Re-assess, refocus, recommit to ensure sustainable development – CARICOM Chair

Chair of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM, His Excellency Chandrikapersad Santokhi, President of Suriname
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CARICOM Chairman, H.E. Chandrikapersad Santokhi, the President of Suriname, said the Region must “re-assess, refocus and recommit our endeavors, to ensure sustainable development and prosperity, for the people of the Region, ultimately aimed, at leaving no one behind.

He was at the time addressing the Opening Ceremony of the Forty-Third Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM at the Assuria Hermitage High Rise Centre, Paramaribo Suriname on 3 July 2022.

Read his remarks below:


Address by His Excellency Chandrikapersad Santokhi, the President of Suriname and Chair of CARICOM at the Opening Ceremony of the 43rd CARICOM Heads of Government Meeting, Paramaribo, Suriname, 3 July 2022

  • Distinguished Colleague Heads
  • Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres
  • Secretary-General of CARICOM, Carla Barnett
  • Secretary-General of the OACPS, Georges Rebelo Pinto Chikoti
  • Secretary General of the ACS, Rodolfo Sabonge
  • Heads of Regional Institutions
  • Spouses of the heads
  • Distinguished Ministers
  • Members of the Diplomatic and Consular Corps and Representatives of International Organizations
  • Distinguished Delegates
  • People of the Caribbean Community
  • Ladies and Gentlemen

Goedenavond, broeders en zusters uit het Caribisch gebied,

  • Het is mij een groot genoegen, om u allen te mogen verwelkomen in Paramaribo, hoofdstad van de Republiek Suriname, ook wel bekend, als de verborgen parel van
    Zuid-Amerika.
  • Mi bar un wan bigi odi!

[Greetings in dutch and Sranan]

  • Suriname is honored, to host the forty-third Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community.
  • Since becoming President in July 2020, I have attended Caricom heads meetings, where we discussed various issues.
  • And some questions were raised in my mind.
  • As a newcomer from Suriname, a bit of an outlier as, Suriname is a Dutch-speaking country in the Caribbean community.
  • We are the most eastern Caricom member state, located on the continent of South America.
  • And we are the only Caricom member state, with a border with the European Union, French Guiana.
  • Suriname, is a multi-linguistic, multi-cultural, multi-religious, and multi-ethnic mosaic of people from around the world. 
  • Suriname, is also the smallest country on the continent, with almost 93 % forest cover, and a low deforestation rate, and one of the only, three carbon-negative countries in the world.
  • While, you will not have a chance, to experience all Suriname has to offer, due to the official business, we have to conduct for the following days, I offer you, our warmth and hospitality, on behalf of the Surinamese people.
  • However, you are welcome, to return at your leisure, to spend more time with us, relax in the beautiful Amazonian rainforest, learn about our different cultures, cuisine, and languages, do business and invest.
  • And in that context, it is my pleasure, to inform you, that since the first of July, Suriname introduced for all nationalities in the world, visa-free traveling, to Suriname for tourism purposes, family visits, and business.
  • All this, to promote and facilitate tourism and business.
  • This measure, can generate spin-off for tourism in the Region, and also means more challenges and cooperation of the Community’s security, and law enforcement bodies.

One Minute Silence

  • Let us now take a moment, to pause for a minute of silence to remember those within the Caribbean Community, who passed away since the last time we formally met.
  • In particular, we pay homage to an Order of the Caribbean Community awardee, the Honorable George Lamming.

Thank you. You may be seated

  • I applaud, the outgoing Chair of CARICOM, the Honorable John Briceño, Prime Minister of Belize, for his leadership of the community, for the last six months.
  • John Briceño, your guidance, and efforts, on behalf of the Region as Chairman, benefited the Community.
  • Please allow me, to also formally bid a warm welcome, to the recently elected leaders in the Community, since the last Regular Conference, namely:
    • the Honorable Philip Davis, Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas;
    • the Honorable Dickon Mitchell, Prime Minister of Grenada;
    • the Honorable Philip J. Pierre, Prime Minister of Saint Lucia;
  • While preparing this statement, some questions came to my mind.
  • I looked at the Region’s developments, the world’s challenges, the character of the Caricom, and the member states.
  • And there are a few notable things.
  • We recognize, that we are a peace zone.
  • We recognize, that our strength lies in unity.
  • If we are united, we can wield a more substantial influence and decide to influence.
  • Our strength is also in diversity.
  • We are island states and states on the mainland, and one member state lies on the narrow strip of land, connecting North and South America.
  • We excel in tourist friendliness.
  • We also share several threats, such as a low coastline, the adverse effects, of global warming, and climate change.
  • When we develop strategies, we have to base them on this.
  • Base them on our reality.
  • Since its start, CARICOM has had ambitious goals:
    • To create a common market, cooperate in foreign policy matters, and promote functional cooperation in various areas, vital to social and economic development.
  • We have moreover, taken many steps, to deepen and widen the integration process.
  • However, the reality is, that we are not yet sufficiently cooperating.
  • The reality is, that we still have differences of opinion, on issues.
  • The reality is, that we have everything to support each other in the economy, single market, movement of goods and persons, and connectivity.
  • But the processes, to facilitate this, are going very slowly.
  • Despite progress in some areas of regional cooperation, we are still far from achieving the stated goals.
  • We are now here in Suriname, with a new chairperson and a new conference, and I reflected on how this conference, can make the difference, to start important changes.
  • Important, to us, as member states, but also as a collectivity.
  • These changes have already been mentioned in various meetings.
  • And I will name a few:
  • The fact, that we have 15 votes, yes, indeed on our own small votes, but together we have a strong voice, that we can use to promote unity, initiate dialogue, facilitate intra-regional cooperation, and joint efforts by CARICOM enterprises.
  • We offer different types, of tourism, from beach tourism to ecotourism.

