As the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat observes its 10th anniversary today in its Turkeyen location, we retrace the development of the principal administrative organ of the Community.
The Secretariat, now housed in an impressive edifice at Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana, had its historic but humble beginnings in quarters of Colgrain House, the residence of Mr. Fred Cozier, Secretary-General of the Caribbean Free Trade Association (CARIFTA). CARIFTA preceded the establishment of the Caribbean Community.
During his short term in office from 1968-1969, Secretary-General Cozier occupied the northern half of the magnificent wooden building on Camp Street in Georgetown, while the Secretariat staff of four at that time occupied the southern half. The Secretary-General’s primary responsibility in the initial year 1968-1969 was the establishment of the Commonwealth Caribbean Regional Secretariat at Colgrain House and servicing the several committees set up by the Caribbean Heads of Government to give effect to the provisions of CARIFTA.
In 1969, the Secretariat was moved to the Third Floor of The Bank of Guyana Building, home of the Central Bank of Guyana located in the heart of the City.
The batch of four staff members increased to 20 during the tenure of Secretary-General William Demas, 1970-1974.
One of the signatories to the 1973 founding Treaty of Chaguaramas, the then Head of Government of Guyana, the Hon. Forbes Burnham, negotiated for the establishment of a permanent Secretariat for the Community to be headquartered in Georgetown and hosted by the Government of Guyana.
With the steady growth of the Community and the increasing mandates of the Secretariat, the fourth floor of the Bank of Guyana Building was soon retained to accommodate additional offices and staff of the Secretariat. As CARIFTA transitioned to CARICOM and the staff complement almost doubled, the Secretariat expanded to five annexes across Georgetown with the Bank of Guyana Building being retained as the Head Office.
Decades later, the task of delivering on the promise to provide the CARICOM Secretariat with its own home started with the Guyana Government’s acquisition of land from GUYSUCO. In 1998, a sod-turning ceremony took place and construction of the Headquarters Building began in May 2001. The inauguration ceremony for the building took place on 19 February 2005 in the presence of more than 600 persons, including Heads of Government and State of the Community, representatives of regional institutions, other dignitaries and staff of the CARICOM Secretariat. The building was officially handed over to the CARICOM Secretariat on 15 July 2005. The Secretariat commenced operations in the building on 26 July, 2005.
Today, the core complement of staff at the CARICOM Secretariat exceeds 300 distributed across the Secretariat of the Secretary-General; the Office of the Deputy Secretary-General; the Directorate of Trade and Economic Integration; the Directorate of Foreign Policy and Community Relations; the Directorate of Human and Social Development; the Office of the General Counsel; as well as progammes and projects. In addition, staff members are housed in an Annex, obliquely opposite the headquarters in a modern multi-storey building, and at the CSME Unit and Office of Trade Negotiations in Barbados, and a section of the OTN in Jamaica.