UK commits to closer relations with CARICOM

 June 23, 2017 @ 2:10 pm   
SG_UK
Secretary-General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque welcomes UK High Commissioner Ms Janet Douglas

Even as the United Kingdom continues to face its fair share of challenging events, it has committed to closer relations with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

New High Commissioner of the UK to the Eastern Caribbean and CARICOM, Her Excellency Janet Douglas said on Thursday, 22 June, that her country wanted to infuse fresh vigour in its relations with the Region. She was at time presenting her Letter of Credence to CARICOM Secretary-General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, at the CARICOM Secretariat in Georgetown, Guyana.

In the wake of the recent acts of terrorism in the UK, Ambassador LaRocque placed on record the Community’s unreserved condemnation of orchestrated attacks perpetrated against innocent civilians.

He said: “CARICOM joins its voice to that of the international community in condemning terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.  Such disruptive and vicious acts underscore the need for the international community to deepen cooperation in the battle against terrorism.”

Secretary-General LaRocque also extended sincere condolences to the UK for the loss of lives and homes due to the disastrous fire at Grenfell Tower in West London in the early hours of 14 June.

According to the new UK envoy, it was indeed “a sombre and challenging time” for Britain, but hope was inspired by the message of Her Majesty the Queen on her official birthday, when she said, “Put to the test, the United Kingdom has been resolute in the face of adversity.”  That spirit of resolve she said is one that was shared with CARICOM to promote common values such as respect for human rights, the rule of law, and a determination to protect the fragile environment.

Ambassador LaRocque stated his appreciation for Britain’s strategic support of issues relating to climate change. Noting that the Caribbean had been designated as the most natural disaster-prone region in the world, he said most Member States bore a heavy debt burden from rebuilding after major climatic events which were more frequent and more intense.

Against this backdrop, he said CARICOM continued to advocate for development partners to revisit their policies on graduating vulnerable countries out of access to concessionary development financing. The use of per capita income as the primary criterion for access, the Secretary-General said, was inadequate, adding that vulnerability must be factored in. He further appealed to the UK to include vulnerability of CARICOM countries in reconsidering the eligibility criteria for access to the Infrastructure Fund it has allocated to countries of the Region.

The Secretary-General also raised the issues regarding blacking-listing of CARICOM countries as non-cooperative tax jurisdictions, de-risking and the withdrawal of correspondent banking relationships by some international banks.

He urged the UK – a key player in the OECD and the EU – to communicate the positions of global financial authorities which have affirmed the financial integrity of CARICOM countries.

Ms Douglas said that the United Kingdom will continue to collaborate with its CARICOM partners to combat threats to their collective security, such as narcotic trafficking and other international organised crime.

As her country negotiated its departure from the EU, she assured that it will retain close relationships with European partners. The new envoy pledged that along with other British High Commissioners in the Region, she will work to manage the implications of Brexit for CARICOM, particularly in the areas of trade and development.

Looking forward to the April 2018 Commonwealth Summit, Ms Douglas signalled the UK’s desire to work with CARICOM to ensure its success.

“The Summit will provide a platform on which to set a new vision of a strong and effective Commonwealth.  It offers the opportunity to re-energise the Commonwealth, so that it better upholds its shared democratic values and delivers greater security and prosperity to its citizens,” Ms Douglas said.

After the accreditation, Ambassador LaRocque and Ms Douglas further discussed the challenges with NCDs, security, as well as preparations for the Commonwealth Summit and the UK-Caribbean Forum in 2018.

U.S. Strategy for Engagement in the Caribbean

 June 23, 2017 @ 5:40 pm   

US and CARICOM Flags at NYSE

Caribbean 2020: A Multi-Year Strategy To Increase the Security, Prosperity, and Well-Being of the People of the United States and the Caribbean

The Caribbean region is the United States’ “third border,” characterized by common interests and societal ties that yield daily, tangible benefits for U.S. citizens. The United States is the primary trading partner for the Caribbean, representing a vibrant economic partnership that in 2016 saw a $4.6 billion trade surplus for the United States, 14 million U.S. tourist visits, and 11,042 Caribbean students studying in the United States. We also face many common threats across the region. Small, but significant, numbers of violent extremists from the region have joined ISIS. Caribbean countries have some of the highest murder rates in the world. Rising crime and endemic corruption threaten governments’ ability to provide security and good governance. They also drive irregular migration to the United States. As the United States works to secure its southern border, we should prepare for transnational criminal organizations to shift more of their operations to the Caribbean as a transit point for drugs, migrants, weapons, and other illicit activity.