    From beautiful mountains to waterfalls and rapids, from urbanized areas, to areas of indigenous and tribal living, from modern cities, to historic sites.

    As you just saw, the Caribbean has an astonishing natural beauty, to offer tourists combined with Caribbean friendliness, hospitality, and unmatched culinary diversity.


If we work together, we can create a tourism product, that will allow tourists an optimal Caribbean experience, from the East with tropical rainforests, to the West, with the most extensive reef, in our hemisphere.

  • Although the island regions, do not have abundant fertile land, they have human capital and financial capital.

With joint investment and modern technology, we can guarantee food security for the Caribbean and the Region.

We must see this also against the background, of the invasion in Ukraine.

An invasion we condemn and we call for an end to this aggression.

The Agribusiness strategy under the portfolio of Guyana is an excellent example of a region-wide initiative for, food security.

  • Security is costing our countries individually a lot. Security is a critical issue in our communities; our territorial, and maritime zones cover a vast area.

But if we work together, we can guarantee security; we can consider joint satellite monitoring, joint coastguard control, and together, tackle illegality.

  • We must promote public-private partnerships, based on Build, Operate, Transfer within Caricom.

The governments should facilitate; the private sector takes the lead, and we can thus realize cargo flights, ferry services, etc., to promote connectivity among member states.

  • Offshore Oil and Gas is new for Suriname and Guyana. The whole of Caricom can benefit, and I said it, at the Energy, Oil, and Gas summit we just held in Suriname.

    I welcome, my Caribbean sisters and brothers, to benefit from our resources and invite them to invest and contribute as contractors and sub-contractors.

All you have to do, is register your business, at our Chamber of Commerce and partner with a Surinamese company to become a local content.

  • Labor shortage is another example, making labor available not only skilled labor but non-skilled for agriculture, manufacturing, and services.
  • Also, in the field of making land available, for Agri business, for joint Caricom enterprises or collective investments, for example in Suriname’s gold industry.
  • In the area of climate change, we can achieve much more together, and access the adaptation finance we urgently need, as well as, speak with one voice, on the issue of loss and damage.

Colleagues,

  • We find ourselves at a crossroads, and this is the moment, to re-assess, refocus and recommit our endeavors, to ensure sustainable development and prosperity, for the people of the Region, ultimately aimed, at leaving no one behind.
  • But we require leadership and willingness, to go for broad cooperation.
  • To go for a creative approach.
  • To go for innovation in our approach, for new strategies.
  • To go, for private sector involvement.
  • To go, for the participation of the youth.
  • That is why we are here; perhaps we will speak of the Caricom federation in the future, maybe, we never know.
  • Look at how we shine in sports, soccer, athletics, and swimming.
  • And in Cricket, we already have a West-Indies team.
  • Let us, make a Caricom team, in all areas, to reach the top.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

