Group Title: Forward together consultation : strengthening the involvement of civil society in the Caribbean Community
Title: Statement by Edwin W. Carrington, Secretary General of the Caribbean Community
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Title: Statement by Edwin W. Carrington, Secretary General of the Caribbean Community
Series Title: Forward together consultation : strengthening the involvement of civil society in the Caribbean Community
Physical Description: Archival
Creator: Caribbean Community Secretariate
Publisher: Caribbean Community Secretariate
Subject: Caribbean   ( lcsh )
Spatial Coverage: Caribbean
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Bibliographic ID: UF00078160
Volume ID: VID00002
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
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Members of the Planning Committee
Representatives of CDB, CIDA and IDB
Distinguished Delegates
Members of the Media
Ladies and Gentlemen

As Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community, it is my pleasure to welcome you all on this
truly momentous occasion an encounter involving regional civil society and regional
governments. This Encounter will be seeking to find agreement on and a vision for the way
forward for the Caribbean Community. It will also strive to develop a collective CARICOM
Strategy to that end that is for moving forward together in pursuit of true regional integration.

The CARICOM Secretariat, which has been charged with the responsibility for facilitating this
event, wishes to place on record its sincere appreciation to the coordinators and participants of
the National consultations that formed an indispensable part of the process that has brought us to
where we are today. This event, we hope, will mark the beginning of an ongoing process of
genuine consultation to bring Civil Society fully into the Community's development process, -
decision-making, implementation and education. Having some five years ago adopted the Charter
of Civil Society for the Caribbean Community and thus laying a foundation for the interaction
between Governments and Civil Society, today's encounter must take us a significant step
forward in building this new partnership of cooperation for regional development. It is therefore
most important that you recognize that your engagement with Heads of Government tomorrow, is
not only a key element of this encounter but a vital step in the Community's development

It was almost three years ago, when our Heads of Government, recognizing the important role of
civil society in the integration process, decided to stage "an encounter catering for the widest
possible participation." This forum, they outlined in the Consensus of Chaguaramas, the veritable
birthplace of modern Caribbean integration would "provide for a free and wide-ranging
interchange of ideas aimed at arriving at a consensus on a strategy for the development of the
Region and its peoples." This encounter is also a natural progression from the recommendations
put forward by the West Indian Commission, which a decade ago under the chairmanship of the
eminent Guyanese and Caribbean statesman, Sir Shridath Ramphal, argued for greater
involvement by civil society. In the words of the Commission:

"Integration inevitably involves inter-governmental negotiation and decision-making; but it is not
the preserve of Governments alone. People need to be drawn into the process."

Indeed the Commission's findings resonate in the views emerging from your national
consultations integration is more than trade and economics, it is about our people. our people
in CARICOM and our people in the wider Caribbean home. Merely a week ago I had living proof
of this as similar sentiments were expressed to me by the Caribbean diaspora in North America
during a whirlwind visit to Canada and the USA.

In keeping with the suggestions of the Ramphal Commission for greater involvement of civil
society, it is not always appreciated how much has been done to engage major stakeholders
more meaningfully in the Community's development. For example, several consultations,
involving business, labour and other sectors have been held at the national level throughout the
Community on the various aspects of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy, the flagship of
the Community. Similarly, consultations have been held with general and legal interest groups on
the role and functions of the Caribbean Court of Justice, an integral part of the Single Market and

In the field of Gender and Women's Affairs, the Gender and Women's groups have been involved
in the series of discussions that have helped to define CARICOM's priorities in the Beijing +5

