OECS Commissioner Browne says Regional Integration and Diaspora Unit will continue sensitization process with focused groups and the nation

St. Kitts and Nevis’ OECS Commissioner and Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, Her Excellency Mrs. Astona Browne (left) and OECS Commissioner of St. Lucia, Her Excellency, Dr. June Soomer. (Photo by Erasmus Williams)

BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, AUGUST 14TH 2012 – St. Kitts and Nevis is moving ahead with its national implementation strategy to ensure that stakeholders are knowgeable with the Protocols of the OECS Economic Union.

OECS Commissioner for St. Kitts and Nevis and Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister Her Excellency Mrs. Astona Browne said the Federation is committed to stay its course, despite its limited resources.

She was at the time delivering welcome remarks at one-day workshop on the Revised Treaty of Basseterre establishing the OECS Economic Union being held under the theme: “OECS Economic Union: Improved Prospects for the OECS Region.”

“When the Heads of Government of the OECS took that bold step to deepen and strengthen the integration process and form an economic union, it was a decision that was informed by the deterioration of economic conditions of the times. Within the climate of heightened fiscal challenges and a destabilizing debt situation, aggravated by the crippling effects of globalization and trade liberalization (all negatively impacting all sectors of society) including the well being of the people, the Member States of the OECS embraced a model for deeper integration. This was done by the establishment of an economic union which creates a single financial space which will serve as a fundamental plank on which to launch a strategic response to reduce the vulnerabilities of the small states and to find increased strength and resilience as a regional grouping,” she told participants drawn from government and none-government agencies.

Commissioner Browne pointed out that it was in response to the unprecedented challenges that the Heads of Government have committed to move forward as a united Organisation, being fully cognizant of the opportunities that exist in collaboration, integration and harmonization of policies, notwithstanding, the myriad inherent uncertainties, with which they must content.

“January 21, 2011, sparked renewed optimism for the Member States and people of the newly established Economic Union. With redefined borders, a mobile labour force (resulting from the unimpeded movement of people through the Region), harmonized policies for closer collaboration in critical areas that will not only impact economic growth and development but which create the enabling environment for productivity and improved opportunities for our people, the small developing island states of the OECS have strengthened their ability to dialogue on pertinent issues that impact their survival in the challenging global environment,” she said.

The Treaty is now in force and Member States are working towards the continued operationalization of the administrative and legislative arrangements in fulfillment of their respective mandates under the Treaty. August 1st marks one year since the Free Movement Regime came into effect.

“Just this past Friday we also witnessed the inaugural session of the OECS Assembly. In addition to the OECS Authority, The OECS Commission is in place. You will learn about all of these and other organs of the Organisation and the Economic Union Protocol in the sessions that ensue today. Sessions like this one will allow you to be informed on the issues that will bring greater prospects for the citizens of the Union,” she said.

Mrs. Browne said the sensitization process will continue and other sessions are planned with focused groups and the nation as a whole as “we forge ahead with the implementation of the provisions of the Treaty of Basseterre, highlighting the accompanying benefits for us all.”

She disclosed that at the national level, The Regional Integration and Diaspora Unit, ably assisted by the Commission and regional colleagues, stands ready to assist in furnishing any information that will improve knowledge of the Treaty to enable persons to benefit from the inherent economic, social and cultural considerations of this Union concept that is so critical to the strengthening of the integration process.

“There will be challenges along the way but let me remind you that you too have a role to play; and as one media consultant noted, if you fail to be a part of this move that is designed to improve the well being of the region and its people then you would failed to take advantage of the benefits and opportunities that regional integration brings,” said Commissioner Browne.

The opening ceremony was chaired by Press Secretary to the Prime Minister Mr. Erasmus Williams, who moderated the presentations by the facilitators.

During the opening ceremony Special Remarks were delivered by Her Excellency, Dr. Len Ishmael, Director General, OECS Commission and the Vote of Thanks by Ms. Jennifer Evelyn, Executive Officer in the Regional Integration and Diaspora Unit (RIDU).

Presentations were made on the Revised Treaty of Basseterre: Purpose, Objectives, Policies and strategies for Cooperation by Dr. Ishmael; Free Movement of People Regime/Facilitation of Travel and Security by Ambassador Browne; Governance Structure of the OECS by Her Excellency Dr. June Soomer, OECS Commissioner for St. Lucia and the Legislative Action Taken by the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis in fulfillment of the Revised Treaty of Basseterre by Hon Patrice Nisbett, Attorney General and Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs.

The session concluded with The Way Forward by Dr. Ishmael and Closing Remarks from Mr. Elvis Newton, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Homeland Security, Labour and Social Security.

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