Modify, modernise in current realities – CARICOM Assistant Secretary-General

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[su_pullquote align=”right”]”As in the past, the Community needs to continually look to the future while addressing present challenges. It must modify and modernise its approaches, operations and frameworks in keeping with the ever-changing internal and external realities.” Ambassador Colin Granderson[/su_pullquote]

The ever-changing internal and external realities have made it imperative for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to modify and modernise its approaches, operations and frameworks.

Ambassador Colin Granderson, CARICOM Assistant Secretary-General, Foreign and Community Relations.
Ambassador Colin Granderson, CARICOM Assistant Secretary-General, Foreign and Community Relations.

This is the message Ambassador Colin Granderson, CARICOM Assistant Secretary-General, Foreign and Community Relations, took to a new corps of Guyanese diplomats late in July at the Foreign Service Institute in Georgetown, Guyana. His presentation was part of an orientation exercise for the new Heads of Missions.

In a wide-ranging presentation titled ‘CARICOM Trends: Towards the Future‘, Ambassador Granderson addressed the Community’s position in the international arena and outlined the steps it should take to confront the changes and challenges.

He traced the Community’s development from free trade through Caribbean Free Trade Association (CARIFTA), to a Common Market, to a Single Market and, eventually, onto a Single Economy, and  pointed out that its history was never static. Rather, the Community always had an “eye on the future”.

“As in the past, the Community needs to continually look to the future while addressing present challenges. It must modify and modernise its approaches, operations and frameworks in keeping with the ever-changing internal and external realities.

“For example, as part of modernising operations, greater prominence should be given to the use of e-governance to facilitate the timely provision of public goods. At the end of the day, CARICOM needs to be more effective in its implementation. As regards trends toward the future, it is quite clear that a number of the future priorities will be similar to those of the past,” the Assistant Secretary-General said.

The Community’s future, anchored by the CARICOM Strategic Plan 2015-2019 that is premised on building resilience in all areas must also focus on breathing new life into the CARICOM Single Market and “coming to terms with the complexities of the Single Economy”; boosting the youth-driven creative economies of Member States; improving and increasing the use of Information Communication Technology (ICT); harnessing the potential of regional marine resources; and more effective foreign policy coordination; diversifying trade arrangements and examining options to decide the future external trade agenda.

He identified climate change, the effects of new financial regulations, crime and security, among the areas that would have an impact on CARICOM’s future.

CARICOM Single Market and Economy

The CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) remains a crucial element of the integration process and Heads of Government have mandated a comprehensive review of the regional flagship programme. The review will be considered at their intersessional meeting next year.

“Despite the fact that the international environment has become less accommodating and economic development has stagnated, CARICOM Member States continue to view the CSME as the best vehicle to promote economic integration and as one of the strategies for sustainable growth and development,” Ambassador Granderson said.

He referred to the establishment of the CARICOM Commission on the Economy to address fiscal sustainability, debt relief and restructuring resource mobilization and unemployment, as well as the cross-cutting areas of energy and ICT. He pointed also to the Regional Transportation Commission which was put in place to address the critical needs of this sector which he explained was vital to the movement of peoples, goods and services in the Region. He added that there was need for increasing attention to be paid to carrying out the decisions that are taken and the obligations that Member States had contracted.

“Much more will therefore have to be done at present and in the future to increase awareness regarding rights and obligations and to give full effect to the Treaty provisions and decisions. In this regard, the freedom of movement regime has emerged as an acute and emblematic illustration of stresses and dysfunction in the integration dispositions as well as in relations between Member States,” he said.


Green and Blue Economies

The Assistant Secretary-General said CARICOM’s agenda in the coming years would also focus on harnessing benefits from not only the “green economy” that aims for sustainable development via the reduction of environmental risks and ecological scarcities. Increased attention should be paid to the “blue economy” which speaks to the growth, opportunity and a sustainable ocean economy.

“Despite being comprised of Islands and Coastal States, CARICOM in the past has paid only scant attention to the strategic and economic value of its maritime territory. This awareness is starting to come alive. Member States have started to recognise the value of the marine spaces within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and have committed to resourcing action plans to optimise their productivity,” he said.

