(L-R) Director of People's Empowerment, Mr. Duncan Wattley; Charges D'affaires Mrs. Verna Morris-Mills; Minister of Foreign Affairs, Honourable Mark Brantley; Prime Minister Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris; Permanent Secretary Mr. Osbert DeSuza; Foreign Service Officer, Ms. Sonia Boddie

Immediate threats: climate change, sargassum seaweed, lionfish invasion, coastal erosion

By Staff Writer

The protection and preservation of the Caribbean Sea, including threats from climate change, sargassum seaweed, lionfish invasion and coastal erosion, were discussed during the VII Summit of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) held June 4 in Havana, Cuba.

In 2006, ACS established a Caribbean Sea Commission to promote and oversee the sustainable use of the Caribbean Sea. The theme of this year’s summit is, “Together for a Sustainable Caribbean.”

The theme reflects the hard work, priority and dedication of the ACS in achieving sustainable development throughout the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) of the Greater Caribbean Region. The Havana Summit is a continuation of joint efforts to revitalize the vision of the ACS for a stronger and more united Greater Caribbean as well as to promote sustainability, as was expressed in the Declaration of Petion-Ville, Haiti, of April 13, 2013.

The Summit paid particular attention to the protection and preservation of the Region’s common heritage, the Caribbean Sea, which would use as its point of departure the Caribbean Sea Commission of the ACS, which was established in 2006 to promote and oversee the sustainable use of the Caribbean Sea.

The event was attended by Prime Minister Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris and his delegation: the Honourable Mark Brantley, Minister of Foreign Affairs; Mr. Osbert DeSuza, Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister; Mr. Duncan Wattley, Director in the Department of People’s Empowerment; Ms. Sonia Boddie, Foreign Service Officer in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; and Mrs. Verna Morris-Mills, St. Kitts and Nevis’ Chargé d’affaires in Cuba.

Intra-Caribbean Cooperation Important

“Cooperation has long been a driving factor within the Greater Caribbean,” the Prime Minister explained. It has been demonstrated in efforts at regional integration in areas including transport, health, natural disasters, education, trade and culture.

“Intra-Caribbean cooperation should never be considered a choice, but a habit that is unbreakable, a way of life that is embedded deep in the minds and souls of our peoples,” Dr. Harris said, while emphasizing that the ACS has a greater role today “to engage each other, communicate and circumvent any geographical or linguistic barrier that could impede the progress of this regional bloc.”

He called on the ACS to continue to build stronger relationships with “the national governments and sub-regional groupings of the Greater Caribbean, and to remain focused and pragmatic in its decisions in order to deliver tangible results to its people while simultaneously garnering their full support.”

Commitment to Regional Integration

Dr. Harris told all in attendance at the Summit that the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis remains committed to regional integration and “will continue to work assiduously for its cause” and underscored the role of the ACS in the Region’s sustainability efforts.

“The map of global, political and economic influence is slowly shifting,” Dr. Harris told attendees. “The ACS must remain significant as a regional bloc, whose competencies are extremely important for our development and human survival. The pillars of the ACS are central to our human development goals and take into account the challenges and vulnerabilities of the Greater Caribbean.”

He said, “Cooperation has long been a driving factor within the Greater Caribbean” and has been demonstrated in efforts at regional integration in areas including transport, health, natural disasters, education, trade and culture.

“Today, the ACS bears testimony to increased regional relevance as it continues to grow in membership and attract extra-regional players as Observers. We therefore extend warm expressions of welcome to our newest affiliates,” Prime Minister Harris added.

“Intra-Caribbean cooperation should never be considered a choice, but a habit that is unbreakable, a way of life that is embedded deep in the minds and souls of our peoples,” Dr. Harris said, while emphasizing that the ACS has a greater role today “to engage each other, communicate and circumvent any geographical or linguistic barrier that could impede the progress of this regional bloc.”

Climate change a real threat

The Prime Minister said climate change presents a real threat to Small Island Developing States (SIDS), like St. Kitts and Nevis, and that in order to combat it, there is need for concerted effort on the part of the Region.

“The adverse effects of climate change will only retard the advances we have already made in agriculture, threaten food security, cripple our efforts to eradicate hunger and poverty and achieve sustainable development,” the Prime Minister said. “The onus is on us, to mitigate the destructive effects now, so that we can do less damage control later.”

Shared vision

Prime Minister Harris said, “Although the challenges we face are many and somewhat similar in nature, it is only through a shared vision, strong resolve and collaborative approach that we as a region can and will transcend our limitations to surmount the many difficulties and dangers that obstruct our development and undermine our sovereignty.”

He urged Latin America and the Caribbean to pool its wide spectrum of resources together for “the good of all our peoples.”
Dr. Harris called on the ACS to continue to build stronger relationships with “the national governments and sub-regional groupings of the Greater Caribbean, and to remain focused and pragmatic in its decisions in order to deliver tangible results to its people while simultaneously garnering their full support.”

He said attendees at the Summit that the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis remains committed to regional integration and “will continue to work assiduously for its cause” and underscored the role of the ACS in the Region’s sustainability efforts.

Prime Minister Harris said that although the challenges we face are many and somewhat similar in nature, “It is only through a shared vision, strong resolve and collaborative approach that we as a region can and will transcend our limitations to surmount the many difficulties and dangers that obstruct our development and undermine our sovereignty.”

Pool resources for the good of all people

He urged Latin America and the Caribbean to pool its wide spectrum of resources together for “the good of all our peoples.”

The Summit saw the departure of Secretary General, His Excellency Alfonso David Múnera Cavadía, from Colombia, who served the Association from 2012 and whose four-year tenure of office will ends this month. A new Secretary General, Dr. June Soomer, from St. Lucia, will head the ACS for the next four years; she will take up the position from August 1.

All Association of Caribbean States (CARICOM) member states were represented at the Summit including Antigua & Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Panama, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad & Tobago and Venezuela. Its Associate Members are Aruba, Curacao, (France on behalf of French Guiana, Saint Barthelemy and Saint Martin), Guadeloupe, Martinique, Sint Maarten, (The Netherlands on behalf of Bonaire, Saba, and Sint Eustatius), Turks and Caicos. Aruba is an associate member.