Fellow Heads of Government:
Madam Secretary-General of CARICOM:
Current Chairman of CARICOM, Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Dominica, the Honourable Roosevelt Skerrit – let me take this opportunity to wish you a successful tenure:
Honoured and Distinguished Guests from within and beyond the Caribbean Region:
Ladies and Gentlemen:
My thanks to the government and people of Trinidad for the warm welcome and the hospitality with which you have greeted us.
As our travels take us around the region in our various forums and discussions, there is a lot to be said for the Caribbean personality and spirit which we sometimes take for granted.
Back in January, when The Bahamas assumed the Chair of the Caribbean Community, I noted that “regional cooperation has never been more urgent and necessary.”
I am happy to report that during the past six months, we have seen a lot of that regional cooperation in action.
Part of the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic was the demonstration of the fact that, by working together, we can ensure the safety of us all.
The Bahamas continues to believe that “none of us will develop sustainably, or securely, if we leave our neighbours behind.
We continue to believe that “none of us will truly prosper if our resources are forever taxed by the poverty and instability of those nearby.”
And so it is, through close cooperation and action, we have been able to address and make progress on, many of the priorities which I set out at the beginning of our term.
The Heads of Government meeting held in Nassau in February was a major catalyst and springboard in pushing matters forward.
In respect of the regional response to the impact of climate change on our people, we advanced the commitment made in August last year, when we determined to hold a united stance and focus, relating to the four thematic areas of mitigation, adaptation, loss and damage, and support for cross-cutting issues within the region.
One of the key outcomes is that Green Climate Fund is willing to assist with the development of a Blue Economy Co-Investment Strategy for the Caribbean region.
As part of our effort to secure an overhaul of the global finance system and processes, CARICOM has thrown its full weight behind The Bridgetown Initiative.
Colleagues we must not let up.
We must continue to push this agenda forward and continue to build on the great interest and support which other countries have already expressed.
Our priorities have also engaged with a range of security-related issues, on which I am pleased to report, we have seen a marked degree of progress.
At the Regional Symposium to Address Crime and Violence, held here in Port of Spain in April, we collectively declared crime as a public health issue across our region, sending a clear message that we will not tolerate the epidemic of violence that has gripped our nations, and claimed the lives of far too many of our young people.
In our declaration, we recognized the urgency of crime in our nations and its cost to our social, economic and health systems. We immediately implemented the CARICOM Arrest Warrant Treaty and laid the foundation for many other necessary frameworks to build cross-border cooperation, enhance capacity, and enact reforms to ensure safety in our communities.
Now, Colleagues, we must forge ahead to meet the commitments of our declaration. Our nations and our people cannot afford any less than resolute action.
In recognition of the deep and devastating impact which the trafficking of illegal firearms from the United States has had on violent crime in our countries, we have declared a War on Guns throughout the region. Not for the first time, we joined our voices to call upon our neighbour to the north to take action to stop the illegal export of firearms to our shores.
Our entreaties to the United States have begun to bear fruit.
In word and deed, they are playing a much more active role in the effort to reduce the trafficking in people, guns, and drugs.
One of the most visible signs of the United States’ commitment was evidenced in the Leaders’ Meeting held in June between the Leaders of the region, and Vice-President Kamala Harris.
As this was the first official visit to The Bahamas by an American President of Vice-President since our Independence in 1973, we thought that the visit itself indicated an enhanced seriousness of purpose in their stated commitment to engage more fully with the region.
The Vice-President’s commitments to specific security measures, and to commit funds to support a number of initiatives, were even more welcome.
As global challenges continue to expand and magnify, and the certainties of the world order continue to be called into question, we must not let up in our efforts to do what we can to guarantee our security in the building blocks of our communities.
I am pleased therefore that we have continued to make progress in building greater security, sustainability, and affordability in the supply of food and energy in the region. In spite of the many other pressing issues which vie for our attention, we must not relegate these issues to the back burner.
High on the agenda for all our regional discussions has been the situation in Haiti.
The Bahamas remains committed to acting as a Lead, with other CARICOM member states, to find a solution to the ongoing humanitarian and security crisis.
The CARICOM-led meeting of Haitian stakeholders in Kingston in June, was cause for cautious optimism. Stakeholders welcomed the inclusive nature of the meeting, which were a microcosm of Haitian society.
As a demonstration of the effectiveness of regional co-operation, the Eminent Persons Group convened by CARICOM, was urged to continue to use CARICOM’s Good Offices to work with all stakeholders to find a definitive solution to the crisis.
Along with the moral imperative to support our neighbours in finding a way out of the political morass which is causing so much suffering, it is a prime illustration of the point which I have made for some time now, that none of us can be safe until we are all safe.
In Haiti, beyond the pressing issue of security, there is the long-term issue of restoring the country to that of a fully-functioning, democratic state.
This fundamental principle – that the people of the CARICOM region should have both a ‘say’ and a role in their governance – is part of the bedrock of our community.
This is why CARICOM is already playing a significant role in protecting the internal democracy in the associated states. And so, we joined the meeting of Bermuda, Cayman, The British Virgin Islands, Montserrat and Anguilla, and reaffirmed their right to self-determination and self-governance.
As a matter of principle, we strongly support the proposition that this dialogue should become a standing item of the CARICOM agenda, to take place before each meeting of the Heads of Government.
In just seven days’ time, The Bahamas will likewise celebrate a 50th Anniversary of Independence.
Activities have been underway for several months, but the date itself is obviously of great significance to us.
Amongst our national celebration of past achievements, we have threaded discussions of what we wish to determine for our future.
We look forward with great optimism and with a profound sense of hope, that we can continue to move closer to realising the ideals and dreams of our founders.
I see many similarities in the 50th Anniversary celebrations of the founding of CARICOM.
Finally, I wish to extend my personal thanks to all those who have contributed to the success of our chairmanship.
The Secretary-General and her team have been invaluable.
The staff in your administrations have strongly supported our efforts to move forward with our mission.
And on a more personal note: colleagues, my gratitude to you for your willingness to engage ever more deeply in the development of the region.
I believe that the national and personal friendships, which have been strengthened over the past six months, will give us an even greater foundation on which to build.
I am so happy to hand this over to my good friend Prime Minister The Hon. Roosevelt Skerrit of Dominica, whose capable hands no doubt continue to lay the building blocks to ensure our community becomes closer
For all of it, I say thank you.