This strategy, coordinated with the interagency, identifies the Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development’s priorities for United States engagement with the Caribbean region in the areas of security, diplomacy, prosperity, energy, education, and health. On security, we will work with our Caribbean partners to ensure ISIS is denied a foothold in the region, dismantle illicit trafficking networks, enhance maritime security, confront violent and organized crime, and increase the sharing of threat information among countries. Our diplomacy will both raise the political level of our dialogue with the Caribbean and focus it more tightly on this strategy’s six priorities. We will increase our own and our neighbors’ prosperity by promoting sustainable growth, open markets for U.S. exports, and private sector-led investment and development. On energy, exports of U.S. natural gas and the use of U.S. renewable energy technologies will provide cleaner, cheaper alternatives to heavy fuel oil and lessen reliance on Venezuela.

On education, we will focus our resources on exchanges and programs for students, scholars, teachers, and other professionals that provide mutual benefits to U.S. and Caribbean communities and promote economic development and entrepreneurship. In the area of health, we will continue to partner with countries in the region in the fight against infectious diseases, like HIV/AIDS and Zika, recognizing deadly pathogens are threats that know no borders.

Read more at: US State Department

Put your money where your mouth is! – Barbados Culture Minister

 June 22, 2017 @ 10:32 am   
CARIFESTA_XIII-LOGO-WHITE-GLOW

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Minister of Culture, Sports and Youth of Barbados, the Hon. Stephen Lashley, is of the view that regional Governments needed to redirect some of their resources to the cultural industries if they were truly interested in regional economic expansion and development.

He said funding that was going to some traditional sectors that may not necessarily be bringing in the returns that were needed could be diverted to the cultural industries. The Minister was speaking at the opening ceremony of the Twenty-Fifth meeting of the Regional Cultural Committee at the CARICOM Secretariat in Georgetown, Guyana, 21-23 June, 2017.

In his remarks, Minister Lashley pointed out that when the CARICOM Heads of Government met at the Twenty-Sixth Inter-Sessional Meeting in The Bahamas in February, 2015, they recognised that cultural and creative industries represented a sector with great potential to contribute to the economic development of the Region. According to the Minister, the Heads reaffirmed the significance of the cultural and creative industries to CARICOM integration, to the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), for cultural identity, diversity and youth engagement. He said they also agreed to place greater emphasis on a development pathway based on knowledge and the creative economy and by leveraging the human, cultural and national assets of the Community, for development in all its dimensions.

(L-R), Ms. Myrna Bernard, Director Human Development, CARICOM Secretariat, Hon. Stephen Lashley, Barbados Minister of Culture, and Dr. Hilary Brown, Programme Manager, Culture and Community Development, CARICOM Secretariat
(L-R), Ms. Myrna Bernard, Director Human Development, CARICOM Secretariat, Hon. Stephen Lashley, Barbados Minister of Culture, and Dr. Hilary Brown, Programme Manager, Culture and Community Development, CARICOM Secretariat

The Minister also posited the view that cultural and creative industries held the key to the urgent diversification of the Region’s economies.

“We need not look very far to see the huge economic benefit of this sector to the economies of other countries. For example,  the UK’s creative industries contribute almost £90bn net to GDP; it accounts for one in 11 jobs, a rate rising more quickly than all other parts of the economy. These jobs are also among the least likely to be lost to automation,” Minister Lashley said.

The Minister invited the gathering to examine other statistics, pointing to South Africa, that did its first cultural and creative industries mapping study in 2014, which showed that the industries had created between 162,809 and 192,410 jobs, about 1.08% to 1.28% of employment in the country, and that they contribute 2.9% to GDP.

Citing a report from UNESCO, Minister Lashley outlined  that the creative economy employed nearly 30 million people worldwide and generated $2.25 trillion in revenue—or 3% of the world’s GDP—in 2013. This, he said, was substantially more than global telecommunications ($1.57 trillion) and greater than the GDP of India, Russia, or Canada.

