Caricom heads of Government discussed a range of issues durig their meetings March 1 to 2 and came to agreements in key areas such as handling of the coronavirus (COVID-19 pandemic, Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME), food and nutrition security.
Other areas discussed were engagement with the private sector, Haiti, security and COP-26 Follow-up.
With regard to COVID-19, Heads of Government acknowledged continued comprehensive response to COVID-19 by the Caribbean Public Health Agency’s (CARPHA), the CARICOM Secretariat’s and the Pan-American Health Organisation’s.
Noting the challenges in achieving desired levels of vaccination, leaders agreed to mount a regional campaign to combat the disinformation that encourages vaccine hesitancy and to explore a regional strategy for manufacturing vaccines in the Region.
They agreed to continue supporting the multi-sectoral and inter-sectoral regional public health response that has been successfully led by CARPHA and supported by the Regional Security System (RSS) and other Institutions.
They agreed that public health measures including wearing masks, testing, isolation and quarantine and supported CARPHA’s recommendations for safe and sustainable air and sea travel were necessary.
In the area of CSME, they endorsed the Action Plan for an Effective CSME and proposals for immediate action involving the Organs of the Community, Cabinets and Ministries of Member States, stakeholders, particularly the private sector, and the CARICOM Secretariat to hasten implementation.
The Protocol to Amend the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas Establishing the Caribbean Community including the CARICOM Single Market and Economy to allow Enhanced Cooperation among member states and to address Related Issues was adopted and opened for signature.
They agreed that Suriname would assume the portfolio of Industrial Policy in the CARICOM Quasi-cabinet of Heads of Government.
Heads of Government also agreed to review the governance systems within the Community to facilitate more effective decision-making and to ensure follow-up on the Community agenda.
They requested that urgent attention development of the energy sector, including the CARICOM Energy Policy (both in respect of fossil fuels and renewables) as well as to address the issue of local content.
They mandated the Secretariat to undertake further work on identifying ten (10) major non-food items imported into the Region for which there is production capacity and potential and significant demand considering that these could constitute priority products for investment and trade within the Community
A major challenge in the area of food security was reduction of the region’s food import bill by 25 per cent by 2025 and the need for increased financial support, including though national budgets. In that regard, leaders committed to addressing the investment required and timelines to staging in Guyana of an Agricultural Investment Conference on May 19 to 21.
The Ministerial Task Force (MTF) on Food Production and Food Security, Dr Mohammed Irfaan Ali, President of Guyana, Lead Head of Government in the CARICOM Quasi Cabinet for Agriculture, were congratulated for the work completed in advancing the CARICOM Agri-Food Systems Agenda.
Guyana offered 25 000 acres of land to facilitate corn and soya production as well as to train 30 people in the construction of shade houses aimed at increasing agricultural productivity and output.
Suriname also offered land for agricultural production.
Additionally. leaders agreed to intensify efforts to remove all Non-Tariff Barriers to intra-regional trade.
Heads of Government agreed to support the development of a regional Crime Guns Intelligence Unit which would function as an early warning system and a support mechanism for national firearms investigations.
Heads of Government also agreed that there was urgent need for both intra-regional and international cooperation to address effectively maritime and cyber threats.
Heads of Government agreed that the Caribbean Automated Biometric Identification System (CABIS) was necessary, especially as the Region moved toward full implementation of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), in support of the free movement of CARICOM citizens and residents.
Hait’s Prime Minister D Ariel Henry made a presentation who requested assistance in facilitating dialogue, addressing insecurity, building democracy, staging the elections, training the police, and assisting the investigation into the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.
During the discussion on COP26, leaders expressed concern that the overall COP26 package did not adequately address the pressing and urgent needs of Small Island and low-lying coastal Developing States (SIDS), in confronting the accelerating impacts of climate change and in meeting the requirements for climate resilience and adaptation.
They reiterated their urgent call for a systematic global response to provide SIDS with adequate and predictable financial support to address loss and damage. They further noted that the decisions were largely focused on process, so were unlikely to go far enough to keep 1.5 C alive.