International assistance for earthquake-ravaged Haiti a priority for Caribbean governments

Delegations from Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados and Belize at the COFCOR meeting at the St. Kitts Marriott Resort (photo by Erasmus Williams)

BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, MAY 7TH 2011 (CUOPM) – Developments in Haiti, regional and international security and piracy at sea were among issues tackled by Caribbean Ministers of Foreign Affairs at their two-day meeting in St. Kitts.

Ministers meeting under the Chairmanship of St. Kitts and Nevis Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Hon. Sam Condor noted the completion of the successful rounds of elections in Haiti, culminating in the election of President-elect Michele Martelly.

The Fourteenth Meeting of the Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR) of the Caribbean Community commended the role played by the CARICOM-OAS Joint Electoral Observer Mission (JEOM) headed by Ambassador Colin Granderson, Assistant Secretary-General of Foreign and Community Relations of the CARICOM Secretariat and noted the advances made by the Community to support its Member State in its reconstruction efforts, including the Non-Reciprocal Preferential Access into the Caricom Market for certain Haitian Goods and mobilizing and facilitating the Region’s private sector in support of Haiti’s redevelopment.

The Ministers commended the continuing efforts of the Office of the Special Representative of Heads of Government on Haiti and thanked the Government of Suriname for its generous support in facilitating the operations and the work of the Office.

Foreign Ministers reiterated that planning and implementation of development policies and programmes in support of Haiti must respond to the priorities articulated by the Government of Haiti and urged the international community to deliver on their pledged financial commitments to Haiti and to accelerate the disbursement of those pledges.

The COFCOR reaffirmed its recommendation for the appointment of Ambassador Colin Granderson as the Special Envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General to Haiti and further called for a renewed mandate which should be amended to enable the MINUSTAH to play a greater developmental role in Haiti’s reconstruction process.

Caribbean foreign ministers considered the matter of the Caribbean Sea and endorsed the proposal for operationalising the Caribbean Sea Commission as a key regional ocean’s governance mechanism.

“The COFCOR considered a number of initiatives for intensifying action nationally, regionally and internationally for further enhancing the Region’s security. In this context, they considered the forthcoming negotiation of an Arms Trade Treaty to be of special importance and endorsed the Draft CARICOM Declaration on Small Arms and Light Weapons. Ministers discussed the Region’s involvement in the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) and welcomed the establishment of the CBSI Commission and the technical Working Groups as well as preparations for the second CARICOM-US Security Co-operation Dialogue to be held in The Bahamas in October 2011,” said the communiqué issued at the end of the meting

Ministers expressed their concern at the continued occurrence of pirate attacks against merchant vessels operating in the waters of the Gulf of Aden as well as in the more open seas of the Somali Basin which is costing approximately US $7 billion in losses per year to the shipping industry and expressed concern at the fact that CARICOM nationals who are employed on these merchant vessels are at risk of injury or being taken hostage, noting that vessels registered in the Community traverse these waters.

“They also noted the global mechanisms to combat piracy and encouraged Member States to continue participating in efforts in the International Maritime Organisation and the United Nations to combat piracy,” said the statement.

Underscoring the importance CARICOM attaches to the United Nations as a principal forum for multilateral exchange, Caribbean Foreign Ministers exchanged views on a number of issues being discussed in that forum which are of critical importance to the Region.

COFCOR highlighted the importance to the Region of ensuring that its interests and priorities are reflected in the outcomes of the forthcoming High Level Meeting on Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases which is a positive result of the co-ordination of foreign policy of the Community and also indicated that Member States would be represented at the highest levels at the United Nations High Level Conference on HIV/AIDS scheduled for June in New York.

“Ministers also expressed the need for a similar approach to ensure that the Region’s priorities are fully reflected in the outcomes of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20 meeting) in 2012,” said the communiqué, which also commended the Honourable Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, Prime Minister of Barbados for his appointment to the United Nations Secretary General’s High Level Panel on Global Sustainability (GSP) and welcomed Barbados’ offer to present to the Panel, issues of relevance to CARICOM.

“The COFCOR noted CARICOM’S leadership role in the bid to erect a Permanent Memorial to honour the victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Ministers appreciated the progress made by the Permanent Memorial Committee in advancing the Project and welcomed the passing of the resolution with respect to the Participation of the European Union in the work of the United Nations. The Ministers noted that the Interpretative Declaration on the Resolution issued by the CARICOM Permanent Representatives reflected fully the manner in which it expected the provisions of the Resolution to be honoured,” said the statement.

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