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Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Hon. Dr. Kenneth Baugh, has said that CARICOM must develop a co-ordinated approach, and strengthen its existing policies, in tackling the myriad of challenges currently facing the region.
Dr. Baugh was speaking at the opening ceremony of the 12th Meeting of the CARICOM Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR), at the Hilton Kingston Hotel, New Kingston, on Friday (May 8).
“These challenges, new and old combined, have the potential to increase our vulnerability to exogenous shocks, and may have significant implications for the viability and sustainability of the countries of the region,” he stressed.
Dr. Baugh pointed out that challenges, such as the economic crisis, climate change and disaster mitigation, food security, energy diversification, regional security, the provision of adequate healthcare, and the threat of H1N1 Flu, are not too insurmountable for the community to overcome.
“COFCOR is tasked with the critical responsibility of ensuring the effective, strategic, and well-devised co-ordination of the community’s foreign policy,” he said.
Dr. Baugh added that the Council was meeting at a crucial point in the journey of the community, and in an international environment that is proving to be increasingly hostile to both developing and developed countries.
Jamaica is hosting the two-day 12th Meeting of COFCOR, which concludes on Saturday May 09. Dr. Baugh replaces Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs in Antigua and Barbuda, the Hon. Baldwin Spencer, as chairman of the Council.
Mr. Spencer called on the region to examine the implications and effects of the declaration of G20 countries, which pledged US$1 trillion to developing states, and the recent pronouncements of United States President Barack Obama, to strengthen ties with the region.
These issues, Mr. Spencer said, would be foremost on the list of subjects to be deliberated at the meeting.
The COFCOR meeting follows critical regional and global Heads of Government meetings, such as: the G20 Summit held in London in April; the Fifth Summit of the Americas, convened in Trinidad and Tobago, April 17-19; and the 12th Inter-Sessional Meeting of CARICOM Heads of Government in Belize, which issued a statement on the Global Economic and Financial Crisis and the Impact on, and Policy Implications for the Caribbean Region.
Later this year, Jamaica will host a meeting of Foreign Ministers of Latin America and the Caribbean. Recommendations from the COFCOR Meeting will be submitted for consideration to the Conference of CARICOM Heads of Government in Guyana, July 1-4.
Key issues on the agenda at the COFCOR meeting include: The Global Economic Crisis; Advancing Regional Integration and Development: A Response to Global Challenges; Relations with Third countries, including Canada, USA and the Dominican Republic; issues before the UN and the OAS; and Border disputes, Venezuela/Guyana, Belize/Guatemala.

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