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Caricom leaders claim 'very successful' summit

Thursday, March 13, 2014    

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KINGSTOWN, St Vincent (CMC) — Caribbean Community (Caricom) leaders say they have had a "very successful" two-day inter-sessional summit here, completing a 20-odd agenda and implementing policies and strategies that would ensure the future socio-economic and political development of the region.

St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, who is also the Caricom chairman, told reporters late Tuesday night that the summit had dealt with a number of matters regarding the further development of the 15-member regional integration grouping, ranging from information communications and technology (ICT) to a future trade agreement with Canada.

"We had a very successful conference, we had 20-odd items on the agenda and we completed the agenda," he told reporters adding that high on the agenda was the ICT sector which regional leaders agreed "should take place in tandem with the reform process of the region for the years 2014 - 19".

The meeting received a presentation by Grenada's Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell, who has lead responsibility for ICT within the quasi Caricom cabinet and Gonsalves said it was agreed that there should be a sustained effort over the next two years for building a single ICT space in the region.

He said a road map would be presented to the leaders when they meet for their regular summit in Antigua and Barbuda.

Gonsalves said the ICT development was also coming at a time when the region is developing its human resource potential and also welcomed a presentation by St Kitts-Nevis Prime Minister Dr Denzil Douglas, who is celebrating his 25 years as a legislator in this country.

"The heads mandated a commission on human resource development to shape the regional educational and human resource development strategy up to 2030," Gonsalves said, adding that the strategy will form the basis for action by member states and allow for the Caricom education agenda to build upon its activities.

Gonsalves said the two-day meeting here took place against the background of the continued economic problems facing the region and the need to fashion a framework for regional growth and development.

"We welcomed the preliminary report from the Caricom Commission on the Economy established last September to advise on a sustained growth strategy for the community. We accepted the report as a work in progress which would be refined and supplemented with an implementation time table for consideration by member states at our July meeting in Antigua and Barbuda," he told reporters.

He said the preliminary report outlines the scope of the commission's work programmes and specific initiatives that comprise the basis for both joint and or country specific immediate action in respect of financial sustainability including debt management, private sector stimulation, business regulatory environment and resource mobilisation.

"All these are areas various governments have been working upon; we are looking at what each other has been doing... and more importantly coordinating our work in a more efficacious way."

Gonsalves said there was also agreement at the summit for a "high level" consultation with leaders of commerce and industry in the region to take place in July.

On the issue of climate change, he said a task force had been established to help the region coordinate its strategies as it moves to enhance its engagement in the climate change negotiation process "so as to increase the region's access to available climate change financial resources".

It will also provide guidance to climate change negotiators.

The meeting here discussed the ongoing situation in the Dominican Republic with regards to the last September Constitutional Court ruling that has had the effect of making thousands of persons born of Haitian descent, stateless.

Caricom has already suspended talks with Santo Domingo on its application for membership in the 15-member grouping as a result and Gonsalves said that Caricom was now awaiting "anxiously" the promised draft law by President Danilo Medina to "address the grave human rights effects of the (Court) ruling".

Gonsalves told reporters that the Dominican Republic had promised that the legislation would have been available by February 27 and "we haven't seen it as yet".

He said when the legislation is provided, Caricom will re-enter the Haiti-Dominican Republic bilateral Commission, adding "but we really need to see the Dominican Republic making some progress on the matter.

"They have to show us that they are doing something so when they present us with that law and we get a copy we will participate in the commission," he added.

On the issue of the decriminalisation of marijuana for medicinal and religious purposes, Gonsalves said there had been "intensive" discussions among the leaders on the issue.

"In our discussions we explored the economic benefits that might be derived from marijuana cultivation in a structured sense," he said, noting that various concerns about health issues had also been raised.

He said the leaders recognised the need for in-depth research of the methods being contemplated and mandated the establishment of a regional commission "to address the issues identified and others which are deemed relevant in order to provide clear guidance to the community with regards to the decision to be taken".

The commission is expected to report to the regular Caricom meeting in July.

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