Caribbean nations could work more closely together to promote trade and tourism and battle climate change and can integrate more closely with Latin America, say top politicians.
Dr Ralph Gonsalves, prime minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, speaking at the seventh summit of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) in Havana, Cuba, says integration in Latin America and the Caribbean is realistic and would help the region face common challenges.
He urged the nations to work together and use honest dialogue to resolve differences and promote friendship.
Caribbean countries should work together as they are united by history, geography and biology. To achieve the common good, it is essential to maintain a dialogue about air and maritime transport, trade, tourism and technology.
To boost tourism in the Greater Caribbean Region and help it compete more strongly against other nations, air and maritime connectivity between islands and countries should be improved, the conference heard, which will also boost inter-regional tourism and property investment.
The theme of the conference is in building a dialogue and strategies to collectively combat the negative impacts of climate change and develop programmes in the focal areas of trade, transport, disaster risk reduction and sustainable tourism.
ACS is currently carrying out special projects and consultations to conserve and preserve natural heritage, the Caribbean Sea and coral reefs, which will help address climate change. The projected cost for the start of such projects is US$6million.
The Greater Caribbean Region aims to persuade the rest of the world, especially the middle-income and developed countries that it is one of the most fragile regions in the world and is vulnerable to the effects of climate change. If nothing is done, it is possible that some countries in the Caribbean Region can disappear within the 50-100 years due to rising sea levels.
It is therefore critical that other countries and regions internationally join with the Greater Caribbean to tackle these issues and to Work Together for a Sustainable Caribbean.
Raul Castro Ruz, President of the Council of State and Ministers of the Republic of Cuba, speaking at the summit which marks 20 years since Cuba last hosted an ACS meeting says, “Our Association was established with the objective of bringing the entire Caribbean family together, including territories which are part of European States. We recognize the contribution they have all made, as well as the French Republic and the Netherlands, in their status of Associate Members. We hope they shall continue working along the same lines, and that other Caribbean territories also join us.
“The commitments of States in the region to not interfere, directly or indirectly, in the internal affairs of any other State, and to abide by the principles of national sovereignty, equality of rights and the free determination of the peoples; to promote friendly and cooperative relations between them, and with other nations; to exercise tolerance and live in peace; and, to fully respect every State’s inalienable right to choose its political, economic, social and cultural system are unavoidable conditions to peace, harmony, development and the integration of our countries.
“Peace and stability, the defence of the interests of our peoples, and the exercise of sovereignty and self-determination, without foreign interference, are essential elements to advance toward the integration and cooperation goals that we have set ourselves.
“The current juncture makes us to wonder, how can we consolidate what has been achieved so far and keep moving on? Due to the experience of the lost decade, we are all aware that a new neoliberal wave, which dismantles inclusive social policies; increases poverty, inequality and market deregulation; neglects environmental protection, and diminishes the role of the State will prevent us from fulfilling the objectives of regional integration and cooperation that we aspire to conquer.
“But, Cuba will continue working from the presidency of the Council of Ministers of the Association, with the purpose of strengthening this mechanism and joining forces to confront collective challenges.”
Dr Keith Rowley, prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago, said his country supports its Caribbean neighbours on the basis of the common objectives of the ACS, and they are committed, on this premise, not to interfere directly or indirectly in the affairs of other nations.
He suggested that the members of the ACS take part in other forums as a single nation, in which all of them must be recognized and respected.
The Association of Caribbean States is the organization for consultation, cooperation and concerted action in trade, transport, sustainable tourism and natural disasters in the Greater Caribbean.
Its Member States are Antigua & Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Panama, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad & Tobago and Venezuela.
Its Associate Members are Aruba, Curacao, (France on behalf of French Guiana, Saint Barthelemy and Saint Martin), Guadeloupe, Martinique, Sint Maarten, (The Netherlands on behalf of Bonaire, Saba, and Sint Eustatius), Turks and Caicos.
Credit: OPP Today