The Youth have not been left out either. Youth Parliaments with various partners in the Bahamas
(1998), Grenada (2000) and Guyana (2001) have permitted Youth groups to assist in defining
regional priorities for youth development. Indeed, two (2) CARICOM Youth Ambassadors have
been appointed to serve for two years in virtually all Member States. The present group will be
meeting in Suriname in August to review the strategies for behavioral change to some of our
social problems, chief among which is HIV/AIDS. They are expected to perform the functions of
ambassadors, in collaboration with national youth organizations and the Ministries of Youth to
advocate, and implement their respective programmes.
One of the most dynamic partnerships with civil society in recent times has been the Pan
Caribbean Partnership against HIV/AIDS, established in 2001 and coordinated by the CARICOM
Secretariat. It has brought together core partners including the Caribbean Network for People
Living with HIV/AIDS (CRN+), the National Aids Programmes, governments, NGOs, several
international agencies providing technical assistance and donors including the CIDA, DIFID,
European Community, UNAIDS and USAID. This partnership is currently negotiating with the
pharmaceutical companies for cheaper anti-retroviral drugs for the People Living With Aids. This
is essential and could save the lives of many such people, some yet unborn, for whom treatment
and care are beyond their means.

In this general process of consultation, the private sector continues to play an important role. Its
representatives participate in the meetings of the Council for Trade and Economic Development
(COTED) and other social sector groups labour, youth, women participate in those of the
Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD). Also at the regular annual meetings of
the Conference of Heads of Government, business, labour and civil society groups are provided
an opportunity to make statements on their priorities. True, in recent years, Heads of Government
have voiced concern that the segments allocated to these major partners during the meeting
have not been effectively used. They hope that the deliberations at this Forward Together
meeting would at least make suggestions for a more satisfactory mechanism.

The Reports from your National Consultations and the Working Document which Heads of
Government have received would therefore have made it clear that as civil society, you are
concerned with the complexity of globalization and the challenges that it poses for the small,
vulnerable states that make up our Community. They are aware that you are even more
concerned with the slow pace of implementing the Single Market and Economy and the need for
greater engagement of Civil Society in that process. Indeed Heads of Government cannot but be
aware of your concerns regarding the threats to security and to our youth, caused by the
escalation of crime linked to drugs and illicit arms and now terrorism. And as indicated in the
Nassau Declaration on Health, they are alarmed by the latest threat posed by the scourge of
HIV/AIDS, which is now the highest cause of death among the 14-44 age-group within our
society, with an increasing rate among women.

I have no doubt that at the conclusion of this Encounter, it is the hope of all of us Heads of
Government, Ministers, diplomats, technocrats, Mr John and Mrs Jane Public that we will have a
viable framework to effectively address these challenges, which pose a threat not only to the
integrity of our Community but to its very survival.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to sincerely thank you, the representatives of Civil Society for
the interest you have demonstrated in your national deliberations towards making this Region,
truly viable. I am sure that you would join me in giving a special warm welcome to our brothers
and sisters from Haiti whose country is now poised to become the 15th Member of the
Community with the imminent deposit of its instrument of accession.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank our Governments for their support of the national
consultations, a key factor in contributing to what we hope would be a successful outcome of this
Regional Consultation. I particularly would like to thank the Government and people of Guyana
for their contribution in hosting this conference. This conference however, would not have been
possible without the support of several donor agencies including, the Inter-American
Development Bank (IDB), the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the
Caribbean Development Bank (CDB). On your behalf and on behalf of the Secretariat I ask you to
thankfully recognize their contribution. Of course the organization of this conference could not
have been easy. I therefore wish to recognize the tireless efforts of the Planning Committee,
involving the CARICOM Secretariat, CPDC, UWI, CAIC, CCL, WAND, CAFRA and CNIRD.

And now finally to you ladies and gentlemen, the members of the Media to whom I direct a
special and specific concern. You are indeed an essential component in the civil society family
but beyond that you have the special task of communicating the message from this conference to
the regional public. For your presence here today and for the role you must play in advancing this
process I thank you, wholeheartedly and also in anticipation.

In conclusion, Ladies and Gentlemen, this encounter marks a new chapter in the development of
our Community. One in which all sectors of our society have the opportunity to play a more
meaningful role not only in the integration process but in the uplifting of our Community and its
people as we move forward together.

I thank you.

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