35th Meeting of the Conference of CARICOM Heads of Government

CARICOM Secretary General Irwin LaRocque, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister Gaston Browne, Prime Minister Denzil Douglas

CARICOM Secretary General Irwin LaRocque, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister Gaston Browne, Prime Minister Denzil Douglas

Closing Statement

35th Meeting of the Conference of CARICOM Heads of Government

Honourable Gaston A. Browne

Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda and

Chairman of CARICOM

4th July 2014

We have come to the end of a most successful Meeting of the Heads of Government and you can judge for yourself as I am certain that it is a long time since our closing press conference has been this early.

Without doubt, our centerpiece was the approval of the Community’s first ever Strategic Plan.  The Plan is for a five-year period 2014-2019 and seeks to reposition the Community by identifying priorities and activities to implement them to deliver benefits to the people of the Community and to meet the challenges of the international environment.

This is a landmark document, as it is the crucial element in the Community’s institutions and a restructuring of the Secretariat.  The Plan identifies eight integrated Strategic Priorities for the Community over the five-year period and key areas of interventions for each.  The integrated Strategic Priorities are: Building Economic Resilience; Social Resilience; Environmental Resilience; Technological Resilience; Strengthening the CARICOM Identity and Spirit of Community; and Strengthening Community Governance along with Coordinated Foreign Policy, and Research and Development and Innovation.

Top Priority areas of focus identified by the Secretary-General were endorsed by the Heads of Government.

The Plan is the product of widespread consultations in the Community and I would like to thank the Change Team who worked tirelessly to deliver this document.  I also commend highly the Change Drivers appointed by the Heads of Government in the Member States who worked closely with the team in both the consultations and the finalization of the document.

The Change Drivers will also have a key role to play in the implementation of the Plan which would require commitment and focused implementation by all the major actors in the Community – the Member States, the Organs and Bodies, the Secretariat and the Community Institutions.

We are all aware of the economic difficulties being experienced across the Community and the Commission on the Economy came forward with some concrete suggestions to alleviate the situation.  We look forward to the formulation of a regional fiscal sustainability framework within six months and the design of a regional debt management mechanism.  They also agreed to appoint a CARICOM Debt Advocacy Team to advocate on behalf of Member States with Development Partners on appropriate debt relief and/or debt amelioration arrangements for the highly indebted CARICOM states.  This initiative recognizes that growing out of the current burdensome debt is not realistic for certain Member States given their structural and other economic vulnerabilities.

We have agreed to pursue a resource mobilization strategy based on approaches to non-traditional sources of financing and to promote public private partnerships for the development of the economic infrastructure with technical advice from the IDB, CDB and World Bank.

The economy was also the focus of the interaction between the Heads of Government and the some of the leading figures of the Regional Private Sector.  The engagement was a tangible demonstration of the Region’s commitment to engaging a critical stakeholder in the context of the Strategic Priorities for the Community, as set out in the Strategic Plan.  In a frank exchange there was agreement that these discussions were a good start to a new relationship between Heads of Government and the business community.  Ease of doing business in the Region was a major talking point and suggestions were offered in respect of improving that area.

Montserrat announced its intention to accede to the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas by the next meeting of the Conference, paving the way for its full participation in the Community and particularly the CARICOM Single Market and Economy.

We approved the terms of reference of a CARICOM Commission on Human Resource Development whose main objective is to develop a Regional Education and Human Resource Development (HRD) 2030 Strategy and an implementable Action Plan and roadmap that would be the basis for action by Member States.  This work would start in November.

We agreed to establish a Regional Commission on Marijuana to conduct a rigorous enquiry into the social, economic, health and legal issues surrounding marijuana use in the Region and to advise whether there should be a change in the current drug classification of marijuana, thereby making the drug more accessible for a range of users.

We recommitted to building a disability-inclusive society following last December’s successful High-Level conference on the issue and were encouraged by President’s Martelly’s continuing advocacy on the issue.

We adopted a Regional Strategic and Operational Plan for a Caribbean Reparatory Justice Programme (CRJP) which was presented by the Regional Reparations Commission, as a basis for further action on this matter.

We entertained two special guests – the Prime Minister of Spain and the Foreign Minister of Cuba.  The exchange with the Prime Minister of Spain was used to reiterate the strength of our relations and agreed to host the fifth summit between Spain and CARICOM in the near future.

We underlined our solidarity and partnership with Cuba and were briefed on the forthcoming Cuba-CARICOM Summit on 8 December 2014 which presents an opportunity to discuss ways to strengthen economic relations.

We discussed the Community’s positions in the context of the SIDS Climate Change and Post 2015 Development Agendas and were guided by recommendations from the CARICOM Task Force on Sustainable Development.  There are a number of international conferences in these areas in the coming months including the Third International Meeting on Small Island Developing States in Samoa and the UN Secretary-General’s Summit on Climate Change at the UN Headquarters, New York in September.

We need to ensure that the Region’s development priorities and concerns find ample expression in the final decisions and outcome documents of these conferences and meetings.

In discussing the negotiations for a Trade and Development Agreement with Canada, we are confident that with further engagement, including at the highest levels, and flexibility on outstanding issues, the completion of a balanced and mutually beneficial agreement could be achieved within an acceptable timeframe.

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