Irma and Maria, two back-to-back Category Five hurricanes, swept across the Caribbean in September, cutting a swathe of destruction, taking lives, devastating infrastructure and rolling back years of economic development in several CARICOM Member States.
Dominica and Barbuda (Antigua’s sister isle) were decimated. Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands were also devastated. The Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands were severely affected and Haiti and St. Kitts and Nevis also suffered damage.
CARICOM, with its Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) at the forefront, has been helping to lead the recovery and rebuilding effort. CARICOM, in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) also staged a High-Level Pledging Conference at UN Headquarters in New York last November which realized over US1.3 billion in pledges.
The Region however still needs significant levels of financing for recovery and building resilience. And, with just three months to the June start of the next hurricane season, Heads are also expected to examine measures to ensure adequate preparation and to facilitate quick responses to any emergency needs.
The high incidence of crime and violence across the Community will also be examined. Heads at their last meeting discussed key initiatives directed towards combatting transnational organized crime which, they noted, continues to be one of the most immediate and significant threats facing the Region.
They also directed their focus towards the development of a CARICOM Counter terrorism Strategy which is being finalized for adoption.
The Meeting will seek to advance plans to further strengthen key elements of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) including those related to travel and trade.
Discussion will also focus on key transportation issues including Regional Air Services, and on advancing regional initiatives in Tourism aimed at stimulating further sustainable growth in the sector.
Heads will look at the impact on CARICOM Member States of blacklisting actions. Last December the EU included four Member States on a list of countries it deemed non-cooperative tax jurisdictions.
There is also ongoing concern about the de-risking strategies by global banks and the labelling of CARICOM Member States in some quarters as tax havens.
The Meeting, at the Mariott Port-au-Prince Hotel, opens on Monday with a brief Opening Session at which remarks will be presented by CARICOM Secretary-General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque; the immediate-past CARICOM Chairman, Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell of Grenada and the current Chairman, President Jovenel Moise of Haiti.
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