CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana – Wednesday, 7 July 2021) – The Forty-Second Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) was held virtually on 5-6 July 2021. Chair of the Conference, the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Honourable Gaston Browne presided over the proceedings.
Other Members of the Conference in attendance were: Prime Minister of The Bahamas, the Rt Honourable Dr. Hubert Minnis; Prime Minister of Barbados, Honourable Mia Amor Mottley, Q.C; MP; Prime Minister of Belize, Honourable John Briceño; Prime Minister of Dominica, Honourable Roosevelt Skerrit; Prime Minister of Grenada, Dr. the Rt. Honourable Keith Mitchell; President of Guyana, His Excellency Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali; Prime Minister of Jamaica, the Most Honourable Andrew Holness; Premier of Montserrat, Honourable Easton Taylor-Farrell; Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris; Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. the Honourable Ralph Gonsalves; President of Suriname, His Excellency Chandrikapersad Santokhi; and Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago Dr. the Honourable Keith Rowley.
Saint Lucia was represented by Ambassador to the Caribbean Community Her Excellency Elma-Gene Isaac.
Associate Members in attendance were: Bermuda represented by Deputy Premier Honourable David Burt; Cayman Islands represented by Premier the Honourable G. Wayne Panton; and the Turks and Caicos Islands represented by Premier the Honourable Charles Missick. British Virgin Islands was represented by Deputy Premier, Honourable Dr. Natalio Wheatley.
Secretary-General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, immediate past Chair Dr. the Honourable Keith Rowley, Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago and Chair of Conference the Honourable Gaston Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda addressed the Opening Session.
The speakers all addressed concerns about the on-going COVID-19 Pandemic in particular the inadequate supplies of vaccines and the risk to lives and livelihoods of not being inoculated. They also expressed solidarity with the Member States which had been affected by recent natural disasters.
The Heads of Government and the Secretary-General welcomed the incoming Secretary-General Dr. Carla Barnett who assumes office on August 15, 2021.
The Secretary-General, speaking at his last Regular Meeting of the Conference, thanked the Heads of Government for their support during his tenure and expressed his pride at being allowed to serve the Community.
Both Heads of Government praised the Secretary-General for his achievements during his tenure and spoke highly of his performance particularly during the difficult time which the Region has been experiencing.
All the Statements are available at www.caricom.org.
THE POLITICAL SITUATION IN HAITI
Heads of Government received a report on the situation in Haiti from the Expert Group which they established at the 32nd Intersessional Meeting in February 2021 and agreed to issue the attached statement.
Heads of Government received an update on the situation in St Vincent and the Grenadines in the aftermath of the eruption of the La Soufrière volcano and the recent flooding in Guyana and Suriname. They also received a report from the countries affected by the recent passage of Hurricane Elsa, in particular Barbados, Jamaica, Saint Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Heads of Government expressed their solidarity with the affected states.
They reiterated that the need for strengthening resilience was a central theme for Member States in view of the Region’s complex multi-hazard environment.
Heads of Government noted that the 2021 hurricane season has already commenced with an expected eighteen named storms of which eight are forecast to become hurricanes and four major hurricanes.
Heads of Government recognised the critical role that regional institutions have played and continue to play in the response to regional emergency events. In that regard they commended the sterling work of the Seismic Research Centre of The University of the West Indies (The UWI) in providing timely and accurate scientific advice to the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines with respect to the eruption of the La Soufrière volcano.
Heads of Government expressed appreciation to the Region’s development partners for the financial and technical support which continues to be provided to the Regional Response Mechanism led by the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) in support of Member States.
Heads of Government agreed to lobby development partners for continued support in view of the ongoing response and the requirements for recovery going forward.
Heads of Government considered a range of issues emanating from a report by the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) on the situation with respect to the COVID-19 virus. The most critical of these was the continuing need for equitable access to vaccines as well as how to treat with the emerging COVID variants.
They expressed their determination for the Region to achieve herd immunity of 80 per cent coverage before the end of 2021 and, to this end, agreed to redouble their efforts to acquire adequate supplies of vaccines.
