states, and continue to advocate and ensure that our interests are protected and promoted.”
Addressing the Regional Foreign Ministers, the CARICOM Secretary General was adamant “this Twenty-Fifth Meeting of the COFCOR is being held against the backdrop of global, hemispheric and regional developments that signify transformative changes of significant relevance for the conduct of the Community’s foreign policy.”
She noted that Member States “of our Community continue to address the overwhelmingly negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has had a significant impact on the social and economic progress made by small developing countries like ours in pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”
She noted too that the Russia-Ukraine war, the disruption of global supply chains and rising costs of fuel and food further exacerbate the challenging economic outlook of “our Member States already grappling with exceeding high debt burdens, loss of correspondent banking relations, blacklisting, lack of access to concessional financing and, most critically, the existential threat of climate change.”
CARICOM, she said, has responded to the new environment by continuing to sensitise its international partners to its concerns, through the consolidation of its existing relationships with traditional partners and the widening of its diplomatic outreach.
Qualifying that position she reminded that Heads of Government of the Community exchanged views with their counterparts in Central America during the Fourth CARICOM-SICA Summit in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye earlier this year.
She noted too that recently, CARICOM Leaders also had a virtual engagement with US Vice President Kamala Harris, where discussions focused on several issues of mutual interest, namely post-COVID-19 economic recovery, climate change, energy security and security cooperation.
“Also during the course of this year, our Foreign Ministers engaged in significant dialogues with their counterparts from Colombia and Canada.”
According to Dr. Barnett, “Just two weeks ago, they met with their counterparts from Central America and the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and Vice President of the European Commission in Panama.”
It was observed that “one constant in these engagements was the need to strengthen the relationships, and to join efforts to address current hemispheric and global challenges.”
One such practical example close to bearing fruit, according to Dr. Barnett, resulted from recent discussions with Canada that will lead to the establishment of a permanent mechanism aimed at deepening our partnership, and advancing our collaboration and cooperation with that country.
This mechanism is expected to be launched at the CARICOM-Canada Summit to be held sometime later this year, she said.
Concluding her address, the CARICOM Secretary General in reaffirming her clarion call said “I therefore call on the Council for Foreign and Community Relations, as a strategic Organ of the Caribbean Community, to spearhead, to guide and promote the policies and strategies which we as a Community must pursue, if we are to earn and retain a place in the world of the twenty-first century, worthy of the highest aspirations of our people.”
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