CARICOM Council of Ministers annual meeting 2018

Remarks by the Secretary-General Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Ambassador Irwin LaRocque at the 41st meeting of the Community Council of Ministers in Georgetown, Guyana, Jan. 15, 2018:

CARICOM Council of Ministers annual meeting 2018



Greater Georgetown, Guyana

I welcome everyone to this 41st meeting of the Community Council and wish you all a most happy and productive 2018.

I extend a special welcome to our chair, His Excellency Antonio Rodrigue, minister of Foreign Affairs and Religious Affairs of Haiti. Minister, you are no stranger to the community even though this is the first time you are attending a meeting of this council as a minister. I have no doubt that, given your wide experience, you are well equipped to guide the deliberations today.

Minister, let me take this opportunity to reiterate the community’s full support for its member state Haiti in the wake of the highly offensive remarks attributed recently to the president of the United States. We condemn those reported statements in the strongest possible terms and view them as insulting to the people of Haiti.

Ministers, ambassadors, delegates – our discussions will take place against the background of the recovery efforts of the countries that suffered the terrible devastation of hurricanes Irma and Maria. The effects of the loss of life, the staggering amount of damage and destruction to houses, public buildings and infrastructure were felt beyond the affected countries given the closeness of our community.

The strength of that togetherness was evident in the relief effort galvanized by the governments and peoples of the region in response to the catastrophe.  

Our member states rallied around the stricken countries and rendered yeoman service in the aftermath of the disasters. Our institutions, well led by the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) in close collaboration with the Secretariat, also delivered in support of the recovery efforts. The international community also made a sterling contribution.

As Prime Minister Minnis of The Bahamas said: “Sadly, the economic, environmental, social and psychological damage will remain for quite some time.” The reality is that these storms will be more frequent and intense as extreme climatic events become the new normal for us as we are living with climate change.

Our community’s main focus, therefore, will not only be on rebuilding from the disasters of the past year, but critically on preparing for the others that are sure to come. It is therefore a matter of urgency, as advocated in the Community Strategic Plan, to build a resilient community in all facets, economically, socially, environmentally and technologically.

As we look after the reconstruction of our devastated countries, we must seek to implement regional and national programmes that will help to transform our community into the world’s first climate-resilient region.

In that context, disaster management and preparedness is among the items being proposed for the agenda at the 29th Inter-sessional Meeting of the Heads of Government in Haiti Feb. 26-27. A provisional list of items for that agenda is before you today as is customary given that this council is the preparatory body for meetings of the Conference of Heads of Government.

The pressing issue of crime and violence has also been put forward for consideration for the agenda by the government of Jamaica. This is especially relevant given the gravity of the problem faced by many of our member states.

The preparatory body for this council, the CARICOM Committee of Ambassadors, met last Friday and its recommendations are before you.

The committee took the opportunity to meet in a Special Caucus Retreat on Saturday to receive an update on the Reform Process, following which the ambassadors engaged in a very fruitful discussion. This council, in accordance with its “responsibility for the development of Community strategic planning,” may wish to consider a similar exercise in the near future.

Chair, ministers, delegate – there is no denying that these are difficult times. It is in our efforts to overcome these situations that we prove our mettle. What we do know and what has been proven over time, is that the unity of purpose and strength of community have enabled us to surmount the challenges posed over the last 44 years.  

Let us, once again, engage those weapons as we strive to ensure that in our 45th year, integration continues to be the vehicle to provide sustained development and a secure, prosperous and viable Caribbean community for all our people.

I thank you.