Secretary general outlines CARICOM successes over the past 40 years

ST AUGUSTINE, Trinidad — Secretary general of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Ambassador Irwin LaRocque on Thursday outlined that there has been a number of successes in health, education, youth development and other areas in CARICOM over the past 40 years.

irwin_laroqueThe secretary general was delivering a distinguished lecture at the University of the West Indies (UWI) St Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago.

Speaking to issues related to health, LaRocque noted that the Caribbean Commission on Health and Development was established in recognition of the importance of health development in the Community. He said it was the Commission that had brought attention to the serious implications of non-communicable diseases in CARICOM and further afield.

“It was due to the leadership by CARICOM that the ravages of the NCDs commanded global attention and action, prompting a UN High level forum on the issue in 2011,” the ambassador said.

LaRocque further noted that the Caribbean stood to be the first region in the world to eliminate mother to child transmission of HIV by 2015.

Turning to education he noted that the community had developed the Caribbean Vocational Qualification (CVQ) to establish standards and provide artisans and tradespersons with qualifications recognized throughout the Caribbean.

“The CVQ has the potential to ensure that the Community has available to it a regional pool of certified skilled persons,” he said and “gave the lie to those who contend that the movement of skills is reserved for the elite.”

He noted further that the Caribbean Examinations Council had continued to provide regionally and internationally recognized examinations and curricula relevant to the needs of the region.

Regarding the development of youth within CARICOM, the secretary general said the Secretariat has collaborated with CARICOM Youth ambassadors and development partners in projects to engage, motivate and inspire entrepreneurial interest and action among youth. He said the youth of the region were making a significant contribution in the areas of sports, music and culture in particular. According to LaRocque, the development of cultural and creative industries has been identified as one of the priority areas for job creation and growth.

Another area of accomplishment addressed by the secretary general was the establishment of a mechanism to co-ordinate preparedness for and relief in the event of a natural disaster through the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA). To strengthen relief efforts, LaRocque noted that the first multi-country disaster insurance scheme in the world has been established through the Caribbean Community Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF).

He said, “It has been able to limit the financial impact of some catastrophic natural disasters to Caribbean governments, by quickly providing short-term liquidity when a policy is triggered.”

In the area of advocacy the secretary general outlined that CARICOM has played a leading role in the tabling of the Arms Trade Treaty at the UN. He said it was also CARICOM that led the way for recognition of small and vulnerable economies as a group within the World Trade organization (WTO). He said CARICOM’s foreign policy co-ordination was increasingly being used to address regional problems and had resulted in CARICOM becoming recognized as an international actor.

The lecture inaugurated a series at UWI St Augustine, focusing on CARICOM, exploring its usefulness to the region and its future as it celebrates its 40th anniversary.

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