State Minister for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator the Hon. Marlene Malahoo Forte, says that civil society has an important role to play in advancing the process of integration within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
She was speaking at the European Union (EU)-funded CARICOM Civil Society Project National Consultation, jointly hosted by the Ministry, the CARICOM Secretariat and the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) organisation yesterday (September 21), at the Alhambra Inn in St. Andrew.
Senator Malahoo Forte noted that engagement with civil society on key issues has long been on the agenda of regional heads, pointing to their recognition of the importance of this pursuit.
“The signing of the CARICOM Charter of Civil Society in 1997 was a significant milestone in this regard. We have never lost sight of the need to fully engage civil society in the evolution of the Caribbean Community regional agenda. You are critical link with all the various sectors of society and you bring a perspective that is unique (and) it will provide a reality check for those of us in the political directorate,” the State Minister stated.
State Minister for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator the Hon. Marlene Malahoo Forte (right), converses with Head, Trade Agreements Coordination Unit, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, David Prendergast, during Tuesday’s (Sept. 21) CARICOM Civil Society Project National Consultation, jointly staged by the Ministry, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat, and Friedrich Evert Stiftung (FES), at the Alhambra Inn in St. Andrew.
She emphasised the importance of the national consultation, in this regard, as well as the need for a common agenda on issues affecting this group.
Alluding to a meeting of CARICOM heads and civil society stakeholder groups in Guyana in July 2002, the State Minister said the theme for that forum: ‘Forward Together’, remains relevant, as the “traditional way of doing things” has not always yielded significant results in terms of providing civil society stakeholders with a voice to air issues.
“How do we move forward together if we don’t improve the quality of our engagement. how do we move forward together if we don’t sit with you and hear what it is that concerns you.how do we move forward together, meaningfully if you don’t understand that the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) and the Caribbean Community, they are not something that is separate and apart from you, but it is all of us together that comprise it?” she questioned.
Senator Malahoo Forte stressed that neither the CARICOM Secretariat, governments nor ministries, can pursue matters pertaining to regional integration individually. But rather, that it necessitates a partnership among all parties.
“We have to find a way to ensure that we understand what it is that we are talking about when we talk about the CSME.what it is that we are talking about when we talk about the Caribbean Community. Our survival is dependent on all of us working together,” Senator Malahoo Forte underscored.
She commended the CARICOM Secretariat, FES and the EU, through the European Development Fund (EDF) for undertaking the consultations, of which Jamaica’s staging was the tenth.
The consultations, which are being undertaken in all 15 CARICOM member states, are expected to culminate in November with a general meeting of representatives from the participating territories.
It is expected that recommendations and proposals collated from stakeholder inputs will be reviewed and consideration given to how best these can be incorporated in advancing the regional integration effort.