Scene from the Flag Raising Ceremony.
GEORGETOWN, Guyana--Caribbean Community CARICOM leaders braved the inclement weather in Trinidad and Tobago for a commemorative ceremony in observance of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Chaguaramas, which gave birth to the regional organisation, according to a press release from the CARICOM Secretariat.
Heads of government, delegates and guests of the 45th Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM gathered at the venue of the historic signing, the Chaguaramas Convention Centre, for a series of events to mark the milestone, including a Flag Raising Ceremony and planting of a time capsule.
Roosevelt Skerrit, Dominica Prime Minister and Chair of CARICOM and Dr. Keith Rowley, Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister and Host of the Conference, also delivered remarks reflecting on the progress made in the Region through the collaborative efforts of Member States, the release states.
The Flag Raising Ceremony was followed by the signing of a letter by Heads, which was placed in the CARICOM 50th Anniversary time capsule to be opened by CARICOM leaders in 50 years.
In a show of united leadership, heads of government agreed to participate in the tree-planting exercise, despite the significant rainfall; the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force, Scouts and Girl Guides assisted heads with planting six Poui trees, known for their beauty and longevity, according to the release.
In her remarks, Renee Atwell, Dean, CARICOM Youth Ambassadors (CYA), underscored that the perspectives and ideas of young people are valuable tools to the integration movement and should be utilised. “As vested stakeholders in regional integration, the youth of the Region are stepping up to the plate to work on furthering the goals of CARICOM and regional integration,” stated Atwell.
She emphasised that the global paradigm is shifting, resulting in a far more vulnerable position for the Region. “To prosper despite this uncertainty, we as a Region need to continue rejuvenated integration efforts, and in doing so, youth must be included, not only as participants but as facilitators. We are stronger together, safer together and better together,” stated the CYA dean.
Prime Minister Dr. Rowley highlighted critical accomplishments of CARICOM over the last 50 years. “CARICOM has used the foundation laid by the four pillars of regional integration, namely functional cooperation, the coordination of foreign policy, security collaboration and economic integration, to build a home where we can find refuge, where all of us can find refuge and purpose,” stated the prime minister.
He emphasised that CARICOM has had to contend with its own limitations, “limitations that are built into its design given that we are sovereign states free to choose our own policies and pursue our own goals. There have been times when in the last 50 years, these limitations have challenged us and still, here we are today, a family of nations replete with the wisdom that comes from facing those challenges head-on; we are stronger together,” stated Prime Minister Rowley, “So, as we take stock of the last 50 years and look with anticipation towards the next 50, let us do so knowing that whatever divides us will never be bigger than that which unites us.”
Prime Minister Skerrit referred to the challenges experienced by the Region but urged for unity and collaborative efforts to find solutions. “This requires us to be even more united in purpose,” stated the prime minister. “There are too many injustices that have been meted out to us as a Community, noting the issue of climate change and the kicking down of the bucket of firm decisions to address our concerns in the Caribbean Community. Sometimes we feel like giving up and not attending the [climate change – Ed.] COP conferences, but we must never relent in our fight against injustices. Like our forebearers who fought for our emancipation, they never gave up. Therefore, we have to look even deeper within ourselves to continue that noble fight to ensure that the developed world does what is just and right where we are concerned with regard to climate change."
Prime Minister Skerrit highlighted the challenges associated with the international financial architecture. “This is not a government fight, this is our fight in the Caribbean community – every one of us must play our part, because this poses an existential threat to our very survival and abilities to trade with the rest of the world."
He stated that the international financial architecture is skewed against the Region. “I am happy that we are moving forward with the Bridgetown Initiative, where we have articulated a very clear view of what the problem is and what are the solutions to the problem,” stated Prime Minister Skerrit. “I am confident and comforted to know that we are united in this Community – we are united in our vision, mission and united in our commitment to fight the good fight.”
The ceremony served as a poignant reminder that CARICOM continues to be the longest-surviving regional union among developing countries, the release concludes.