- Her Excellency Christine Kangaloo, President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago
- The Honourable Roosevelt Skerritt, Prime Minister of Dominica and Chairman of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community
- Dr the Honourable Keith Rowley, Prime Minister of the Federal Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, our Host
- The Right Honourable Philip Davis, Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas; and Outgoing Chairman of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community
- Your Excellencies, Heads of State and Government of the Caribbean Community
- Special Guest, His Excellency Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations
- Other Heads of Delegation
- Heads of Regional and International Institutions
- Members of the Diplomatic Corps
- Representatives of the Media
- People of the Caribbean Community
- Ladies and gentlemen
Good evening. It is my distinct pleasure to welcome you to this 45th Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM where we are celebrating our 50th Anniversary.
On behalf of CARICOM, I express our appreciation to our host Prime Minister, Dr the Honourable Keith Rowley, and the people of Trinidad and Tobago, for providing us a most favourable setting in which to conduct the business of the Community and celebrate our Golden Jubilee. The Caribbean’s world-renowned hospitality is very much appreciated.
I extend sincere gratitude to our Outgoing Chair, the Honourable Philip Davis, Prime Minister of The Bahamas, who steered our Community with foresight and determination through a period of significant developments.
The Community now welcomes the Prime Minister of Dominica, the Honourable Roosevelt Skerritt, into the Chair. I extend congratulations to you and assure you of the ongoing support of the Secretariat and myself as you lead the advancement of the Community’s agenda.
I am pleased to acknowledge the distinguished presence of His Excellency Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations, one of our Special Guests, who will celebrate and exchange views with us during this meeting.
Over the next two days we will engage with several guests, including the President of Rwanda, the Prime Minister of South Korea, High Level delegations from both the Administration and Congress of the United States and the President-Designate of COP 28.
There is no doubt that as our 50th Anniversary theme underscores, CARICOM is 50 years strong, and we have a solid foundation to build on. This is a foundation that has been laid regionally and internationally by stalwarts who have been standard bearers for integration and for CARICOM to have its rightful place in the global Community.
We are building on the efforts of Arthur Lewis, William Demas, Alister McIntyre, PJ Patterson, Shridath Ramphal, Nita Barrow, Kamaludin Mohammed, Peggy Antrobus, Owen Arthur, Patrick Manning, Edwin Carrington, and Billie Miller, to name just a few.
They took on the vision of the founders and ensured that as the Caribbean Community solidified its regional integration, it made a mark internationally, which demonstrated that the constraints of small size could be overcome by collaboration and integration.
It was CARICOM that spearheaded the formation of the African Caribbean and Pacific States, now the OACPS, and led negotiations with Europe for preferential trading arrangements.
CARICOM was at the forefront of the struggle for UN recognition of Small Island and low-lying coastal Developing States (SIDS)and later played a crucial role at COP 21 in Paris in 2015 resulting in an agreement to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.
CARICOM resuscitated and our leaders led the charge towards the International Criminal Court.
CARICOM prioritized the importance of health in development policy in the Nassau declaration of 2001 and brought the ravages of Non-Communicable Diseases to global attention in the Port of Spain Consensus of 2007.
Within our own space, we have established critical institutions that are high-functioning and highly regarded.
No one can question the excellence of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) exemplified in their leadership in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.
The same applies to the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) whose performance, despite severe constraints and growing demands from the increasing impact of natural disasters, continues to be exemplary. The work of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) has earned its universal acclaim. And the list can go on.
Yes, we do have our challenges and there are areas crying out for improvement which continue to bedevil us. The knotty issue of transportation, expansion of intra-regional trade, hassle-free movement of our citizens and the pervasive nature of crime and insecurity stand out in that regard.
We are currently grappling with a multi-faceted crisis – crime and security, constitutional and political, humanitarian – in our most heavily populated Member State, Haiti.
As our Community seeks to assist the Haitian people to find effective solutions to the crises, we have appointed an Eminent Persons Group which has started to facilitate dialogue among key Haitian stakeholders, beginning with a broadly inclusive engagement held in Jamaica a few weeks ago. This work will continue.
We recognise the critical importance of food security, and, as we shall hear from our Lead Head on Agriculture and Food and Nutrition Security, the thrust to reduce our food import bill by 25 percent by 2025 is gathering momentum.
The urgency of advancing our digital agenda is a first line priority and our Regional Digital Development Strategy is therefore also gathering momentum.
Through our Human Resource Development Strategy 2030 we are implementing an Action Plan to equip our young people with the tools necessary to function effectively in the 21st century.
We are seeking to embrace even more innovative ideas from them and moving to provide opportunities to channel their creativity into areas of entrepreneurship. Further, a significant part of our Agro food agenda is encouraging young people into the sector utilizing the new tools of IT-enabled protected agriculture to increase productivity and build sustainable livelihoods.
Ladies and gentlemen, despite the global crises, the deleterious effects of climate change and natural disasters, and the ongoing threats to the security of our people, the achievements of the past five decades are proof that vision and concerted action are critical to achieving sustainable prosperity and security for our Region.
Time and again, despite changing global realities, our community has demonstrated the resolve and resilience necessary to maintain the course of integration.
The Caribbean Community has done well! It is therefore fitting that we acknowledge and celebrate our Golden Jubilee.
I have every confidence that our deliberations and decisions over the next days of Meeting will set us on course for another 50 successful years.
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.