End of Year Message from the Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Dr Carla N. Barnett

The content originally appeared on: The Barnacle News

This has been a landmark year for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), as we marked the 50th Anniversary of the signing of the original Treaty of Chaguaramas with festivities across the Region. The occasion allowed us to reflect on our accomplishments, and recommit to the vision of the CARICOM’s founders. The past 50 years have taught us that with collective action we can achieve significantly more. With one voice we decried the devastating wars that have precipitated humanitarian crises and signalled our support for the adherence to the fundamental principles of international law, respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity, most recently in the Guyana-Venezuela border controversy. We continued our strident advocacy for international support to help return our sister Member State, Haiti, to peace and stability, and for support to the War on Guns which is negatively impacting security across our Region. CARICOM Member States made progress on programmes and policies agreed by Heads of Government, to positively impact the lives of the people of our Region. We made commendable progress on the 25% by 2025 initiative to reduce the Region’s food import bill, thereby taking us a step further towards the attainment of food security in our Region. Purposeful engagements with regional and international partners, and forums such as our flagship event, the Caribbean Week of Agriculture, allowed for meaningful interaction with the private sector and other stakeholders. Our advocacy for decisive action to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change continued throughout the year, including at COP28 where we emphasised the vulnerabilities of our Region, the need to operationalise the Loss and Damage Fund, and the special case for acknowledgement of the extreme vulnerability of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and countries with low-lying coastal communities who do not contribute significantly to the cause of climate change but bear the greatest burden.  We welcome the call to Parties for a just transition, to renewable energy and reduced methane emissions, but this does not go far enough. The transition must be wider and it requires much greater urgency of action by the major emitters in order to keep 1.5 alive. Peaking emissions before 2025 and timelines for elimination of fossil fuel subsidies, starting now, are needed to safeguard the 1.5 global warming temperature limit. We continued to advance international partnerships and mechanisms to protect and promote the Region’s socio-economic interestsDeliberate efforts were made, such as through the regional Youth Forum held in Jamaica in November, to include the perspectives and participation of our young people, whose input is critical to the sustainability of our efforts. As we enter 2024, the Secretariat will continue to diligently administer the Community’s priorities of deepening economic integration and trade, strengthening foreign policy coordination and community relations and human and social development, sustainable development, and regional security. In particular, we are focused on efforts to implement the free movement of all CARICOM nationals within the Community by March 2024 as determined by Heads of Government.  I extend sincere thanks to Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community, their Ministers and senior officials, for their commitment to regional integration and the implementation of programmes and policies to improve the lives of the people of the Region.  Special thanks also to our international partners, the private sector, labour organisations, and to the civil society groups which have responded so positively to the Secretariat’s efforts towards more structured engagement.  Through it all, the staff of the CARICOM Secretariat have been propelling the initiatives crafted to improve the quality of lives of our people. My heartfelt appreciation to all. Underpinning all we do is a deep desire for a “Community for all”, that is safe, increasingly prosperous and where our men, women and young people will flourish for generations to come. I invite your continued participation in the process to advance this goal. I wish for one and all a happy and safe end to this year, and peace and prosperity for 2024.