Prime Minister of Belize, the Hon Dean Barrow, has assumed the chairmanship of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) from January 1st, 2016.
The chairmanship of CARICOM operates on a fixed rotating schedule with the Head of Government of each Member State assuming chairmanship for a six month stint each. Mr. Barrow, whose United Democratic Party won its third successive term of office following general elections in November 2015, succeeds Prime Minister of Barbados, the Rt. Hon Freundel Stuart to the Community’s chairmanship. Mr. Stuart had been chairman from July 1st- December 31st.
In his End of Year Message, the then outgoing chairman, Prime Minister Stuart of Barbados, deemed 2015 “a year of great importance” to the Region, highlighting that 2015 had “demonstrated in no uncertain terms the value of the Caribbean regional integration project to our Caribbean Community (CARICOM), and the influence that our united front can wield in the international arena”.
Though lamenting the devastation caused by Tropical Storm Erika, Prime Minister Stuart pointed out several CARICOM achievements on the international front, namely the successes at three important conferences: COP21, Financing for Development and UN Post 2015 Development Agenda, and the election of Dominica-born Baroness Patricia Scotland as the first female Secretary General of the Commonwealth. On the regional sphere, Mr. Stuart mentioned the movement made by Member States on the implementation of the CSME Application Processing System (CAPS) , the establishment of the Caribbean Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (CCREEE) and the work of the CARICOM commisions on Human Resource Development and on reparations.
The new chairman Mr. Barrow, who will hold the Chairmanship reins from January 1st to June 30th, last held chairmanship of the Community in 2009. At the start of this current stint, Chairman Barrow articulated his vision for the Community in his New Year’s message which is available for download on CARICOM Today’s website. Though recognising the harsh economic climate still facing the Region, Mr. Barrow stated that the Community’s resolution is to “continue to strengthen our integration movement to deliver ever-increasing benefits to the people of our Community”.
To this effect, he outlined several goals which the Community will be working towards in 2016, including:
- Becoming “more efficient and effective in the conduct of [CARICOM] affairs”,
- Increasing “the pace of the reform process which includes the Community Five-Year Strategic Plan 2015-2019 “,
- Encouraging more CARICOM members to sign on to the appellate function of the Caribbean Court of Justice. So far only Barbados, Guyana, Belize and Dominica recognise the CCJ as their final court of appeal,
- Making the governance arrangements “more flexible and dynamic”, including revising the “arrangements for [the] integration movement to become more effective and relevant to the needs of our people”,
- Working towards the consolidation of the Single Market,
- Increasing efforts to combat crime “through initiatives which target those most at risk in our societies”,
- Using CARICOM’s coordinated foreign policy “to advocate at every opportunity for urgent implementation” of decisions taken on Financing for Development, the 2030 Development Goals and Climate Change.
With a clarion call for CARICOM to strive to make 2016 one to remember as “a landmark year for our integration movement”, Mr. Barrow also rightly noted:
The base factor in whatever we have achieved has been the strength of our unity. That was never more evident than in the manner in which we rallied together to attain our objectives at the three major international conferences in the past year, particularly at COP 21 in Paris.
I wish Mr. Barrow a successful tenure.
Alicia Nicholls, B.Sc., M.Sc., LL.B. is a trade and development consultant with a keen interest in sustainable development, international law and trade. You can also read more of her commentaries and follow her on Twitter @LicyLaw.