Heads of Government expressed appreciation to the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. the Honourable Keith Rowley, CARPHA, and the CARICOM Secretariat for the work undertaken to acquire vaccines.
Heads of Government further expressed appreciation to the Governments of Third States, Regional Organisations and the community of International Development Partners (IDPs) for their financial support and donations of vaccines to the Caribbean Community.
Heads of Government thanked the United States of America for its offer of vaccines and looked forward to a speedy conclusion to the negotiations for their delivery.
Heads of Government agreed that equity of access to COVID-19 vaccines is still of utmost importance to CARICOM Member States and as such efforts to achieve same should be pursued with PAHO/WHO, Third States, and the Facilitation Council for the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator to address this matter.
Heads of Government mandated the CARICOM Secretariat to continue to collaborate with CARPHA, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), regional nursing, medical and allied health professional bodies and institutions, to identify strategies and policy guidelines to address vaccine hesitancy, using an evidence-based approach.
Heads of Government urged that employees co-operate with employers to ensure a safe working environment either through vaccination or regular testing.
Heads of Government emphasised the importance of citizens being inoculated so that Member States could achieve herd immunity, recognising that no one is safe until everyone is safe.
They also mandated the CARICOM Secretariat to mobilize resources to support the implementation of communication and other initiatives to address vaccine hesitancy at the regional and national levels.
Heads of Government recognised that Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) is a silently expanding global threat with potentially devastating health, social and economic impacts for the Region.
Heads of Government noted that AMR occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites change over time making manageable infections harder to treat with existing medicines, therefore increasing the risk of disease spreads, severe illness and death.
Heads of Government also recognised that the economic impact of uncontrolled AMR would be catastrophic as it places sustainable food production and safety at risk. They further noted that environmental conditions affect disease transmission and that AMR and climate change are inextricably linked and can severely impact the tourism and travel sector.
In response to the challenge, Heads of Government agreed to establish multi-sectoral AMR national action plans in line with the One Health approach including integrated AMR surveillance systems for the human, animal, plant and environmental sectors.
Heads of Government recognised that the implementation of the CSME requires the commitment of each Member State.
They also recognised the importance of the internal mechanisms including strengthened governance and accountability structures in Member States for effective implementation.
Heads of Government agreed that all Member States would commit to enhanced public education programmes to better inform stakeholders of the benefits of the CSME.
Heads of Government issued a Declaration on the CSME which is attached.
CARICOM DEVELOPMENT FUND (CDF)
Heads of Government welcomed the appointment of Mr. Wendell Samuel of St Vincent and the Grenadines as Chair of the CARICOM Development Fund (CDF).
Heads of Government, recognising the need to re-open economies while balancing the health and economic livelihood of Community Nationals, agreed that new protocols for health, safety, visitor management and sanitization measures were of utmost importance in encouraging the resuscitation of the sector.
Heads of Government received the first report on a Draft Joint Tourism Policy for CARICOM: COVID-19 Emergency Plan for the period Q3 2021 to Q4 2022 prepared by the Interim Tourism Working Group (ITWG) which they established earlier this year.
They endorsed the recommendations of the Group with respect to building the COVID-19 Health Safety Risk Resilience and enhancing CARICOM Destination Capacity among others.
Heads of Government agreed to consider proposals to reduce taxes on intra-regional travel for a pilot period of six months.
Heads of Government agreed to consider the use of a Vaccination Passport for vaccinated persons travelling by air and sea, supported by a Digital Vaccination Database, possibly based on the Barbados model in the first instance.
Heads of Government also agreed to consider proposals to create a regional travel bubble for a pilot period of six months taking account of previous lessons learnt.
Heads of Government further agreed on the need for further consultation on the development of a harmonised Policy for cruise ships covering both vaccinated and unvaccinated persons.
In this regard, Heads of Government mandated the CARICOM Secretariat, in collaboration with CARPHA and other relevant regional security agencies to convene a high-level meeting with cruise lines to agree on the minimum health and safety requirement for the resumption of cruise sailing in the Caribbean.
