Belize Foreign Minister says foreign policy coordination in CARICOM indispensable

Hon. Eamon Courtenay, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Immigration (Photo via Govt of Belize Press Office)

(CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana) – Belize’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon. Eamon Courtenay, Outgoing Chair of the Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR) on Wednesday 18 May said that in the prevailing world environment, coordination among CARICOM Member States is indispensable and critical.

Delivering remarks during the opening of the 25th Meeting of COFCOR which was anchored at the CARICOM Secretariat, Minister Courtenay said:

“The challenges ahead are immense; the crises continue to come; the international system is in flux. Unity and firmness in our resolve are the only weapons we have.”

He said though CARICOM Member States may not always agree on common position, they always engage and respect differing views.

“That is a solid foundation on which our Caribbean Community must rest, and we should not take it for granted,” Minister Courtenay entreated.

The Belizean Foreign Minister said the past twelve months during which he chaired the COFCOR was “exceptionally challenging.”

Elaborating, he highlighted geopolitical tensions and the erosion of multilateralism, the situation in Haiti punctuated by the assassination of the President Juvenal Moïse, the war in Ukraine, and the worrying economic outlook because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Beyond those clouds of gloom, he said there are “silver linings” that include measured success from CARICOM’s consistent advocacy for access to concessional development financing and for the consideration of the peculiar vulnerabilities of Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

“We have long been advocates for reforming access to development financing to take account of our vulnerabilities as SIDS … The IMF launched a Resilience and Sustainability Trust in April with the objective of providing long term finance on highly concessional terms for low income, small developing states, and vulnerable middle-income countries. Work remains to be done on these instruments, but it is an important step in the right direction,” Minister Courtenay stated.

He said considerable progress has also been made on advancing the Multidimensional Vulnerability Index (MVI), which should be finalised by early next year.

“We must continue to build support with our donor partners, the G20 and IFIs for its uptake. It would be a game changer for accessing the financing our countries need to support the recovery and to build resilience,” the outgoing chair of COFCOR said.

Minister Courtenay noted that there has also been significant renewed interest from partners in engaging the Region marked by annual structured engagement with Canada and with the European Union at the Ministerial level.

“The United States has also promised more regular engagements including annual meetings at the level of Heads,” he stated, noting that over the last year CARICOM held virtual meetings with US officials including the Secretary of State, the National Security Adviser, and the Deputy Secretary of State.

Engagements with Central America have also been enhanced, Minister Courtenay said with two engagements for 2022 alone, an indication that the “two subregions are eager and ready to work together to find regional solutions to our common challenges.”

In that vein he said CARICOM also had dialogue with Colombia.

“These outreaches are indicative of the important role our region plays in promoting adherence to international law, respect for democracy and multilateralism. For us though, these are not fashionable issues of the day, these are core principles our foreign policies, these engagements are also indicative of the necessity of building and maintaining partnerships for cooperation which can support our integration goals.”

In cautionary note Minister Courtenay said, “It is in our interest and in the interest of the multilateral system, to which we are forever bound, to resist any and all efforts to impose division in the global south.”

The outgoing chair of COFCOR recommended there be a review of the body so that it is “agile and fit for the demanding times.”

Against that backdrop he called for joint meetings with other Councils to develop and deploy CARICOM’s external advocacy more effectively.

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