GEORGETOWN, Guyana, August 16, 2021 - The CARICOM Secretariat has a new Secretary General. She is Belizean National Dr. Carla Barnett, who was installed in a ceremony on Monday. She is CARICOM’s eighth Secretary-General.
Dr. Barnett succeeds Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, a Dominican national who served the community for sixteen years, six as Assistant Secretary-General and two five year terms as Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community.
Dr. Barnett assumes the Secretary-General’s chair against the background of a devastating earthquake in Haiti, which has so far killed nearly 2-thousand persons, and promises to be made worse by heavy rains associated with Tropical Storm Grace.
In addition, the entire 15 member community has been overrun by COVID-19, and its various strains such as Delta, coupled with a critical shortage of adequate supplies of vaccines.
“Chair, I begin my tenure with no misapprehensions about the severity of the challenges that our Community faces economically, socially, environmentally and financially. The thrust to build resilience against the existential threat of climate change in all its dimensions, and the urgency of constructing a recovery from the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic demand our continued focused energy.
“Even as we address these critical tasks, we cannot afford to neglect youth unemployment, which has led the explosion of the jobless in the wake of COVID-19, a troubling rise in crime, especially violent crime in the home and on the streets, the need to strengthen food security, reduce the incidence of non-communicable diseases, and more effectively address the issue of blacklisting by the major industrial countries and the consequential loss of correspondent banking relations,” the new Secretary-General said in her inaugural address.
Dr. Barnett observed that “as we approach the 50th Anniversary of our Caribbean Community, the time is right for us to set ourselves achievable goals that would make the celebration truly golden. Much has been achieved in the past 48 years. A lot of it is taken for granted today, to the extent that some are not even associated with the integration movement. The stories of success must be continuously shared across our Community to serve as a constant reminder of what we can achieve with a unity of purpose.”
She pointed out that “a generation past put in place a solid foundation and institutions relevant to the needs of the Region at that time. It is now the turn of another generation, not only to secure and improve on those gains, but to use the creativity, ingenuity and dynamism that are the signature characteristics of Caribbean people to reimagine the next 50 years of CARICOM.”
The new Secretary General paid tribute to her predecessor Ambassador Irwin LaRocque who she said “has contributed to the advancement of our integration movement. For the last 16 years, the first six as Assistant Secretary-General and the last 10 as Secretary-General, he devoted himself to the task of making integration work for the benefit of the people of the Community. On behalf of the Community, thank you Ambassador LaRocque. I am certain that the Community will find an appropriate way to honour your contribution."
Dr. Barnett also paid tribute to the late Sir Lester Bird “whose contribution to the development of Antigua and Barbuda and the Region will not be forgotten. Sir Lester was a committed regionalist who dedicated significant time and effort towards the advancement of the interests of the Caribbean Community. He may have been a fast bowler, but his innings in life was played very well. Please accept the condolences of the Community, the staff of the Secretariat and my own on his passing.”
She also took the opportunity to “extend wishes for a full and speedy recovery to Dr. the Honourable Ralph Gonsalves, the Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, from his injury following the recent despicable attack. Such violent actions have no place in our political discourse or in society generally and must be condemned unreservedly.”
“Chair, as I assume this office today, I approach my task with a willingness to listen and to share; with goodwill towards all and malice towards none. I am here to serve, to advance the interests of the Governments and Peoples of the Caribbean Community and I will do so to the best of my ability,” Dr Barnett concluded.