The Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) will be meeting in Belize this week for their 27th Inter-sessional meeting. The meeting, which will be taking place February 16th-17th, will see a number of important issues on the agenda.
Chief of which will likely be the Zika outbreak currently affecting several countries across the Caribbean and which the World Health Organisation declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on 1 February 2016. Moreover, the outbreak comes during the height of the Region’s tourism season, the main industry for many Caribbean countries. No doubt besides the public health risks, a key concern will be the potential economic fall-out from any negative impact on the Region’s tourism sector as most regional economies continue to experience sluggish economic growth in the aftermath of the Great Recession.
Besides Zika, an issue which was discussed at the 26th Inter-sessional in the Bahamas last year and which remains of grave concern to the Region is international banks’ termination of correspondent banking relationships with indigenous banks in the Region due to de-risking practices. A recent World Bank survey that was published in November last year found that the Caribbean was likely the Region most affected by the loss of correspondent banking relationships. According to CARICOM Today, the Committee of Finance, which is working alongside the Caribbean Association of Banks, will prepare a strategy for the Heads of Government’s consideration during their meeting.
Climate change will also be a prominent agenda item. This will be the first inter-sessional meeting since the historic Paris Agreement was concluded at the Conference of Parties (COP) 21 in Paris late last year and the Agreement will be open for ratification from April this year. Caribbean countries and other small island developing states were instrumental in getting many of their concerns incorporated into the final text of the Agreement.
Several other issues may also be discussed as well, including the future of ACP-EU relations in light of the impending expiration of the Cotonou Partnership in 2020, relations with the Dominican Republic, security and terrorism concerns in light of reports of CARICOM nationals leaving the Region to join ISIS ranks, reparations, the still unresolved border disputes between Guyana-Venezuela and Belize-Guatemala, as well as the reform process and the way forward for the realisation of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME).
According to a press release by the Barbados Government Information Service, the Heads of Government are also expected to consider the applications for Associate Membership of CARICOM made by five territories: Curacao, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique and St. Martin. Additionally, Chilean President, Michelle Bachelet, will be a special guest at the Conference.
The Opening Ceremony of the 27th Inter-sessional Meeting will be live-streamed on the official website of CARICOM, http://www.caricom.org on Monday, February 15th. The Closing Ceremony will also be live-streamed on Wednesday, February 17th.
For further information on the upcoming 27th Inter-sessional Meeting, please see this report from CARICOM Today.
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.