Alicia Nicholls

Within the next six months, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) will seek to jointly host the first ever African Union-CARICOM Summit. This announcement was made again by Barbados’ Prime Minister, the Hon. Mia Amor Mottley, QC, who assumed chairmanship of the 15-member grouping from January 1, 2020 under its six month rotating chairmanship system.

In her New Year’s Message as incoming chairperson, Prime Minister Mottley intimated that the summit should lay the foundation for tangible progress in  “direct air and sea access across the Atlantic, greater trade in goods and services, and more cultural exchanges between our regions.”

2019 saw renewed interest in deepening Africa-Caribbean relations, with two African leaders (President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana and President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya) making official state visits to the region. In late 2019, Prime Minister Mottley accepted on behalf of CARICOM an offer of shared office space in Nairobi from the Government of Kenya for the hosting of a joint CARICOM Mission. For many CARICOM countries, such a mission would be their first on the African continent.

Regional Integration

Barbados has lead responsibility for the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) under the CARICOM quasi-cabinet. Many regional observers hope that the invigorated leadership provided by Prime Minister Mottley will add much needed energy to the regional integration process, especially in the aftermath of the mirror image provided by the Jamaica-commissioned Golding Report.

Indeed, there appears to be renewed commitment by Barbados to the CSME under current leadership. Barbados became the first country to ratify the Protocol on Contingent Rights and will also be the first to offer other CARICOM nationals free access to public schools once certain requirements are met.

Likening the regional integration process to a relay race, Prime Minister Mottley stated that Caribbean leaders “are duty bound to continue this journey across the Community whether as a collective of the whole or in twos and threes”. However, she also sought to temper unrealistic expectations, noting that the much more resource-endowed and longer-established European Union (EU) was still working on perfecting its own regional process.

The new CARICOM Chairman outlined several priorities with regard to the regional integration process. These are: removing the obstacles to passport-free movement and facilitating movement for work where there are opportunities; advancing the process of a single domestic space for transport and communications in the region by working to provide more affordable and reliable air and sea links between our countries; to establish a single domestic rate for telecommunications and phone calls within CARICOM; and to work with the private sector and the labour movement to provide further opportunities.

Climate Change Action

Since taking office as Prime Minister of Barbados, Miss Mottley has made climate change one of her signature issues on the international stage. She noted the need “to pool the funds of the region in order to be able to finance our own development trajectory for sustainable development so that we may adapt to the new realities of the climate crisis”.  

Prime Minister Mottley took over the chairmanship from St. Lucia Prime Minister, the Hon. Allen Chastanet, whose term was July 1 – December 31, 2019. Barbados’ chairmanship will last until June 30, 2020. The last time Barbados held the chairmanship was in 2015 under then Prime Minister, the Hon. Freundel Stuart.

The new CARICOM chairman’s speech may be watched here.

Alicia Nicholls, B.Sc., M.Sc., LL.B., is an international 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.

DISCLAIMER: All views expressed herein are her personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of any institution or entity with which she may be affiliated from time to time.