(CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana) — In a rallying speech aimed directly at the people of the Caribbean, Amb. Lolita Applewhaite, acting Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), on Thursday evening exhorted them to embrace and nurture the regional integration movement.
At the Opening Ceremony of the Thirty-Second Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM at the Sir Cecil Jacobs Auditorium in Basseterre, St. Kitts and Nevis, Amb. Applewhaite said that in spite of the banner headlines that trumpeted its demise, CARICOM was alive, on the move and here to stay.
Describing the Community as a multi-dimensional living organism, she pointed out that integration had worked and continued to work for the benefit of the people of the Community.
“This Caribbean Community belongs to all of us. We should embrace it and nurture it,” she said, and added that the Community presented the best chance for the Region to make its way in a world that was indifferent, if not hostile, to the challenges faced by small and vulnerable countries such as those that comprise CARICOM.
She pointed out that CARICOM could not be judged solely on the progress of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).
“The scorecard must be balanced. Although the CSME is the flagship of the integration movement, it is by no means the only aspect of our regional integration. CSME, itself is a multi-dimensional initiative which has made great strides since the vision was launched in 1989. It encompasses social, economic, commercial and human resource development factors, among others,” she told the assembled dignitaries, delegates and observers.
Listing a number of Community initiatives and programmes that have yielded tangible benefits and others that were ongoing, the acting Secretary-General stressed that “integration has worked and continues to work for the benefit of the people of this Community”. She pointed to strides in spheres such as education, health, trade, foreign policy coordination and functional cooperation.
The acting Secretary-General assured the Region’s populace that their complaints were heard, and their contributions to the Community’s development were recognised.
“We hear you, citizens of our Community, when the treatment at ports of entry leaves a lot to be desired; we hear you with your complaints about the difficulties surrounding skill certificates; we hear you with the need to be able to move freely in search of jobs; we hear, especially, you our youth about lack of opportunities to fulfil your dreams but we also recognise the contribution that so many of you are making to the development of the Region,” she said.
“Citizens of the Community, this journey on which we have embarked is unprecedented and still unmatched in the developing world. It is ours. Let us make it our pride and joy,” she stressed.