Turning to the Caribbean Festival of Arts, CARIFESTA XIII, the Culture Minister pointed out that the RCC meeting was happening when the Region was at the height of preparations for this event, scheduled for 17-27 August, 2017, in Barbados.

“It is an honour for us in Barbados to host this mega arts and cultural festival that is so highly valued by all of us, for the second time. We are very committed to realising the ideals for which the Festival was created: to showcase the excellence of Caribbean arts and culture; to foster a vision of Caribbean integration and unity; and to provide real opportunities for artistic and cultural development in our Region.

He said the main focus of this Thirteenth Edition of CARIFESTA was on strengthening the Region’s creative industries.  He said a feature of the event will be an expanded Marketplace with a Buyers Shopping Mall at the CARIFESTA XIII Grand Market at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.

CARIFESTA is CARICOM’s premier art and culture festival since 1972. This roving event attracts artists and culture professionals from more than 30 countries in the Region and has been held 12 times across eight Member States. The main purpose of this event, which was a mandate of the CARICOM Heads, is to celebrate the arts, foster a vision of Caribbean unity while advancing Caribbean culture regionally and internationally.

CARICOM Official lauds work of Regional Cultural Committee

 June 22, 2017 @ 10:53 am   
CARIFESTA_XIII-LOGO-WHITE-GLOW
Ms. Myrna Bernard, Director, Human Development, CARICOM Secretariat speaking during the opening ceremony of the Twenty-Fifth Meeting of the Regional Cultural Committee of the Caribbean Community,
Ms. Myrna Bernard, Director, Human Development, CARICOM Secretariat speaking during the opening ceremony of the Twenty-Fifth Meeting of the Regional Cultural Committee of the Caribbean Community,

Director of Human Development at the CARICOM Secretariat, Ms Myrna Bernard, on Wednesday lauded the Regional Cultural Committee (RCC) for its many achievements over the past two decades.

Ms. Bernard was speaking at the opening ceremony of the Twenty-Fifth Meeting of the Regional Cultural Committee at the CARICOM Secretariat in Georgetown, Guyana, 21-23 July, 2017. Ms. Myrna Bernard  said the RCC was instrumental in developing a Regional cultural policy in 1994, and noted that the policy still served as a reference document and a model for cultural policies in some Member States where policies are still being developed.

In fact, the vision of the Ideal Caribbean Person, detailed in that document, has served as a foundation to guide many a strategy and conversation on Human Development. The Conference of Heads in 1997 adopted it during their deliberations on HRD; in 2010, the CARICOM Commission on Youth Development CCYD updated and used it as basis for informing the Paramaribo Youth Strategy, and the most recent (2017) Development of the CARICOM HRD 2030 Strategy, has also used that conceptualisation of the Ideal Caribbean Person.

She outlined other achievements of the RCC such as advocacy that led to Regional Governments understanding the need to develop the cultural industries and providing advice on cultural trade matters. She said that a new area of focus for the RCC would be reparations for native genocide and slavery. She said this meeting of the RCC provided an opportunity for reflection and renewal to ensure that national and regional cultural agendas meet the needs of stakeholders.

Ms. Bernard said that the RCC had been at the forefront of the call for the restructuring of the Caribbean Festival of Arts, CARIFESTA, which, according to her, led to the development of a Strategic Plan for the Festival in 2004; the establishment of an Interim Festival Directorate in 2006, and the phased introduction of the main elements of the new CARIFESTA model that emphasises sustainability, more professional development opportunities for artists and better promotion of the event. CARIFESTA XIII will be held in Barbados 17-27 August, 2017 under the theme ‘Asserting our culture, celebrating ourselves’.

“The Community is grateful to the Government of Barbados for hosting and to investing in this quintessentially Caribbean cultural showcase,” she said.

CARIFESTA is the Caribbean Community’s premier art and culture festival since 1972. This roving event attracts artists and culture professionals from over 30 countries in the Region and has been held 12 times across eight Member States. Among the Member States that have hosted this culturally iconic event are: Guyana (1972, 2008), Jamaica (1976), Cuba (1979), Barbados (1981), Trinidad and Tobago (1992, 1995, 2006), St. Kitts and Nevis (2000), Suriname (2003, 2013) and Haiti (2015). The main purpose of this event, which was a mandate of the CARICOM Heads, is to celebrate the arts, foster a vision of Caribbean unity while advancing Caribbean culture regionally and internationally.