ON Monday, July 6, CARICOM Day is celebrated throughout the Caribbean Community to mark the coming into being of CARICOM. The Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) was the result of the Treaty of Chaguaramas which was signed on July 4, 1973. The signing date was chosen in honour of the birth anniversary of the great Jamaican statesman and Caribbean integrationist, Norman Washington Manley. CARICOM was the result of a historical process of which we will give a brief survey.
After World War II, Britain, the colonial power of the Commonwealth Caribbean, had become exhausted and felt she could no longer bear the financial burdens of keeping her West Indian colonies. After India got its independence in 1947, she decided to withdraw from the West Indies as soon as possible and in this process began to give the territories Constitutions leading to self-government. The Colonial Office felt that the process could be shortened by the formation of a West Indian Federation which was established in 1958. Unfortunately, the Federation collapsed after four years in 1962. Into the reasons for its collapse, we shall not go but during its existence, the Federation established the nucleus of a Federal Civil Service which developed into the CARIFTA and CARICOM civil services; the West Indies Shipping service; began negotiations for the acquisition of British West Indian Airways, a subsidiary of BOAC; brought under its aegis the University College of the West Indies (UCWI) which had been founded in 1948 and in 1960 established another campus of the College in Trinidad.
The collapse of the Federation brought home to the Caribbean leaders the necessity of collaboration and unity and they called a Common Services conference where it was decided that the Caribbean Meteorological Service, the Regional Shipping Council and the UCWI became the core of Caribbean cooperation. In the meantime, the various colonies were granted Independence, mostly in the 1960s.
The next step towards CARICOM was CARIFTA – the Caribbean Free Trade Association, when, in July 1965, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Antigua and Barbuda signed an agreement at Dickenson Bay establishing it. CARIFTA was designed to be a customs union and in a few years, all of the Commonwealth Caribbean had acceded to it. One notable arrangement was that CARIFTA was divided into ‘more developed countries’ (MDC) and ‘lesser developed countries’ (LDCs) to give protection to the smaller, less developed islands.
In its time CARIFTA did a great deal to strengthen the integration movement: the Caribbean Development Bank was established under its watch as well as several functional cooperation bodies which included the Caribbean Broadcasting Union (CBU); the Council of Legal Education (CLE); the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC); and several other bodies involved in Health, Shipping, Air Services, Information Services, Tourism, Technical Assistance, Standards and Industrial Research.
It was the internal pressures in CARIFTA and the need to strengthen existing areas of cooperation and expand into new ones that led to the establishment of the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM). As pointed out above, the treaty of Chaguaramas in 1973 established CARICOM. All Commonwealth Caribbean states became members and membership was open to any other Caribbean state. Suriname joined in 1995 and Haiti in 2002. Bermuda, though strictly not in the Caribbean, was admitted as an Associate Member.
The CARIFTA Secretariat which was in Georgetown, Guyana quickly evolved into a more elaborate organisation with a secretary-general, a deputy secretary-general and three directors responsible for the segments of activities of CARICOM. The secretaries-general have all been distinguished West Indians of the highest calibre. The staff are drawn from the member and associate states and are not representatives of their home territories but officials of the secretariat.
The work of the secretariat has been divided into four large areas under which fall many activities. The first area is human and social development. Under this area falls fighting the illegal drug trade; culture; gender and development; health; human resource development; and youth and community development.
The second area is regional trade and economic integration. Under this area falls Agriculture; CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME); industry; sustainable development including the environment; tourism; transportation; finance and planning.
The third broad area would include foreign and community relations including sourcing of technical assistance for member states; external economic and trade relations; and foreign policy coordination.
The fourth broad area is services. Under this falls conference support; archives; information and communication support; legal advice, opinions and legal drafting; and statistical support.
In addition to the above-mentioned areas of activity, Guyana has been privileged to have had CARICOM observers at its national elections and CARICOM helping it to solve its election impasses.