Guyana was on Wednesday lauded for its seminal role in the evolution of the regional integration movement, as the country’s new Ambassador to CARICOM Ms Charlene Phoenix presented her credentials to CARICOM Secretary-General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque.
The Secretary-General, in remarks at the accreditation ceremony, recalled Guyana’s role, along with Barbados and Antigua and Barbuda, in restarting the integration process through the formation of the Caribbean Free Trade Association (CARIFTA), and then, through the Georgetown Accord, fashioning the pivotal movement from CARIFTA to CARICOM. He also noted Guyana’s Lead Responsibility for Agriculture in the CARICOM Quasi-Cabinet and the importance of the sector to the Community’s efforts to enhance its food security.
“You therefore represent, Ambassador, a country rich not only in the tradition and history of our Community but also in being a full participant in forging the ties that bind us as a people,” the Secretary-General said.
Ambassador Phoenix, who served in the past as Head of the CARICOM Unit in Guyana’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, confirmed that the country has always championed the merits of regional integration, adding that the need for a strong and efficient integration movement is as urgent now as at its initial formation.
“We see CARICOM as a vehicle which gives voice to Member States and has thus placed its imprint on matters of tremendous importance whether regionally or on the international stage, like climate change, the SIDS Agenda, and the sustainable Development Goals amongst others. These issues have direct impact on the livelihoods, economic advancement and empowerment of the Caribbean people,” Ambassador Phoenix noted.
Ms Phoenix has now joined the CARICOM Committee of Ambassadors, a body which forms part of the Community’s governance structure and whish has as its principal focus the advancement of the integration process.
“As part of that body, you have the opportunity to help shape the future direction of the integration movement,” the Secretary-General noted.
He reminded that the accreditation was taking place at a most trying time for the community, following the impact of Hurricanes Irma and Maria on six Member States and three Associate Members. Thirty-seven people lost their lives and the principal economic sectors of tourism, agriculture and fisheries were significantly affected.
CARICOM, with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) will convene a High Level Pledging Conference at the UN Headquarters in New York on 21 November to mobilise support and commitment of pledges for the reconstruction effort and to also help the CARICOM Region improve its resilience to adapt to the effects of climate change.
Ms Phoenix said Guyana commends the initiative and stands firm in its commitment to doing all that it can to support the recovery of the affected areas.