UN-CARICOM discuss broad range of priority issues

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Seventh meeting between representatives of the UN and CARICOM. [UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe]

The Caribbean is a vibrant region, rich in democratic values, cultural diversity, natural resources and strong visionaries, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said this week at the opening of the Seventh UN-CARICOM General Meeting in New York.

He said over the past decade and a half, these UN-Caricom General Meetings have provided an excellent opportunity to assess progress in mutual cooperation.

“This is a special year for CARICOM – your fortieth anniversary. Through the years, CARICOM has demonstrated the strength of a united voice and a common vision in shaping the future of the region. At the United Nations, we are grateful for your leadership across the range of our work. CARICOM countries have been pioneers in raising the world's awareness on climate change and the unique challenges of Small Island Developing States. Thanks to the advocacy of CARICOM, the General Assembly focused on the importance of treating and preventing non-communicable diseases. The region also has been in the forefront of global efforts to commemorate the anniversary of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. The United Nations is proud of our partnership with CARICOM. We are committed to strengthening it even further in the years ahead.”

Secretary-General Ban stressed that the concerns of the Caribbean are the concerns of the United Nations.

“Climate change is a reality we must face. I have placed it at the top of my agenda. Even though no country is immune to climate change, the Caribbean is feeling its impact more strongly than many other parts of the world. Severe storms and rising sea levels have already taken a heavy toll on many island nations.

We must work together for sustainable development. This calls for transformative shifts in our economies and societies and this must be reflected in the Post-2015 development agenda. The world needs action that fully integrates the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainability. The imperative of this holistic approach has long been understood by the Caribbean region.”

Secretary-General Ban said he also shares the region's concern about the growing threat of transnational organized crime. He said this is a complex challenge and welcomed the ongoing discussions between CARICOM and the UN system to support the region's security strategies and complement the ongoing efforts to eradicate the scourge.

Meanwhile, CARICOM Secretary-General Irwin LaRocque told meeting that CARICOM places much importance on these meetings between the Caribbean Community; its associated institutions and the United Nations system.

He said these biennial meetings were not merely ritual encounters or polite engagements, but were vital working sessions in which discussions are of necessity – strategic, pragmatic, forward-looking and results-oriented.

“The meetings provide an excellent opportunity for regional and international technical experts who are well-informed and well-positioned to exchange views, diagnose current cooperation and to identify concrete projects in the specific priority areas which will yield results on the ground ensuring tangible benefits to the citizens of the Caribbean community.

This Seventh General Meeting takes place at a time when the world contemplates a future beyond the Global Development Compact represented by the MDG's. We meet when, fittingly, a Caribbean national, in the person of Ambassador John Ashe of Antigua and Barbuda is preparing to assume the presidency of the 68th session of the UN General Assembly and is charged with presiding over the Assembly's consideration of the post-2015 development agenda. This 68th session will be crucial in setting the stage for the launch of that agenda. We have a great interest in relation to its elaboration and our community will take an active role in the deliberations with a view to ensuring that the region's views are adequately and effectively addressed.”

According to Secretary-General Irwin LaRocque, the Caribbean Community seeks an integrated, comprehensive and flexible development agenda; building on the lessons learned from the MDGs and which is responsive to the diverse development realities with which individual countries and regions are confronted.

” One of the critical areas I which the UN and CARICO have forged an enduring and important partnership is citizens' security – an issue of paramount concern to the Caribbean Community. Such are the dimensions of security and crime security in our region that CARICOM heads of Government saw it fit to make security the Fourth Pillar of the community. CARICOM joined the global family earlier this year, under the auspices of the United Nations to adopt a landmark agreement – the Arms Trade Treaty. For us in the Caribbean, the stemming of the illegal trade in arms and in particular small arms and light weapons is of paramount importance. Such illegal trade in which the Caribbean finds itself a vulnerable transiting point is wreaking havoc in our small communities, terrorizing neighbourhoods, claiming innocent lives and compromising our economies by undermining our investment climate and socio-economic development efforts. The community is fully seized of the fact that crime in the Caribbean cannot be solved by such interventions alone. CARICOM must do its part to help itself and to this end, the region has developed a targeted strategy to address the issue. The 2013 CARICOM Crime and Security Strategy is an important weapon in the Caribbean arsenal to fight the war against crime. And I look forward to the UN's full support in its implementation, including through the long-awaited re-opening of the UN Office on drugs and crime in Barbados.”

CARICOM Secretary-General Irwin LaRocque explained that development threats come in many forms and even as the Caribbean grapples with those posed by crime, it grapples too, with the effects of a protracted global financial and economic crisis that holds many of the small developing economies in near stranglehold.

” Small economies like those of CARICOM have structural and institutional characteristics which increase their vulnerability to external events and limit their capacity for adjustment. This situation is exacerbated by onerous debt and graduation from access to concessionary development funding based on criteria such as GDP per capita which would not take into account our vulnerabilities. The resulting prognosis for CARICOM economic resilience is therefore unfavourable. Our member States are however firm in their commitment that the CARICOM Single Market and Economy is the best means to attain sustainable development in our region.”

CARICOM Secretary-General Irwin LaRocque.

This is Donn Bobb reporting.

Duration: 7’09″

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