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Our populations are admittedly small – our domestic markets are fledgling. The Member States of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) however represent two-fifths of the membership of the hemisphere. The Community has accorded great importance to the Summit of the Americas process since its inception in Miami in 1994 because of the promise it seemed to hold not only for hemispheric cooperation and integration, but also for the social, economic, technological and human resource development of its smaller states.
When the Miami Summit in 1994 initiated the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) process, it was recognized as the trade dimension of an integrated regional cooperation programme for the benefit of ALL the Member States. It was in this wider context that the Santiago Summit placed emphasis on the development of people as a cornerstone of the hemispheric integration process. CARICOM States left Chile in 1998, optimistic that the required support would contribute to capacity building and education in the sub-region without which CARICOM would not be in a position to transform their economies and take advantage of the opportunities resulting from the evolving international economic environment.
For CARICOM, the outcome of the Quebec Summit in 2001 was of critical importance as it recognized the context of special and differential treatment for small economies as well as the multi-dimensional nature of security. The Connectivity Agenda adopted at Quebec held out the promise of a positive impact on the technological development of the small states of the region.
The major Summit initiatives were seen as having a potentially profound and positive impact on CARICOM societies in their efforts to modernize and transform their economies to keep pace with the structural changes emanating from globalization and trade liberalization.
However, promises and recognition of concerns are not sufficient without implementation and the accompanying political will and resources. Recognition of special and differential treatment for small economies for example, has become meaningless, as it has not been appropriately reflected in the FTAA negotiations process.
The Mar del Plata Summit of 2005, takes place at a challenging and pivotal moment for the Community. The sub-regional integration process is at a critical point as the CARICOM Single Market is about to come into being. At the same time, the Community is experiencing acute social and economic difficulties. The phasing out of preferences has severely affected its traditional export agricultural sector, particularly sugar and bananas, and the communities whose livelihood depend on it. In addition, the spiraling cost of energy and the impact of natural disasters on the region’s small vulnerable economies have also adversely affected the creation of jobs.
CARICOM looks forward to the successful conclusion of the Doha Development Round which must take into account the need for special and differential treatment for small and vulnerable economies, as well as the wider concerns of the developing countries. In turn, a successful Doha outcome could facilitate a revitalization of the FTAA process.
Our democratic systems satisfy the litmus tests being both representative and participatory. The rule of law prevails – the independence of our judiciary is beyond question. However, threats such as rising crime, narco-trafficking, the prevalence of illegal arms and the HIV/AIDS pandemic, put the youth and societies of the entire region at risk. Material and technological support as well as resources for social enhancement are crucial in addressing these threats.
It was in this context that CARICOM looked forward to the adoption of a programme of action at the Mar del Plata Summit which would assist our Community in addressing these threats and concerns. It has proven difficult the Summit to achieve consensual positions on many of the grave issues affecting the entire hemisphere. However, there have been some laudable proposals emerging on job creation, strengthening of micro, small and medium sized enterprises, disaster mitigation and in particular, the issue of catastrophic risk insurance and technological innovation for development. In addition, useful measures have been advocated such as the strengthening of statistical systems where necessary. The proposals and measures must now be implemented at the national level. At the same time, we call upon the international community to support these national development efforts in accordance with the commitments made under the Monterrey Consensus.
The linkages between the elements on which we have engaged in our dialogue over the past two days must be fully appreciated. We must, motivated conscience and political imperatives, use this Summit process to re-establish our priorities and ensure that all those who should accompany us on this journey – the international financial and multilateral institutions – accept the basis on which we will be working from hereon and support us along that road.