(CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana – Wednesday, 7 July 2021) – The Forty-Second Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) was held virtually on 5-6 July 2021. Chair of the Conference, the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Honourable Gaston Browne presided over the proceedings.
Other Members of the Conference in attendance were: Prime Minister of The Bahamas, the Rt Honourable Dr. Hubert Minnis; Prime Minister of Barbados, Honourable Mia Amor Mottley, Q.C; MP; Prime Minister of Belize, Honourable John Briceño; Prime Minister of Dominica, Honourable Roosevelt Skerrit; Prime Minister of Grenada, Dr. the Rt. Honourable Keith Mitchell; President of Guyana, His Excellency Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali; Prime Minister of Jamaica, the Most Honourable Andrew Holness; Premier of Montserrat, Honourable Easton Taylor-Farrell; Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris; Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. the Honourable Ralph Gonsalves; President of Suriname, His Excellency Chandrikapersad Santokhi; and Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago Dr. the Honourable Keith Rowley.
Saint Lucia was represented by Ambassador to the Caribbean Community Her Excellency Elma-Gene Isaac.
Associate Members in attendance were: Bermuda represented by Deputy Premier Honourable David Burt; Cayman Islands represented by Premier the Honourable G. Wayne Panton; and the Turks and Caicos Islands represented by Premier the Honourable Charles Missick. British Virgin Islands was represented by Deputy Premier, Honourable Dr. Natalio Wheatley.
Secretary-General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, immediate past Chair Dr. the Honourable Keith Rowley, Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago and Chair of Conference the Honourable Gaston Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda addressed the Opening Session.
The speakers all addressed concerns about the on-going COVID-19 Pandemic in particular the inadequate supplies of vaccines and the risk to lives and livelihoods of not being inoculated. They also expressed solidarity with the Member States which had been affected by recent natural disasters.
The Heads of Government and the Secretary-General welcomed the incoming Secretary-General Dr. Carla Barnett who assumes office on August 15, 2021.
The Secretary-General, speaking at his last Regular Meeting of the Conference, thanked the Heads of Government for their support during his tenure and expressed his pride at being allowed to serve the Community.
Both Heads of Government praised the Secretary-General for his achievements during his tenure and spoke highly of his performance particularly during the difficult time which the Region has been experiencing.
All the Statements are available at www.caricom.org.
THE POLITICAL SITUATION IN HAITI
Heads of Government received a report on the situation in Haiti from the Expert Group which they established at the 32nd Intersessional Meeting in February 2021 and agreed to issue the attached statement.
Heads of Government received an update on the situation in St Vincent and the Grenadines in the aftermath of the eruption of the La Soufrière volcano and the recent flooding in Guyana and Suriname. They also received a report from the countries affected by the recent passage of Hurricane Elsa, in particular Barbados, Jamaica, Saint Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Heads of Government expressed their solidarity with the affected states.
They reiterated that the need for strengthening resilience was a central theme for Member States in view of the Region’s complex multi-hazard environment.
Heads of Government noted that the 2021 hurricane season has already commenced with an expected eighteen named storms of which eight are forecast to become hurricanes and four major hurricanes.
Heads of Government recognised the critical role that regional institutions have played and continue to play in the response to regional emergency events. In that regard they commended the sterling work of the Seismic Research Centre of The University of the West Indies (The UWI) in providing timely and accurate scientific advice to the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines with respect to the eruption of the La Soufrière volcano.
Heads of Government expressed appreciation to the Region’s development partners for the financial and technical support which continues to be provided to the Regional Response Mechanism led by the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) in support of Member States.
Heads of Government agreed to lobby development partners for continued support in view of the ongoing response and the requirements for recovery going forward.
Heads of Government considered a range of issues emanating from a report by the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) on the situation with respect to the COVID-19 virus. The most critical of these was the continuing need for equitable access to vaccines as well as how to treat with the emerging COVID variants.
They expressed their determination for the Region to achieve herd immunity of 80 per cent coverage before the end of 2021 and, to this end, agreed to redouble their efforts to acquire adequate supplies of vaccines.
