Caricom foreign ministers call for greater collaboration
Belize Foreign Affairs Minister, Eamon Courtenay (Photo: CMC)

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC) — Caribbean Community (Caricom) countries have been told that coordination among the regional grouping is indispensable and critical in the prevailing global environment.

“The challenges ahead are immense; the crises continue to come; the international system is in flux. Unity and firmness in our resolve are the only weapons we have,” Belize Foreign Affairs Minister, Eamon Courtenay, told the two-day Caricom Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR) that ended here late Thursday.

The Guyana-based Caricom Secretariat is yet to release the communique following the end of the meeting.

Courtenay told the hybrid 25th COFCOR meeting that though Caricom member states may not always agree on common positions, they always engage and respect differing views.

“That is a solid foundation on which our Caribbean Community must rest, and we should not take it for granted,” said the outgoing COFCOR chairman, noting that the past 12 months had been “exceptionally challenging”.

He told his colleagues that geopolitical tensions and the erosion of multilateralism, the situation in Haiti punctuated by the assassination of the President Juvenal Moïse, the war in Ukraine, and the worrying economic outlook because of the COVID-19 pandemic, were matters that needed the attention of Caricom.

But he said, beyond those clouds of gloom, there are “silver linings” that include measured success from Caricom’s consistent advocacy for access to concessional development financing and for the consideration of the peculiar vulnerabilities of Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

“We have long been advocates for reforming access to development financing to take account of our vulnerabilities as SIDS…The IMF launched a Resilience and Sustainability Trust in April with the objective of providing long term finance on highly concessional terms for low income, small developing states, and vulnerable middle-income countries. Work remains to be done on these instruments, but it is an important step in the right direction,” Courtenay said.

He said considerable progress has also been made on advancing the Multidimensional Vulnerability Index, which should be finalised by early next year.

“We must continue to build support with our donor partners, the G20 and International Financial Institutions for its uptake. It would be a game changer for accessing the financing our countries need to support recover and to build resilience.”

The former COFCOR chairman said that Caricom partners have shown “significant renewed interest” in engagement marked by recent agreements for annual structured dialogue with Canada and with the European Union at the Ministerial level.

“The United States has also promised more regular engagements including annual meetings at the level of Heads,” Minister Courtenay added noting that over the last year, Caricom held virtual meetings with high-level US officials including the Secretary of State, the National Security Adviser, and the Deputy Secretary of State.

He said engagements with Central America have also been enhanced, with two engagements for 2022 alone, an indication that the “two sub-regions are eager and ready to work together to find regional solutions to our common challenges”.

He said Caricom also had dialogue with Colombia.

“These outreaches are indicative of the important role our region plays in promoting adherence to international law, respect for democracy and multilateralism. For us though, these are not fashionable issues of the day, these are core principles our foreign policies, these engagements are also indicative of the necessity of building and maintaining partnerships for cooperation which can support our integration goals.”

But he cautioned that it is in Caricom’s interest and in the interest of the multilateral system to which it is bound, “to resist any and all efforts to impose division in the global south”.

He recommended a review of the body so that it is “agile and fit for the demanding times” and called for joint meetings with other councils to develop and deploy Caricom’s external advocacy more effectively.

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