CARICOM at the Crossroads: Rising to the Challenge of a New Era

CARICOM at the Crossroads: Rising to the Challenge of a New Era

The following is an edited version of a presentation by CARICOM Secretary General, Dr Carla N Barnett, at a symposium ‘CARICOM at 50’ hosted by UWI St Augustine on April 14, 2023.

CARICOM is a Community of sovereign states which have agreed to act in concert in areas agreed within the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas. 

Unlike, for example, the European Union, which has a supranational personality where regulations and laws made at the level of the Union have direct national effect, in CARICOM, decisions taken by the Heads, although they may create rights for persons within the CARICOM sphere, also create obligations for Member States to implement the decisions through national laws and policies. This has complicated and lengthened our decision-making and implementation process; notwithstanding, we have made significant accomplishments.

A model for similar integration movements

The four pillars of CARICOM – Economic Integration, Human and Social Development, Foreign Policy Coordination and Security Cooperation – provide a broad scope to develop an integration
movement that is the longest lasting of its kind in the developing world. This is a reality that has resulted in our friends from Africa and the Pacific sending missions to study what we have been doing. CARICOM has been a model for similar integration movements.

Solid foundation
And what have we been doing? In the past 50 years, we have functioned as a collaborative mechanism which has established several specialised Regional Institutions, including in the areas of Education, Health, Agriculture, Disaster Management, Climate Change, and Crime and Security, which all work to enhance the benefits of our integration.

We need to remind ourselves from time to time that, as a Region, we were successful in establishing the Caribbean Development Bank, the Caribbean Court of Justice, the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency, the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility, the Caribbean Examination Council, the Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV/AIDS, and the Caribbean Public Health Agency, among others.

The objective of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) is to progressively and ultimately create a single, seamless economic space within our Community that provides a larger scale economic, trading and business environment. It is our platform for economic growth and development within our Region, as well our foundation for international competitiveness and effective insertion in the global economy.

We already have a Community Agricultural Policy and a Double Taxation Agreement and are creating a Community Industrial Policy among the Member States. We have harmonised
standards, sanitary and phyto-sanitary measures, and a competition policy. We have in place a CARICOM Multilateral Air Services Agreement.

The Revised Treaty created a rules-based Community. The Treaty, the binding decisions of the Conference of Heads of Government and the Ministerial Councils, and the rulings of the CCJ, together constitute an emerging body of Community law.

A security architecture has been put in place, including a CARICOM Arrest Warrant Treaty, an Agreement on the Recovery and Sharing of Assets derived from criminal activity and a Counter Terrorism Strategy.

We have leveraged our votes in the international arena along with sustained advocacy to become a respected voice in global affairs, most recently in climate change and Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs).

Our slogan for our 2023 anniversary celebration is most apt, “50 Years Strong: A Solid Foundation to Build On”.

No insurmountable challenges
Let us be clear. There is more that could have been done to take us further along the road. The lag in the implementation of an efficient transportation system has adversely affected intra-regional trade and ease of travel for people throughout the Community. The non-tariff barriers that impeded the flow of trade have created unnecessary friction. Actions by officials at points of entry threaten to become a deterrent to CARICOM citizens wishing to visit or seek employment in another Member State, as is their right under the Revised Treaty. The joy of the Single Domestic Space when our Region hosted Cricket World Cup in 2007 is now a distant memory!

None of those challenges is insurmountable, as intractable as they may seem. And the goal is to surmount them as we move on to the next 50 years and beyond.

The regional and global environments have changed considerably since signing of the origina Treaty of Chaguaramas in 1973, and even since the Revised Treaty of 2001. However, the fundamental objectives and principles of regional integration remain more valid than ever. It is these objectives and principles that underpin efforts of our Community as we rise to the challenges of this new era. Our young people must now channel their greater facility with the technology, their creativity, and innovative skills to create value that will benefit our Region.

Unity of purpose
Much has been achieved in the past 50 years. A lot of it is taken for granted today. Some of the Regional achievements mentioned earlier are not even directly associated with the integration movement. The stories of regional success must be continuously shared across our Community to serve as a constant reminder of what we can achieve with unity of purpose.


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