  • The presence in our midst, of the Secretaries-General of the United Nations, the Organization of African, Caribbean, and Pacific States, as well as the Association of Caribbean States, is evidence of the strategic relevance, of multilateralism.
  • As small developing States, the countries of the Caribbean, are not part, of influential global discussions and
    norm-setting mechanisms, such as the G20, or international financial institutions, such as the IMF, IDB, and World Bank.
  • Yet, policies adopted by these mechanisms, impact our countries’ small and fragile economies.
  • Policies regarding de-risking and correspondent banking, blacklisting, and unrealistic classification as middle-income countries, to name a few, are a stark-reminder that we need an effective system of multilateralism.
  • A system, that not only provides an opportunity, to make statements and address issues, but a system where all countries -large and small- have a, level playing field.
  • The Caricom economies, are facing challenges in the current geopolitical environment.
  • With rising inflation expectations, we have already noticed a notable widening of credit spreads, for frontier economies.
  • Therefore, the Government of Suriname, is looking for opportunities, to attract private capital, to Caricom and is proposing the establishment of a Caricom Private Equity Fund, to support Caricom Enterprises.
  • The Caricom should facilitate Partners, to set up private equity and debt funds, in the Region, to bolster employment and growth.
  • I expect, these prominent leaders in our midst, to use their influence, to make a difference.
  • Action is required now. 
  • Our countries – as Small Island developing, and low-lying coastal States- are experiencing, the fury of changing climate patterns, now.
  • The hurricane season has just started, with the unpredictability of severe weather events for many islands.
  • Excessive rainfall in the coastal areas of Suriname and Guyana, caused massive flooding, displacement of thousands of people, and destruction of property, and livelihoods.
  • Indeed, these events serve, to underscore, the vulnerability of the Region.
  • We must advocate for a climate vulnerability index, at the global level.
  • Equally important, is access to, affordable climate finance, in support, of our mitigation and adaptation efforts.
  • We recently gathered at the 9th Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles where we met with Vice-President Kamala Harris and President Joe Biden during bilateral meetings.
  • And in that context, we welcome the Partnership to Address Energy Security, the Climate Crisis 2030 (PACC 2030) and finance, which will address energy security and the climate crisis in our region.
  • We have spoken enough – it is time for action!
  • Together stronger!

Distinguished guests,

  • I was honored and privileged, to have had, the opportunity recently, to interact with youth representatives as lead Head of Youth Development, within the Quasi Cabinet of CARICOM.
  • It was an inspiring conversation, with many insightful comments, from youth across the Region.
  • Be assured, that I will make all efforts during this regional leadership position and beyond, to champion Integrated Youth Development, as the foundation, to build anything future-driven.
  • The future of CARICOM, depends on how we, as Heads of Government, are willing, to facilitate this current generation of youth, through inclusive, bold, and creative leadership.
  • Our young people, have a unique and vital perception of matters, an inspiring drive, and motivation, to pursue determined goals, while overcoming challenges.
  • I also intend, during this Chairmanship, to advance the contours of the Caribbean Industrial Policy.
  • In that regard, I have recently established, a national working group to provide a perspective.
  • In true Caribbean Spirit, athletes of 8 Member States, participated yesterday in the 15th Annual CARICOM 10K road race under the theme: “A healthy Caribbean on A Healthy Planet.”
  • I wish to congratulate all participants and winners of the 10K.
  • I am pleased that we could compete again, after an inactive period for sporters, across the Region, and the world, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • After all, professional sporters, need these moments, to match their talents, with others, and improve their skills.
  • We must remember, that non-communicable diseases are one of the most significant health threats, to the Region.
  • Addressing the prevention and control of
    non-communicable diseases, will not succeed, unless healthy behaviors are established at a young age.
  • This means, ensuring a health-enabling environment, where sports are a gateway, to physical activity and healthy lifestyles.
  • And as a contribution from the Heads, in promoting a healthy Caribbean, I am inviting all Colleagues and Ministers for a sportive 1K walk, tomorrow morning, the fourth of July.
  • The fiftieth Anniversary of the Caribbean Community, next year, should therefore serve, as an opportunity, to reflect, on how far we have come as a community, in implementing the ideals of the first leaders in 1973.
  • Have we as a region advanced functional cooperation, and increased coordination of policies to benefit our people?
  • Were we able, to effectively facilitate, intra-regional trade, and work towards removing barriers?
  • Did we implement policies, to facilitate the free movement of persons and goods?
  • Has CARICOM served the development goals, of its members?
  • Indeed, for one of the oldest integration bodies in the Western Hemisphere, we in the Community, need to undertake this assessment.
  • In true Caribbean fashion, we can not only reflect, but also have to celebrate our many achievements.
  • Moreover, we have to include, our people in the celebrations.
  • I, therefore, look forward, to receive your proposals for a worthy commemoration, of our fiftieth Anniversary.
  • We will have the festive kick-off, during this forty-third Regular Meeting of the Conference.
  • Heads of Government, will be invited to plant a tree in the botanical garden, symbolizing sustainability in terms of:
    • the continued progress of the Community, as well as,
    • care for the planet and our health.

Colleague Heads,

Secretary-General António Guterres,

Secretary-General Barnett,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

  • As we prepare, for our deliberations, for the next two days, let us remain mindful, of the importance of solidarity and the spirit of a community, when we address the issues on our agenda.
  • After all, we should be united in our purpose, to advance sustainable development for our Region’s countries, while ensuring, that no one is left behind.
  • Thank you, I look forward to a fruitful meeting!
  • May God bless you all.

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