Sir Edwin Wilberforce Carrington who stepped down as Secretary-General of CARICOM last December after 18 years at the helm of the 15-nation grouping was conferred with the Order of the Caribbean Community at the opening ceremony of the 32nd regular meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government on Thursday in Basseterre, St. Kitts and Nevis.
In the citation presented to the longest serving Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community, several lasting legacies were credited to his tenure.
Among those, according to a release from the CARICOM Secretariat at Turkeyen, were the Caribbean Vocational Qualifications (CVQ); the CARICOM Passport; the Pan Caribbean Partnership Against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP); the restructuring of CARIFESTA; the Port-of-Spain Declaration: Unifying to Fight the NCDs; and the Nassau Declaration: The Health of the Region is the Wealth of the Region.
The citation stated also that his tenure is associated with many initiatives and successes included in the ‘Time for Action’ report. In addition to the revision of the Treaty of Chaguaramas, there have been the establishment of the Caribbean Court of Justice; the Caribbean Single Market; the Caribbean Development Fund; the CARICOM Regional Negotiating Machinery (now the Office of Trade Negotiations); the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre; the Caribbean Regional Organization for Standards and Quality; the Implementation Agency for Crime and Security; the CARICOM Competition Commission; and the Caribbean Regional Institute of Translation and Information.
“All these, among others, have contributed in no small measure to spreading the face of the Community and sustaining the regional integration functions across various areas of benefit to the Caribbean people,” the citation read.
Carrington, a national of Trinidad and Tobago, succeeded Jamaican Roderick Rainford as the sixth Secretary-General of the Community.
His distinguished career in Diplomacy, Development and Regionalism saw him serve as Deputy Secretary-General (1976-1985), and immediately thereafter, 1985-1990, as Secretary-General of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) – the only Caribbean national to have held that position to date.
In acknowledgement of his outstanding service, Carrington Hall at the ACP Secretariat (Brussels) is named in his honour.
According to the citation also, Carrington “attributes much of the reason for his meteoric rise in the international arena to his mentors, William Demas, the quintessential regionalist, and Sir Alister McIntyre, his economic professor, both former Secretaries-General..”
He learned from them “invaluable lessons of manoeuvring the choppy waters of international negotiations and weathering the stormy conditions of international politics,” the citation said.
During Carrington’s distinguished service to the region he has been awarded national honours from various CARICOM governments.
He is the last recipient of the Trinity Cross, the then highest honour of Trinidad and Tobago, as well as its second highest, the Chaconia Medal. He holds the Companion of Honour of Barbados; Order of Distinction of Belize; the Duarte, Sanchez Y Mella Gran Cruz De Plata Decoration of the Dominican Republic; the Cacique Crown of Honour of Guyana; the Order of Jamaica; the Grand Master in the Order of the Yellow Star, the highest award of Suriname; the Commander of Number of the Order of Civil Merit of the Kingdom of Spain; and the Order of Merit, Commander Class of Italy.
Hailed as an eminent scholar, consummate diplomat, outstanding CEO and man of public affairs, Carrington during his tenure passionately pursued the expansion of the Community’s network of which examples include: the Association of Caribbean States; relationships with the Central American Integration System; and the intensification of relations with the US, Canada, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Mexico, Australia, Japan and the UK, among others.
In this regard, he also piloted the Community’s sustainable relationship with Cuba. Equally important was the passion with which he presided over Suriname and Haiti becoming full members of the Caribbean Community, as well as the incorporation of CARIFORUM into the structure of CARICOM, thereby coalescing creatively, his dual status as Secretary-General of CARICOM and CARIFORUM.
Moreover, the citation noted, his efforts at embracing the wider Caribbean were also manifested in the increasing inclusion of the newly autonomous States of the Netherlands Antilles: Aruba, Curacao, and more recently, Saint Maarten, as special members of the Community which are now engaged in functional cooperation arrangements and which participate actively in the Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD).
He also championed the consolidation of relationships with the UN system through an institutionalized CARICOM-UN Cooperation Forum.
Most of all, the citation added, expanding formal arrangements between CARICOM and Third States have resulted in a current roll call of 23 plenipotentiary ambassadorial accreditations to CARICOM. And this does not include representation from CARICOM Member States.
Quite early in his first term as Secretary-General, at the 14th Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government in The Bahamas, Carrington with notable foresight had stated categorically that “a community, no matter how well structured, will not be able to respond adequately to the aspirations of its people – certainly not West Indian people – if it does not cater to their active and full participation”.
The Charter of Civil Society, since translated into Dutch and French, was driven by his beliefs and so were the attempts to sustain the Assembly of Caribbean Community Parliamentarians (ACCP).
Throughout his long and distinguished career, Sir Edwin has been married to one woman, his wife Lady Patricia,” whose role in his outstanding achievements was duly acknowledged, the citation added.