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The formal opening of the Headquarters of the Community in this rich and diverse land is a particularly touching occasion for me personally. I had to be here. I am honoured that I have the privilege to speak to this august gathering.
It is a moment filled with nostalgia but I must resist the temptation simply to indulge in fond reminiscence.
Today we gather in Georgetown to celebrate a historic landmark in the life of the Caribbean Community – the inauguration of a permanent Headquarters Building for the CARICOM Secretariat.
The location of the Secretariat in Georgetown may be questioned in geography, but it is more than justified in terms of history and the outlook for our regional destiny. For here the Caribbean and South American mainland are joined. It is no coincidence that we received President Lula of Brazil in Suriname and have the pleasure of greeting President Ricardo Largos of Chile here in Georgetown.
It was also here in Georgetown we made the monumental decisions which fashioned the framework that have since guided our integration process.
The Georgetown Accord of 1973 reflected the concepts of visionary and courageous Leaders and the intellectual vigour of those who were entrusted with the task of translating bold ideas in to an acceptable Treaty.
Idealism, blended with pragmatic concerns, made the case to deepen regional integration irrefutable. But what seemed an option then has become an absolute imperative now. For we in the Caribbean would vanish without a trace in the waves of globalization and the tide of hegemony unless we pool together such resources as we possess and strengthen our collective will. Although we remain separate nations, the times demand that we assert our common interests with a clear, distinctive and authoritative voice.
In Retrospect
When we gathered and signed the original Treaty establishing the Caribbean Common Market some 32 years ago, we embarked on a journey to build a vehicle of sovereign nations that would widen and deepen the spirit of integration for the growth, development and prosperity of the Caribbean Peoples.
Today we can confidently say that we are providing the wider field for individual ambition, about which the Rt. Excellent Norman Manley dreamed, by creating a true integration movement which advances our common interests while enabling the realization of our individual goals and aspirations.
For a region that has evolved out of the encounter of peoples from diverse regions and cultures, integration is a natural phenomenon. We have blended East and West, North and South to create a unique Caribbean identity that is indeed the sum of many parts.
As newly Independent territories imbued with the awesome challenge of nation-building, we understood decades ago that the responsibility of managing our own affairs and shaping a Caribbean civilization, had to be pursued hand in hand with the goal of forging a regional integration process which could stand the test of time.
Our small Secretariat in Georgetown was tasked with providing the technical and administrative support to drive this process forward. We recall the days of telex machines, IBM typewriters and Xerox photocopiers.
Maintaining communication between Member States and the Secretariat was a truly onerous and time consuming task.
The 1973 Treaty of Chaguaramas provided for the creation of a Common Market and the pursuit of functional cooperation as vital elements of the integration process. We saw the movement of goods across our lands and the sharing of our talent and our treasure as a natural product of our Caribbean identity. We saw cricket – and it was even more lovely then – complemented by the work of our own Universities, as pacesetters in a process that would stretch to industry and agriculture, leavened by our rich culture and the awesome beauty of our lands.
CARICOM was able to foster the development of pan-Caribbean trade and industry and despite our small size, individually and collectively, we witnessed a remarkable growth of enterprise throughout the region.
In 1989 we recognised that the provisions of Chaguaramas had taken us thus far. New developments demanded that we adjust and reshape the integration process to more effectively address the tremendous changes that were emerging in the global arena.
It was from the seeds planted at Grand Anse that we see bearing fruit today, the advent of a Single Market.
So we inaugurate today not just a building, we celebrate a critical milestone in the journey of our Community in this the declared Year of the Single Market. Despite the recent judicial setback, we look forward with eager anticipation to the successful completion of the process by December 2005 with all member states coming fully on board.
The Challenges
Admittedly the journey has not always been smooth – there have been some rough patches and periods of prolonged turbulence. We have faced many challenges as a region over these years, both natural and man-made. However, none have broken the will or diminished our resolve to fulfill the task that history has entrusted to us.
