TURKEYEN, Greater Georgetown, Guyana (CARICOM) — Foreign Ministers of CARICOM and the Dominican Republic and Premiers from the UK overseas territories met in London on 16-17 June 2014 for their biennial high-level talks with the Foreign Office Minister for the Caribbean and other UK Government Ministers.
According to Ambassador Colin Granderson, CARICOM Secretariat Assistant Secretary General for Foreign and Community Relations, “the Forum ended with a feeling of satisfaction and renewed affirmation of the links between the UK and the Caribbean “.
Immigration issues were among the major concerns for the Caribbean. These include difficulties created by UK visa policies for business persons and artistes wishing to take advantage of the trade opportunities under the Economic Partnership Agreement and for students whose professional qualifications require on the job training. The Caribbean acknowledged the UK’s decision to amend the Air Passenger Duty bands, but expressed concern about the negative impact of the tax on the Caribbean tourism industry.
With respect to education and skills for economic development, the forum committed to working on UK and Caribbean government priorities which include, “youth employment, `green skills’/`green jobs’; ICT in education and training, employer engagement, gender equality and women empowerment”. Scholarship programmes and a tertiary education fair in early 2015 have been identified as avenues for developing further links between UK and Caribbean Higher Education institutions.
In the area of energy security, the UK confirmed its commitment to working with its partners in the Caribbean to optimize its use of indigenous energy resources in accordance with the Caribbean Energy Policy.
Security issues also featured prominently in the discussion. The forum acknowledged that the serious threats posed by organized crime to their respective economies require a strengthened UK/Caribbean partnership. It was agreed that emphasis be placed on depriving criminals of their proceeds through improved asset recovery legislation and enhanced support for financial investigators, prosecutors and the court system.
The forum highlighted the opportunity for strengthened foreign policy capabilities offered by the recent launch of the Caribbean-UK Diplomatic Academies and committed to developing links between their respective academies.
Looking toward the future of global development issues, the UK and the Caribbean governments agreed to “work together to secure a single and compelling framework and a set of post 2015 development goals centred on eradicating extreme poverty with sustainable development at the core” .
The UK-Caribbean Forum was first held in Nassau in 1998 and, since that date, has been the principle platform for high-level dialogue between the UK and the Caribbean on important bi-national, regional and international issues.