Heads of Government commended the work of the ITWG comprising representatives from the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA), the CARICOM Secretariat, the Organisation of the Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Commission and the Governments of The Bahamas, Jamaica, and Saint Lucia.
FOOD PRODUCTION AND FOOD SECURITY
Heads of Government considered an update from the Lead Head of Government responsible for Agriculture; Agricultural Diversification and Food Security in the CARICOM Quasi Cabinet, His Excellency Mohamed Irfaan Ali, President of Guyana on the work of the Special Ministerial Taskforce (MTF) on Food Production and Food Security established at the Thirty-Second Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government.
Heads of Government welcomed the actions so far taken to advance the CARICOM agri-food systems agenda, including agreement by the Taskforce on terms of reference, an implementation plan, and on priority commodities for heightened investment by the regional private sector.
In that regard, Heads of Government welcomed the recent engagement of the Prime Ministerial Sub-Committee on the CARICOM Single Market and Economy with the Special Ministerial Taskforce and the CARICOM Private Sector Organisation Inc. (CPSO), and agreed that priority attention be accorded to the determination of the quantum of investment required and the attendant implementation timelines.
Heads of Government also received an initial presentation on transport and logistics aspects and agreed that priority attention be given to proposals to incentivise private sector partnership in addressing transport and logistics requirements for implementation of the agri-food systems agenda and to inviting expressions of interest in this regard.
SINGLE ICT SPACE – ROAMING CHARGES
Heads of Government welcomed the Report on the outcome of the initial engagement with the two principal telecommunications providers in the Region on the issue of the elimination of roaming charges in the Region.
Heads of Government endorsed the Governance Framework and the composition of the Negotiation Team led by Mr. Selby Wilson of the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) and also endorsed the projected timelines and action proposed in relation to the negotiations.
TAX TRANSPARENCY, BLACKLISTING AND DE-RISKING
Heads of Government stressed that the blacklisting and de-risking phenomena remain as serious threats to the economic security of CARICOM Member States.
Heads of Government acknowledged the excessive economic pressure exerted on CARICOM States by the European Union through the continuous inclusion of several Member States on blacklists with respect to non-cooperative tax jurisdictions and High Risk Third Countries with Strategic Anti-Money Laundering / Countering Financing of Terrorism (AML/ CFT) Deficiencies.
Heads of Government considered issues concerning the recently announced decision by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) for a minimum global corporate tax rate and agreed to meet in special session before the end of July to discuss this matter.
Heads of Government welcomed the efforts of the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) to facilitate a more transparent, inclusive and mutually beneficial relationship through dialogue and consultation within the framework of the Cotonou Partnership Agreement which links members of the OACPS to the EU.
Heads of Government while recognising that the US Anti-Money Laundering Law (AMLA) 2020, enacted on 1 January 2021, presents a more structured risk-based approach to the conduct of correspondent banking relations, noted that it can potentially worsen the regulatory landscape for CARICOM banks.
Heads of Government further agreed to continue efforts to strengthen their AML-CFT frameworks and will pursue a more effective engagement with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF)/Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) and other standard setting bodies towards this end.
ENGAGEMENT WITH PRIVATE SECTOR, LABOUR AND CIVIL SOCIETY
Heads of Government engaged with representatives of the CARICOM Private Sector Organisation and the Caribbean Policy Development Centre (CPDC) on behalf of civil society.
Heads of Government noted the presentations of the two organisations and the issues raised in their statements including the impact of and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Heads of Government urged them as leaders in civil society to assist in the drive for the Region’s citizens to be inoculated against the COVID-19 virus for the Community to achieve herd immunity.
CRIME AND SECURITY
Heads of Government received a confidential security brief from the CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS). They expressed concern at the new challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
REVIVAL OF REGIONAL AIR TRANSPORT POST-COVID
Heads of Government noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has devastated the tourism sector and regional air transport.
They mandated the Secretariat to compile a list of fees and taxes which are applicable at the Region’s airports and agreed to the convening of a Special Meeting of the Conference during the week of 12 July 2021 for urgent discussions on the matter of travel taxes.