He alluded to the leading role that CARICOM played in the efforts of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) to have the Caribbean Sea recognized by the United Nations as a zone of sustainable developments.

“The May-July 2015 promulgation of the Presidential Decrees of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela that made spurious claims to the maritime territory and EEZ of Guyana and of a large number of CARICOM Member States was a wake-up call. The study done by the Community’s Law of the Sea experts in analyzing the impact of the Decrees highlighted the lack of maritime delimitation in many parts of the region.

“The preceding developments and the upcoming UN preparatory negotiations on bio-diversity in maritime territory Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) where CARICOM will be active as well as the promises that the “blue” economy and not only the “green” economy could hold in the future will give greater prominence to this issue on the CARICOM Agenda in the coming years,” Ambassador Granderson said.

Creative Economy

“An emerging area of economic activity whose potential is being increasingly explored and encouraged is the Creative Economy. It is driven by, and in turn, fuels the Knowledge Economy, where creativity is a powerful engine of economic growth and wealth creation, Ambassador Granderson told the diplomats.

The Creative Economy, he said, was characterised by new innovative technologies that were spawned by ICT; new occupations based on knowledge-intensive activities and economic value derived from human creativity; and intellectual property value in intangibles such as ideas, design, brands and style. He added that creative content was also driving the development and sale of new technologies and related software.

“The creative industries are at the core of the Knowledge and Creative Economies. Many CARICOM Member States have demonstrated comparative and competitive advantage in creative industries, and have gained significant international recognition for their cultural expressions, products and services. Youth are the backbone of the creative industries in CARICOM, both as primary producers and consumers of creative content. It is also a sector that encourages innovation and entrepreneurship without which it will not flourish. A strategy that combines youth, innovation, ICT and creative industries has tremendous developmental potential for future of the Region. Innovation, entrepreneurship, productivity, modernity will have to be the new buzzwords in the economic sphere,” he predicted.

External relations

On the external relations front, Ambassador Granderson focused on what he described as “the profound geo-political and geo-economic transformations” and shifts in the balance of power in our wider region that require short- and long-term responses. While acknowledging that maintaining and strengthening traditional and historical ties remained vital, he noted that Community had begun to diversify its relationships in the face of decreasing interests of its traditional partners. In this regard, a priority should be solidify relations with Western European members of the European Union (EU) and pay more attention to African, Caribbean and Pacific States.

He also drew attention to the Community’s need to be proactive and to strengthen its capacity to benefit from international watershed agreements such as the Paris Agreement on Climate.

The area of foreign policy coordination was also a valuable mechanism for the Community to attain its external affairs objectives, as well as to have its voice heard in the global arena, the Assistant Secretary-General said. Foreign policy coordination also served to optimally position the Community in the hemisphere and global environments to address key challenges and to take advantage of opportunities. CARICOM caucuses in major capitals of the world that could play a key role in ensuring the Community spoke with one voice, needed strengthening, Ambassador Granderson said.

“It is clear that the effectiveness depends to quite an extent on the chemistry between individual CARICOM Heads of Mission.  Another mechanism which Foreign Ministers have been considering would be the various forms of ‘Joint Representation’. Though this approach worked in the early days of independence, there is apparently more reluctance today. It does, however, provide a cost-sharing possibility for increasing CARICOM representation in Capitals identified as being of strategic importance to the Community but beyond the capacity of individual Member States,” he said.

Crime and Security

In a global environment where crime and security are of major concerns, Ambassador Granderson said that assistance and technical cooperation with external partners were now of vital importance. Emerging issues of concern for the Region, he said, included the proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW), addressing the nexus between TOC, terrorism and gangs, the increase in Nationalities of Interest (NOI) traversing the Region, and the future security threat that could result from the return of CARICOM nationals active abroad in groups advocating violent extremism such as ISIS.

“For CARICOM to be relevant and to add value for the people of the Community in measurable ways, we need to be less insular, better at forecasting and, consequently, proactive and not merely responsive in developing and implementing realistic strategies. In these critical exercises we need to have greater recourse to human resources that have been neglected – civil society and the diaspora. The people of the Community in its widest sense need to see results to be invested in the Community,” he said, as he summed up the approach the Region should adopt.

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