Today marks the 48th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty Establishing the Caribbean Community. This year also marks twenty years since the adoption of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, Establishing the Caribbean Community Including the CARICOM Single Market and Economy.
In the decades that have ensued since July 4, 1973, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has grown in several ways. Its membership has multiplied from the original four – Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago – to now fifteen Member States and five Associate Members. Consequently, the combined population of the Community has increased several fold, from less than five million in 1973 to almost twenty million today, albeit still relatively small by most measures.
As small as we are, we harbour a rich diversity: ethnocultural, demographic, linguistic, socio-economic, political and legal. Not surprisingly, therefore, the expansion of CARICOM has posed additional challenges to the integration process even as it has presented new opportunities. The integration process is, of necessity, a work-in-progress, marked by imperfections but always aspiring to a stronger community of sovereign states. The Community remains buoyed by the political commitment of Member States to make it work, and indeed, by significant achievements, much of which are often unacknowledged.
One of those achievements is being witnessed amidst the ongoing Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. Despite being the region worst affected economically by the pandemic, CARICOM has fared better in managing its impacts than many nations more amply endowed in terms of economic and human resources. The incidence of cases and deaths in the Community, for instance, is well below hemispheric averages. This is, of course, no reason for complacency.
We are a Community committed to the rule of law, democratic values, and the promotion and protection of human rights. Nationals of the Community have rights that can be legally protected and enforced through the Caribbean Court of Justice.
Guyana is a founding member of CARICOM. It hosts the seat of the Community’s headquarters in Georgetown. CARICOM is Guyana’s third largest trading partner and possesses the potential to become an even larger market for our exports.
The Community is an important bulwark in the preservation and maintenance of Guyana’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. We are indebted to CARICOM for its unstinting support in this regard.
Guyana currently holds lead responsibility for agriculture within the Community. We have embarked on a process to transform the regional agri-food sector in order to enhance food and nutrition security.
Guyana joins with the rest of the Community in observing CARICOM Day today, at a time when the Secretariat of the Community is undergoing a process of transition. It is ready to welcome Dr Carla Barnett of Belize as the first woman and the first person from a continental CARICOM country to be Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community. I pledge Guyana’s strong support for the success of her tenure.
I also take this opportunity to salute the incumbent Secretary-General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, who has led the Organisation with a wise head and a steady hand. We applaud his sterling contributions to regional integration and wish him success in the future.
Guyana’s commitment to CARICOM remains strong and unwavering. Guyana is prepared to play its part in the transformation of our Community for the benefit of its peoples.
May CARICOM grow ever stronger! I AM CARICOM!