Heads of Government also agreed to request the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) to provide technical support for this effort.
Heads of Government received an update on the progress of Guatemala’s Territorial, Insular and Maritime Claim (Guatemala/Belize) at the International Court of Justice.
They expressed concern that the undertaking by both countries and the Organization of American States (OAS) to engage in the design and development of a mechanism of co-operation for the Sarstoon River remains outstanding and urged both countries and the OAS to reinvigorate their efforts to this end.
Heads of Government also urged Belize, Guatemala and the OAS to continue implementing fully the existing Confidence Building Measures. They expressed support for the crucial role of the OAS in the process aimed at resolving the dispute, arising from Guatemala’s claims on Belize; and further called on the international community to continue supporting the OAS Office in the Adjacency Zone.
Heads of Government reaffirmed their unwavering support for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and security of Belize.
Heads of Government received an update on the most recent developments in the controversy between the Cooperative Republic of Guyana and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
They noted that Guyana had begun to prepare its Memorial for submission on 8 March 2022 in accordance with the schedule set by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to hear the case on the merits of Guyana’s application concerning the validity of the Arbitral Award of 1899 and the related question of the definitive settlement of the land boundary between the two countries.
Heads of Government reiterated their full support for the ongoing judicial process that is intended to bring a peaceful and definitive end to the long-standing controversy between the two countries and urged Venezuela to participate in the process.
Heads of Government reaffirmed their firm and unwavering support for the maintenance and preservation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Guyana.
UPDATE ON COMMISSION OF INQUIRY IN THE BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS
Heads of Government reiterated support for the Government and People of the British Virgin Islands and agreed to issue the attached statement.
INSTRUMENTS FOR ADOPTION AND SIGNATURE
Recalling the decision taken at its Eighteenth Special Meeting to amend the definition of CARICOM national in Article 32(5) (ii) of the Revised Treaty to make it clear that paragraph 5(ii) applied to Montserrat only, Heads of Government adopted the Protocol to amend Article 32 of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas establishing the Caribbean Community including the CARICOM Single Market and Economy.
Antigua and Barbuda and Montserrat signed the Protocol.
CARIBBEAN REGIONAL POST-COTONOU DEVELOPMENT COOPERATION PROGRAMMING
Heads of Government endorsed the priorities for Caribbean Regional Post-Cotonou Programming, identified by the Council of Ministers of CARIFORUM.
Heads of Government agreed to expand the priorities to include Transportation and Health.
Heads of Government also agreed that CARIFORUM internal consultations and dialogue between CARIFORUM and the European Union (EU) on a Caribbean Multi-Annual Programme, Post-Cotonou, should be intensified.
Heads of Government further agreed that CARIFORUM should negotiate for continued access to bilateral grant resources through national Multi-Annual Indicative Programme, based on vulnerability, for those CARIFORUM States being denied access to bilateral grant resources.
SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE COMMONWEALTH
Heads of Government noted the current situation regarding the renewal of the Right Honourable Patricia Scotland, Q.C., for a second term as Secretary-General of the Commonwealth.
Heads of Government also noted that the Secretary-General has been viewed as a champion of developing countries and of the interests of small states during her tenure.
Heads of Government expressed their broad support for the renewal of the term of office of the Secretary-General.
SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE CARIBBEAN COMMUNITY
Heads of Government expressed their deep appreciation to the outgoing Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque. They lauded his commitment and his hard work to advance the regional agenda despite the challenging circumstances during his tenure. They expressed the hope that his knowledge and experience would continue to be available to the Community and they wished him well in his future endeavours.
Heads of Government welcomed the imminent succession to the post by Dr. Carla Barnett on August 15 and looked forward to working with her in continuing the quest for the sustainable development of the Community.
DATE OF THE 33RD INTER-SESSIONAL MEETING OF THE CONFERENCE
The 33rd Intersessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government is proposed to be held in Belize on 23-24 February 2022.
Source: CARICOM Secretariat