Heads of Government expressed appreciation to the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. the Honourable Keith Rowley, CARPHA, and the CARICOM Secretariat for the work undertaken to acquire vaccines.
Heads of Government further expressed appreciation to the Governments of Third States, Regional Organisations and the community of International Development Partners (IDPs) for their financial support and donations of vaccines to the Caribbean Community.
Heads of Government thanked the United States of America for its offer of vaccines and looked forward to a speedy conclusion to the negotiations for their delivery.
Heads of Government agreed that equity of access to COVID-19 vaccines is still of utmost importance to CARICOM Member States and as such efforts to achieve same should be pursued with PAHO/WHO, Third States, and the Facilitation Council for the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator to address this matter.
Heads of Government mandated the CARICOM Secretariat to continue to collaborate with CARPHA, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), regional nursing, medical and allied health professional bodies and institutions, to identify strategies and policy guidelines to address vaccine hesitancy, using an evidence-based approach.
Heads of Government urged that employees co-operate with employers to ensure a safe working environment either through vaccination or regular testing.
Heads of Government emphasised the importance of citizens being inoculated so that Member States could achieve herd immunity, recognising that no one is safe until everyone is safe.
They also mandated the CARICOM Secretariat to mobilize resources to support the implementation of communication and other initiatives to address vaccine hesitancy at the regional and national levels.
Heads of Government recognised that Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) is a silently expanding global threat with potentially devastating health, social and economic impacts for the Region.
Heads of Government noted that AMR occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites change over time making manageable infections harder to treat with existing medicines, therefore increasing the risk of disease spreads, severe illness and death.
Heads of Government also recognised that the economic impact of uncontrolled AMR would be catastrophic as it places sustainable food production and safety at risk. They further noted that environmental conditions affect disease transmission and that AMR and climate change are inextricably linked and can severely impact the tourism and travel sector.
In response to the challenge, Heads of Government agreed to establish multi-sectoral AMR national action plans in line with the One Health approach including integrated AMR surveillance systems for the human, animal, plant and environmental sectors.
Heads of Government recognised that the implementation of the CSME requires the commitment of each Member State.
They also recognised the importance of the internal mechanisms including strengthened governance and accountability structures in Member States for effective implementation.
Heads of Government agreed that all Member States would commit to enhanced public education programmes to better inform stakeholders of the benefits of the CSME.
Heads of Government issued a Declaration on the CSME which is attached.
CARICOM DEVELOPMENT FUND (CDF)
Heads of Government welcomed the appointment of Mr. Wendell Samuel of St Vincent and the Grenadines as Chair of the CARICOM Development Fund (CDF).
Heads of Government, recognising the need to re-open economies while balancing the health and economic livelihood of Community Nationals, agreed that new protocols for health, safety, visitor management and sanitization measures were of utmost importance in encouraging the resuscitation of the sector.
Heads of Government received the first report on a Draft Joint Tourism Policy for CARICOM: COVID-19 Emergency Plan for the period Q3 2021 to Q4 2022 prepared by the Interim Tourism Working Group (ITWG) which they established earlier this year.
They endorsed the recommendations of the Group with respect to building the COVID-19 Health Safety Risk Resilience and enhancing CARICOM Destination Capacity among others.
Heads of Government agreed to consider proposals to reduce taxes on intra-regional travel for a pilot period of six months.
Heads of Government agreed to consider the use of a Vaccination Passport for vaccinated persons travelling by air and sea, supported by a Digital Vaccination Database, possibly based on the Barbados model in the first instance.
Heads of Government also agreed to consider proposals to create a regional travel bubble for a pilot period of six months taking account of previous lessons learnt.
Heads of Government further agreed on the need for further consultation on the development of a harmonised Policy for cruise ships covering both vaccinated and unvaccinated persons.
In this regard, Heads of Government mandated the CARICOM Secretariat, in collaboration with CARPHA and other relevant regional security agencies to convene a high-level meeting with cruise lines to agree on the minimum health and safety requirement for the resumption of cruise sailing in the Caribbean.
Heads of Government commended the work of the ITWG comprising representatives from the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA), the CARICOM Secretariat, the Organisation of the Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Commission and the Governments of The Bahamas, Jamaica, and Saint Lucia.