The people of Grenada and the people of Guyana have most recently demonstrated the extraordinary capacity which is traditionally attributed to our Caribbean peoples – to be strong and courageous in the time of adversity and to be able to bounce back in the shortest possible time. As members of one family, they deserve not only our prayers by our full and continuing support.
Today, the daunting challenges that confront the Community were unknown at its inception and constitute new tests of its resilience. The emerging global economic order, driven by the twin forces of globalization and liberalisation, while presenting some opportunities, continues to threaten the very survival of our integration movement.
The Community must be seen as that vehicle through which individual and collective aspirations can best be realized. I reiterate that “we must press on with the mission of building a people’s community that not only supports the people’s yearning for good governance and embraces them with the promise and reality of enhanced security, but also provides a nurturing home from which to engage the wider world.”
Looking Ahead
Today, as we are about to move under the roof of our own CARICOM House, we see a tangible manifestation of our achievements and our commitment. This edifice embodies the spirit and the vision of the fathers and mothers of our Community who travelled those difficult early miles to lay the foundation for a Community of which we can all be justly proud.
The task of those who share the podium with me today is, therefore, to advance the work of community- building. We cannot be content simply by the erection of this structure. Many of those who will work in this building were not yet born at the time of the signing of the Treaty of Chaguaramas. But it is for them and for their children that we have persevered and created the framework on which they must continue to build.
Citizens and friends of the Caribbean, CARICOM is now the longest surviving instrument of regional integration in the world today among developing countries.
When the Single Market and Economy comes fully into being, we will represent the most advanced model of regional integration, second only to the European Union, anywhere in the world.
With the opening of this modern new Headquarters we expect to take full advantage of advanced technology, to build upon efficiencies that will be realized from the physical consolidation of the Secretariat’s office space.
But it is a signal that CARICOM, like any adult who has truly come of age, has moved into a home of its own and is geared to pursue our own agenda within a global environment where competitive efficiency outweighs considerations of size.
But life never stands still. As in nature, so in the life of our Regional Movement, we must fashion adequate and timely responses to the changing years.
We are summoned to create the institutional machinery and build the capacity which will enable us to exercise our sovereignty, individually and collectively, for improving the quality of life of the Caribbean people, which is the foundation and purpose of the Community.
A redesign of our institutional framework is a necessary pre-requisite for advancing the integration process. We must enhance the technical capacity of the Secretariat, equip it with the resources and the expert personnel to bring substantial policy and programmes to the point of decision making by the Community Organs. We have to devise new mechanisms to enable the Secretariat to implement the decisions that have been taken.
In all of this, we cannot overlook the enforcement of decisions and obedience to Community Law. I remain unrepentant in the view that we cannot perpetuate our reliance on others to interpret for us what our laws mean and our Constitutions require. We are well equipped and more than capable to dispense justice for ourselves, between our countries and among our citizenry.
That we have made such considerable strides while functioning without a permanent headquarters site, adequately tooled to allow the Secretariat to execute its mandate at its optimum, and to meet the growing demands of the deepening process of integration, is a tribute to the greatest asset of our community – the resourceful, talented and dedicated people whose highest values and commitments have been reflected in the men and women who have served the Community in the secretariat.
I salute Secretary General Carrington and his entire staff for staying the course, for their unswerving dedication to the work of the people of the Caribbean, even in the face of numerous and formidable obstacles. They have all contributed in a selfless manner as servants of the people of the Caribbean.
I thank the Government and People of Guyana for their abiding commitment to facilitating the work of the Secretariat over these years. I would like to extend special appreciation to President Jagdeo for his herculean effort in enabling us to reach this juncture – having our own Headquarters Building for the first time at last.
I am certain that the maturing of the Secretariat in this House will be a symbol of the consolidation of the integration process as we build a Caribbean civilization, fueled by a strong regional consciousness that reminds us not only who we are but, even more so, what together we can become and achieve.

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