Caricom Heads of Government recently signalled their endorsement of the position proposed by Guyana on promoting the preservation of forests and on carbon credit for the region.
And while placing emphasis on the linkages between climate change and renewable energy, they stressed the importance of significant reductions in emissions and the need for adequate resources to assist the most vulnerable developing countries, particularly Caricom member states, according to a communiqué issued at the conclusion of the Twentieth Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of Caricom held in Belize City, Belize from March 12-13.
The emphasis on the importance of standing forests is crucial to Guyana in particular and President Bharrat Jagdeo, who attended the conference, has been campaigning for this country’s forests to be recognized and compensated for the climate services they provide.
Prime Minister of Belize Dean Barrow, who is also Caricom Chairman, and Secretary-General Edwin Carrington both addressed the opening session of the conference.
The Heads of Government also committed their countries to playing a more active and visible role in the negotiation process in the build-up to the Fifteenth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to be held in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December 2009.
They welcomed the pivotal role of the Community in the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) chaired by Grenada. In that regard, the communiqué noted, they agreed on the need for member states to make full use of this strategic positioning to ensure that the community’s priorities are part of the agreed global policy on climate change which emerges from Copenhagen.
And the Heads welcomed the role played by the governments of the United Kingdom, through the DFID (Department for International Development) and Italy as well as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in supporting the work of the Caricom Task Force on Climate Change and Development and the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC).
Heads of Government agreed that agriculture would be a focus of more detailed discussion at their next meeting to be held in July in Guyana. In the meantime, they also agreed that while the region is focused on the current financial problems they would continue to direct attention to the transformation of regional agriculture and to food security. They also received and supported a proposal from the Director-General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) for the convening of a World Summit on Food Security from November 14-16.
Heads of Government noted that the presentation by the Director-General had highlighted the negative impact of the spiralling world food prices and of hunger, which among other things, led in 2008 to riots in 22 countries and grave food crises in 32 countries which currently require emergency assistance.
The objectives of the summit would be to establish policies to eradicate hunger, to develop a more coherent and efficient system of governance with regard to world food security, to provide specific support for farmers in both developed and developing countries, to mobilise resources, and to adopt an early warning mechanism to avert future world food crises, the communiqué noted.
Meanwhile, the Heads of Government called for full participation in the summit from the countries participating in the Fifth Summit of the Americas scheduled to take place from April 17-19 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Port of Spain, Trinidad.
A presentation was made to the Heads of Government on Information and Communica-tions Technology for Development (ICT4D) by the Prime Minister of Grenada, the lead Head of Government with responsibility for Science and Technology.
National ICT committees
The Heads of Government accepted the need for member states to re-examine the management and coordination of the various components of ICT4D at the national level and in this regard they agreed to establish national committees to guide and inform these reviews.
They also agreed that their governments would support the convening of a meeting of ministers responsible for ICT in May 2009 and the draft Regional ICT Policy and Action Plan would be presented there for consideration.
A status report on the work of the Caricom Commission on Youth Development (CCYD) was presented to the Heads of Government who noted the progress made toward the implementation of its objectives. They also expressed their pleasure at the involvement of youth across the region in a series of discussions and focus group meetings that generated invaluable information and insights into their perceptions, concerns and aspirations, the communiqué stated.
Meanwhile, the Heads of Government called for the fullest support of the CCYD by member states and other stakeholders in the implementation of its work plan which would ensure a timely delivery of its report. They supported too the recommendation for a special engagement of youth with Heads of Government.
Regional crime forum
A report on developments with respect to the crime and security agenda was received by the Heads of Government and it included the implementation of the Caricom Travel Card (CARIPASS), progress on the implementation of the ballistic information network, reactivation of the Regional Justice Protection Programme and co-operation between Caricom and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
Heads of Government, the communiqué said, supported a recommendation for holding a regional conference on Crime and Security in May 2009 as well as the re-establishment of the UNODC office in Caricom.
Meanwhile, the notification that Belize and Dominica would seek to introduce the necessary legislative instruments to give effect to the appellate jurisdiction of the Caribbean Court of Justice was welcomed by the Heads of Government.
And in the realm of external trade negotiation, the Heads of Government reaffirmed the mandate given to the Caricom Secretary-General to coordinate implementation of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) among member states while endorsing establishment of the unit to promote EPA implementation. They confirmed also that the assistance of the unit was available to all Caribbean Forum of African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) states (Cariforum) signatory to the EPA.
The Heads also exchanged views with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Dominican Republic, who represented his President, Leonel Fernandez, on issues relating to the implementation of the EPA and on his country’s relations with the Caribbean Community. The Heads of Government agreed that discussions with the Dominican Republic should be continued with the objective of arriving at a consensus on the designation of the Cariforum co-ordinator under the EPA.
And the community’s commitment was reaffirmed to the early commencement of negotiations for a Trade and Development Agreement with Canada. In that regard, the Heads of Government approved the Caricom Negotiating Brief to be used as the basis for the commencement of negotiations of the agreement with the understanding that the recommendations constitute initial negotiating mandates which Caricom may have to re-examine in the context of the continuing global financial and economic situation.
The Heads of Government accepted the proposal for a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the margins of the Fifth Summit of the Americas, the communiqué added.
Trinidad and Tobago made a presentation on the plans for hosting the Fifth Summit of the Americas to be held from April 17-19 and Heads of Government noted that this event was being hosted on behalf of the community. They then committed to attend and to participate fully in the summit and to help in ensuring that the event was a major success.
The Heads of Government received an update on the relations between Guyana and Venezuela and in particular the efforts between the two sides to identify a new Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General to advance the Good Offices Process. They underscored the need for that post to be filled at the earliest possible time.
Heads of Government further reaffirmed their “unequivocal support for the safeguarding of Guyana’s territorial integrity and sovereignty and its right to develop its resources in the entirety of its territory,” the communiqué said.
The Heads of Government also received a report on the status of relations between Belize and Guatemala. They expressed their satisfaction on the successful negotiation and signing of the Special Agreement by both governments to refer the territorial dispute to the International Court of Justice for final settlement, subject to the approval of their citizens in national referenda.
In this context, the Heads of Government called on the international community, particularly the “Group of Friends”, to support and assist the process both politically and financially, and they reaffirmed their unequivocal support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Belize.
The Heads of Government also underscored the need to continue funding the operations of the Office of the Organisation of American States, located on the Adjacency Zone, that has successfully supported the efforts of both governments in maintaining peace and security and in reducing tensions along the border communities in both countries, the communiqué concluded.