The 15-member Caribbean Community (Caricom) is today celebrating Caricom Day 2020 with the groupings Secretary General Irwin LaRocque indicating that the celebration is taking place in an environment dominated by the continuing health and economic effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
“Let me, at the outset, extend my deepest condolences to those who have lost loved ones; and I wish a speedy recovery to those afflicted by the disease,” LaRocque said, noting that “this is a time that is testing us as a people.”
“We have done relatively well in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. So far, we have demonstrated that capacity for resilience, which has been the hallmark of our response to the numerous challenges we have faced over time.”
He said that this year also marks the “47th anniversary of Caricom, and in that time, there is much the people of the Caribbean can be proud of.
“We have made strides in improving the lives of our people within the four pillars of our integration movement – namely, economic integration, human and social development, foreign policy coordination and security cooperation. Our membership has become more diverse with Dutch-speaking Suriname and French-speaking Haiti added to our previously all English-speaking grouping. Their inclusion has certainly enhanced our diversity, which is a major strength of our Community.”
The region’s top public servant said that another strength is the Institutions of the integration movement, which were established to help implement the policies and programmes agreed to by Caribbean leaders and the various Ministerial Councils.
“They have served our Community well, as is being demonstrated in the so far successful management of our response to COVID-19,” he said, noting that the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), through its laboratory in Port of Spain, has been conducting tests for the disease for many of our Member States.
He said a key role in the response is being played by the Barbados-based Regional Security System (RSS), whose aircrafts are providing courier service by transporting samples for testing from some member states to CARPHA in Trinidad and Tobago.
LaRocque said that the Barbados-based Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) is the hub for the collection of medical equipment and supplies for distribution to the countries and that the various ministries of health and chief medical officers have also been key to the success of the region’s response to the virus.
“Our heads of governments and the ministerial councils have been extremely active, and engaged in leading the charge against this pandemic and its effects. The Caricom Secretariat has been instrumental in co-ordinating the response to the pandemic. That is Caricom at work for the benefit of the people of the Community.
“The success of the combined efforts in combating the challenge of COVID-19 is evidence, not only of the competence and skill of our Caribbean people, but also of the value of a unified region.”
LaRocque said that the region needs that co-ordination of “our collective skills and spirit more than ever, as we take on the major challenge of rebuilding our devastated economies which have been ravaged by the effects of the pandemic.
“We must exploit every opportunity provided by the Caricom Single Market and Economy in rebuilding our economies. What we have demonstrated time and again in the face of persistent devastation from natural disasters is a steely resilience, and an ability to rebound and restart. The bedrock of that characteristic is the spirit and determination of Caribbean people, and the banding together of our member states in times of adversity.”
He said it is that spirit of togetherness and determination that will help to” extricate us from this latest assault on our efforts to build a safe, secure and prosperous Community that benefits all of our citizens.
“As we celebrate our anniversary, let us reflect on what each of us can do to keep our Community safe and to contribute to the revival of our economies,” LaRocque added.