CARIBBEAN Community (CARICOM) leaders begin their two-day inter-sessional summit here today with crime and security, economic development and international relations high on their agenda. CARICOM Secretary-General, Irwin LaRocque, speaking ahead of the summit, said that crime continues to pose a threat to the 15-member regional grouping and is no longer just a national issue.“It’s a regional one and hence it demands a regional solution,” LaRocque said, noting that trans-border crime is “something one needs to address,” given the need to reduce the “level of criminality” within the Caribbean.
But he noted that the regional leaders will not be in a position to sign onto the arrest warrant treaty and recovery of assets treaty that would have resulted in increased cooperation among member states and which are part of the crime and security strategy adopted by leaders at their 24th inter-sessional held in Haiti three years ago. “At this point and time, we are not yet in a position to say that we are going to adopt this instrument at the sitting…our hope was to have done that, but I have to admit that some of the legal instruments require very careful examination.
“Both of those instruments are being renegotiated simultaneously and both are in an advanced stage of deliberations,” LaRocque added. Guyana is expected to present the draft CARICOM Arrest Warrant Treaty for ratification at the summit.
“The adoption of this treaty will simplify the procedures by which fugitives from justice are returned to participating member states to face criminal prosecution or serve judicial sentences,” said Minister of State, Joseph Harmon.
The regional leaders will seek to further develop the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) initiative that allows for the free movement of goods, skills, services and labour across the Region. LaRocque pointed to significant progress that had been made in the CARICOM Single Market (CSM), especially its legal and administrative frameworks, but acknowledged that more, however, needed to be done with respect to the Single Economy.
LaRocque said the leaders at their two-day summit will also discuss the Region’s productive sectors with much emphasis being placed on the tourism industry, a major contributor to the Region’s gross domestic product (GDP). Consultations have been held with the Barbados-based Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) and the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA), which identified marketing, human resource development and strengthening linkages with other sectors, including transportation and creative industries, as areas to enhance the regional tourism product.
The regional leaders will also discuss the Single Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) Space, with LaRocque describing the ICT as a sector in its own right as well as an enabler of development.
He said a roadmap to this end will be before the CARICOM leaders and issues that it will cover include regionally harmonised ICT policies, legislation, technical standards, networks and services, roaming rates, spectrum and broadband matters and regional best practices.
Guyana will also be recommending the signing of a draft agreement to establish the Caribbean Centre for Renewable Energy Efficiency (CCREE). “This agreement is geared at addressing several areas including energy security, energy access for production use and climate change mitigation,” Harmon said. The CCREE has been established with assistance from several agencies, including the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), Small Island Developing States Sustainable Energy and Climate Resilience Initiative and the Government of Austria.
Additionally, Guyana will be submitting the draft Rules of Procedures for consideration by the leaders. “The draft rules were finalised by the CARICOM Secretariat and have been the subject of on-going discussions. Cabinet approved the draft rules and agreed to its submission at the 28 Inter-sessional meeting,” Harmon said.
The CARICOM Secretariat was mandated at the 36th Meeting of the Heads of Government, held in July 2015, to prepare the draft rules of procedure for meetings of CARICOM leaders.
Meanwhile, LaRocque has again defended the regional integration grouping, telling reporters “Can you imagine if there were no CARICOM? Things that we take for granted in our everyday lives… like CXC (Caribbean Examination Council)… that’s CARICOM at work.
“The fact that more than 99 per cent of our goods is traded freely within our Region – that’s CARICOM at work. The fact that we can have a concerted effort at talking about correspondent banking,…can you imagine if Guyana went alone or St Lucia went alone to talk …about correspondent banking?
“The fact that we have been able to successfully address the issue [of] HIV/AIDS collectively; the fact that we have become the first Region in the world to eliminate measles and the fact that we have a Community response at the time of disaster.
“The fact that we are able to present our concerns on climate change collectively. There always is room for improvement… By and large, I am satisfied. There are some frustrations that we hear of and we experience in terms of the pace. “But as one prime minister always says: ‘We are not going to a point, we are on a journey.’ Development, as is integration, is a journey and once your journey is going in the right direction and you are always improving on what you have and building a sense of Community which I think we really do have, I think we are on the right track.”
The Region’s top public servant said he is convinced “we are going in the right direction. We are carrying everybody with us; no one is being left behind We are building a sense of community and carrying everyone with us. Despite what you may hear … [integration] is working,” LaRocque added. (CMC)