Promoting CARICOM Unity/Engaging the people

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By Elizabeth Morgan

The CARICOM Committee of Ambassadors, i.e. ambassadors of Members accredited to the Community, has been considering how to increase the visibility and understanding of CARICOM among its people.

Ambassador Janice Avonne Miller

They are launching an “I am CARICOM” publicity campaign to assist people in the region and beyond to identify with the integration process in all its dimensions. [Noted that Jamaica recently appointed Janice Avonne Miller as its Ambassador to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)].

Sometimes one should look at how to use existing symbols, ceremonies and observances, which can contribute to communicating and demonstrating the importance attributed to an organization or a movement, and their relevance to the people.  CARICOM’s symbols are its flag, logo, song, and Day. Many of us in CARICOM might recognize the flag and logo, fewer outside of Guyana might have known of CARICOM Day (associating July 4 only with the USA’s Independence Day), and I am certain many of us do not know that there is a CARICOM song.

Listening to the opening ceremony of the CARICOM Heads of Government Conference on Monday, July 5, although the meeting was virtual and the usual pomp and ceremony were absent, I do not recall that any of the dignitaries participating in the opening ceremony mentioned that the Conference was actually part of the region’s observance of CARICOM Day, with which it deliberately coincides. Just to note, nor did they acknowledge the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas in 2001. I would like to think that this was shunted to the background as the Heads were preoccupied with containing COVID-19 and the further economic impact of natural disasters. While the opening ceremony was live streamed, I am not sure any radio station thought that it could be broadcasted to reach a wider national audience.

CARICOM Day and CARICOM Heads did receive press coverage in Jamaica and on Monday also, I did notice that at least one Jamaican radio station mentioned CARICOM Day and had a discussion on the Heads Conference which had started that morning chaired by Prime Minister Gaston Browne of Antigua and Barbuda. That could be considered a recovery of interest.

I noticed from media reports that CARICOM Day, which was commemorated between Sunday, July 4 and Monday, July 5, was acknowledged in Antigua and Barbuda (actually on July 3), Barbados, Belize, Jamaica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. CARICOM Day is actually a public holiday in Guyana. It is also a public holiday in St. Vincent and the Grenadines as it coincides with carnival Monday. Of course, this year, St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ preoccupation was not with carnival, but with volcanic eruptions and, along with Barbados, the impact of Hurricane Elsa. Basically, across the region, the CARICOM Committee of Ambassadors should look at how CARICOM Day is commemorated in the countries and its value to both the Members and the Community in building public awareness and understanding through education, and in increasing visibility through the events organized and the publicity generated. Would it be possible to have a CARICOM Day in schools?

What has been admirable is the commitment of CARICOM High Commissioners and Ambassadors resident in London to observing CARICOM Day annually. The theme of this year’s impressive virtual presentation was “One Caribbean, One Voice”. All the CARICOM symbols were displayed as well as regional culture. The video demonstrates CARICOM cooperation and solidarity, highlighting the diaspora link, and the UK/Caribbean and Caribbean/Commonwealth relationships. I recommend it for viewing.

Imagine if every Member actually displayed the CARICOM flag, used the logo as appropriate, promoted the song, and commemorated CARICOM Day as a means of building public awareness of this regional enterprise. Some CARICOM Members are now flying the CARICOM flag along with their national flag.

Imagine if the example of London were followed in all the capitals where CARICOM has diplomatic representation – if once per year, there was a collaborative CARICOM event promoting regional integration and unity. It would send the message that we are indeed one Caribbean, with the same development goals, and as far as possible, speaking with one voice.

In their “I am CARICOM” campaign, the CARICOM Committee of Ambassadors, for the long-term, should incorporate the observance of CARICOM Day; should ensure that there is greater transparency in the coverage of CARICOM events enabling better media coverage, and thus engagement with the public. This initiative could go a long way in helping us all, at home and abroad, to identify more closely with CARICOM.

Submitted by Elizabeth Morgan, Specialist in International Trade Policy and International Politics

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