CARICOM Heads of Government Meeting opens

Heads of Government, CARICOM Secretary-General, delegates and guests at the opening of the 43rd Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM

The Forty-Third Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM opened on Sunday evening in Suriname with the key messages of unity of purpose and innovative approaches to confronting the challenges facing the Region.

At the opening ceremony at the Assuria Hermitage High Rise Centre in Paramaribo, five Heads of Government and the CARICOM and United Nations Secretaries-General addressed a large gathering that included fellow Heads, special guests, awardees of the Order of the Caribbean Community (OCC), diplomats and delegates.

Chair of the Conference of Heads of Government, His Excellency Chandrikapersad Santohki, President of Suriname, offered pragmatic approaches to strengthening the 49-year old regional integration movement. He called for the continued strong advocacy to ensure that the Caribbean remained a zone of peace. He said there was recognition that the Region was diverse, that there was strength in unity” and that if the Region was united, it could wield more substantial influence.

He called for a recommitment by Heads of Government to endeavours to ensure prosperity for people of the Region; a willingness to engage in broad cooperation, creative and innovative approaches to integration; private sector involvement and the participation of the youth.

He said the future of CARICOM depended on how Heads of Government were willing to facilitate the youth of the Community since the young people had a unique outlook and a determination to pursue their goals.

CARICOM Secretary-General, Dr. Carla Barnett, in her remarks, also spoke of the need for deeper involvement of youth in integration, particularly as they accounted for 60 per cent of the Region’s population. They were central to our efforts at building a sustainable, resilient society, she said.

“60% of the population of CARICOM is under the age of 30.  Our young people are central to our efforts at building a sustainable and resilient society. We must, therefore, never cease in our attempts to create opportunities to develop and utilise their creativity and innovative skills, and to explore avenues to facilitate youth involvement in planning and preparation for the future,” she said.

Young people, through the Dean of the CARICOM Youth Ambassadors, will have the opportunity to make a presentation to the Heads of Government Meeting that emerged from a CARICOM Youth Forum held late last month, which brought together youth groups, youth leaders, youth workers and other key stakeholders to examine current youth development needs.

The challenges the Region is facing, including the impact of climate change, the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, the effects of the war in Ukraine, food security and intra-regional transportation were common points made by the speakers at the opening ceremony.

Other speakers at the opening were Prime Ministers, the Hon, Dickon Mitchell of Grenada, the Hon. Philip Davis of The Bahamas, the Hon Philip Pierre of Saint Lucia, the Hon. John Briceno of Belize and the Secretary-General of the United Nations, His Excellency Antonio Guterres.

At the ceremony, the Community’s highest award, the Order of the Caribbean Community was conferred on Dame Billie Miller of Barbados,, Sir Vivian Richards of Antigua and Barbuda, and Ambassador Irwin LaRocque of Dominica.

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