CARICOM summit begins with calls for focus on youth and perfecting regional integration

Bridgetown, Barbados — Outgoing CARICOM chairman, Bahamas Prime Minister Perry Christie, urged his colleague leaders to pay more attention to the educating and employing young people.

He also made a call for more emphasis to be placed on teaching methodologies to meet the learning needs of the bottom 50 per cent of students in the school system.

“Chief amongst my concerns and that of The Bahamas is the future of the young people of ourregion and our country . . . They are last in and first out in any crisis,” Christie said as he addressed the opening ceremony of the 36th Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM yesterday evening, adding that the region’s youth are “looking to us to help secure their future and dispel their sense of hopelessness”.

“We cannot surrender them to crime and criminality . . . It is our responsibility to ensure that they get a good education, become part of the formal economies of our countries and become beneficiaries of the practice of social mobility, equity and fairness,” he said.

“Additionally, in our teaching methodologies, we must embark on programmes to focus on raising the educational attainment amongst the bottom 50 per cent in the school system, imploring our educators to find progressive and innovative ways to meet the learning needs of every child.”

The Bahamas Prime Minister warned that if the region failed its youth, it would do so at its own peril.

Christie officially has handed over leadership to Barbados’ Prime Minister Freundel Stuart.

In his address at the opening, Stuart said the goal of perfecting regional integration must remain paramount for the region

“There will never come a time when we will be able to fold our arms and proclaim ‘now the work is over the integration movement is perfect’. We cannot and should not relax the goal of making our integration movement a perfect one,” he said, adding that it was the responsibility of CARICOM leaders to “raise the gaze of our people to new horizons”.

The Barbadian leader reiterated his message on integration, quoting CARICOM founding father Dr. Eric Williams on the occasion of the signing of the Treaty of Chaguaramas: “All our strength is in our union, all our danger is in discord.”

During the summit which ends tomorrow, discussions will focus on energy, in the context of a proposal for a new institution to lead the Region’s energy agenda; the CARICOM Single Market and Economy; technological advancement in CARICOM; mechanisms for identifying CARICOM candidates for international positions; CARICOM relations with the Dominican Republic; and border issues between Guyana and Venezuela, and Belize and Guatemala.

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