Basseterre, St. Kitts (CUOPM) – Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders began their inter-sessional summit in St. Vincent on Mondayreiterating the importance of the regional integration movement to the socio-economic and political development of the region.
Host Prime Minister and CARICOM Chairman, Dr. the Hon. Ralph Gonsalves said that the 41-year-old 15-member grouping was not designed as a central government for a “bundle of disparate territories” neither was it a unitary state or federation or confederation.
“The Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas conceives CARICOM as a community of sovereign states. Its centre has been deliberately designed as a weak superstructure which constantly gropes for consensus.
“That is what the political market can bear, that is the reality which the broad citizenry in the community has endorsed.”
Gonsalves said that neither the political leadership as a collective nor the populations as a whole have an appetite for much more than what is currently on offer in the treaty commitments.
“So our political mandate is to ensure that what is fashioned in the Revised Treaty is implemented optimally. To achieve this we must first love and care for CARICOM, secondly we must ensure that the organs of the Community work as intended and that its decisions are implemented in each nation-state if the Community.”
He said thirdly, the political leaders and populations in each nation posses the requisite political will for CARICOM’s optimal functioning as structured.
Gonsalves told the summit that a compelling agenda for CARICOM has been outlined by numerous studies, including one by Trinidad and Tobago’s Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran and that a “strategic path is being further elaborated by CARICOM.
Dr. Gonsalves said that CARICOM is frequently lambasted for its failure or refusal to implement the decisions of its treaty based institutions.
“Invariably, the CARICOM Secretariat is excoriated for this implementation deficit. However, the Secretariat is not CARICOM, it is the central administrative instrument of CARICOM but it possesses no authority to compel enforcement of decisions of the various Councils of Ministers and the Heads of State and Government conference.”
Gonsalves said that in the absence of an executive CARICOM Commission, buttressed by the requisite constitutional or legal authority, the central responsibility for the implementation of CARICOM’s decisions rests with the governments of the individual nation-states.
“Thus, each government is enjoined in its responsibility, nay its solemn obligation to put appropriate institutional arrangements in its national executive and administrative apparatuses to facilitate the speedy and efficacious implementation of CARICOM decisions.”
Gonsalves told his regional colleagues that to be sure, the delivery of the Secretariat’s administrative and coordinated functions ought to be enhanced even as he acknowledged that the implementation deficit has to be put “squarely where it belongs, at the level of national governments.
“Accordingly, vaunted change drivers cannot reasonably facilitate meaningful change in decision-making and implementation in CARICOM if the individual governments or several of them do not embrace a commitment, made manifest through structured arrangements day-to-day, in the making and implementation of CARICOM’s decision.”
“So the success of the CARICOM enterprise truly begins with the political leaderships, though it does not end with us alone. It ends with us, our national populations and national institutions massaged by the balm of our regional apparatuses,” Gonsalves said.
He said while the summit here has a “long agenda” the subjects to be discussed or reviewed for determination all have one focus, “the improvement in the quality of life and living of the people our CARICOM region.
”Our deliberations at this conference do not take place in an abstract world, but in a lived global, regional and national conditions stuffed with possibilities and limitations.
“The real world of life, living, and production compel us at this time to reflect centrally on measures for strengthening our regional and national economies including the fortification of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME|), addressing efficaciously the existential challenge of climate change, improving markedly the delivery of air and sea transportation and enhancing citizen security.”
Dr. Gonsalves said that apart from these issues there were also the perennial matters such as governance, institutional and administrative arrangements of CARICOM deemed “best suited to achieve CARICOM purposes.”
In her address to the conference, outgoing CARICOM Chairman, Prime Minister the Hon. Kamla Persad-Bissessar said that she was pleased one of the major outcomes of the last summit was the approval for the establishment of the Commission on the Economy to advise regional governments on solutions that would lead to growth and development.
“The Commission’s work has already begun and with a deep appreciation of the fact that sustainable development can only be achieved through the free movement of people and goods, reliable transportation across the region has also become a top priority.”
The Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister said that in planning for the future of the region, her country would continue to take its responsibility “very seriously in linking our progress to the region’s success.
“As one of the founding members of the Community, we have worked hard to build a reputation on good faith that wherever we seek our best diplomatic and bilateral interests on the global stage, so too will we seek the best interests of CARICOM.”
She said more critical to the sustainability of the region “is our need to work decisively to eradicate crime and threats to the safety of the people of CARICOM.
“In this regard, Trinidad & Tobago proposed an amendment to the agenda of this meeting for the ratification of the Arms Trade Treaty and support for Trinidad and Tobago’s CARICOM-endorsed bid to Host the Secretariat in Port of Spain.”
She said the Arms Trade Treaty provides the region with a significant component in the global fight against the trade of conventional arms in illicit markets.
To date 116 States have signed the ATT, including all CARICOM members, except Haiti.
Eleven States have ratified the Treaty thereby expressing their consent to be legally bound by its provisions. They are Iceland, Guyana, Antigua and Barbuda, Nigeria, Costa Rica, Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, Panama and Norway.
But Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar said for the ATT to come into force, Article 22 requires the signatures and early ratification by 50 signatory States so that the Treaty can come into force with the minimum of delay.
She said Mexico and Chile have already formally pledged support for Trinidad and Tobago’s CARICOM-endorsed bid to host the ATT Secretariat.
“However, among CARICOM member States, only Guyana, Antigua and Barbuda, Trinidad and Tobago and Grenada have so far ratified the ATT.
“In addition, I want to urge CARICOM member States to prepare to participate, once more with an unified approach, in the negotiations that will ensue before and after the ATT comes into force.