FOOD PRODUCTION AND FOOD SECURITY
Heads of Government considered an update from the Lead Head of Government responsible for Agriculture; Agricultural Diversification and Food Security in the CARICOM Quasi Cabinet, His Excellency Mohamed Irfaan Ali, President of Guyana on the work of the Special Ministerial Taskforce (MTF) on Food Production and Food Security established at the Thirty-Second Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government.
Heads of Government welcomed the actions so far taken to advance the CARICOM agri-food systems agenda, including agreement by the Taskforce on terms of reference, an implementation plan, and on priority commodities for heightened investment by the regional private sector.
In that regard, Heads of Government welcomed the recent engagement of the Prime Ministerial Sub-Committee on the CARICOM Single Market and Economy with the Special Ministerial Taskforce and the CARICOM Private Sector Organisation Inc. (CPSO), and agreed that priority attention be accorded to the determination of the quantum of investment required and the attendant implementation timelines.
Heads of Government also received an initial presentation on transport and logistics aspects and agreed that priority attention be given to proposals to incentivise private sector partnership in addressing transport and logistics requirements for implementation of the agri-food systems agenda and to inviting expressions of interest in this regard.
SINGLE ICT SPACE – ROAMING CHARGES
Heads of Government welcomed the Report on the outcome of the initial engagement with the two principal telecommunications providers in the Region on the issue of the elimination of roaming charges in the Region.
Heads of Government endorsed the Governance Framework and the composition of the Negotiation Team led by Mr. Selby Wilson of the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) and also endorsed the projected timelines and action proposed in relation to the negotiations.
TAX TRANSPARENCY, BLACKLISTING AND DE-RISKING
Heads of Government stressed that the blacklisting and de-risking phenomena remain as serious threats to the economic security of CARICOM Member States.
Heads of Government acknowledged the excessive economic pressure exerted on CARICOM States by the European Union through the continuous inclusion of several Member States on blacklists with respect to non-cooperative tax jurisdictions and High Risk Third Countries with Strategic Anti-Money Laundering / Countering Financing of Terrorism (AML/ CFT) Deficiencies.
Heads of Government considered issues concerning the recently announced decision by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) for a minimum global corporate tax rate and agreed to meet in special session before the end of July to discuss this matter.
Heads of Government welcomed the efforts of the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) to facilitate a more transparent, inclusive and mutually beneficial relationship through dialogue and consultation within the framework of the Cotonou Partnership Agreement which links members of the OACPS to the EU.
Heads of Government while recognising that the US Anti-Money Laundering Law (AMLA) 2020, enacted on 1 January 2021, presents a more structured risk-based approach to the conduct of correspondent banking relations, noted that it can potentially worsen the regulatory landscape for CARICOM banks.
Heads of Government further agreed to continue efforts to strengthen their AML-CFT frameworks and will pursue a more effective engagement with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF)/Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) and other standard setting bodies towards this end.
ENGAGEMENT WITH PRIVATE SECTOR, LABOUR AND CIVIL SOCIETY
Heads of Government engaged with representatives of the CARICOM Private Sector Organisation and the Caribbean Policy Development Centre (CPDC) on behalf of civil society.
Heads of Government noted the presentations of the two organisations and the issues raised in their statements including the impact of and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Heads of Government urged them as leaders in civil society to assist in the drive for the Region’s citizens to be inoculated against the COVID-19 virus for the Community to achieve herd immunity.
CRIME AND SECURITY
Heads of Government received a confidential security brief from the CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS). They expressed concern at the new challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
REVIVAL OF REGIONAL AIR TRANSPORT POST-COVID
Heads of Government noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has devastated the tourism sector and regional air transport.
They mandated the Secretariat to compile a list of fees and taxes which are applicable at the Region’s airports and agreed to the convening of a Special Meeting of the Conference during the week of 12 July 2021 for urgent discussions on the matter of travel taxes.
Heads of Government also agreed to request the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) to provide technical support for this effort.
Heads of Government received an update on the progress of Guatemala’s Territorial, Insular and Maritime Claim (Guatemala/Belize) at the International Court of Justice.
They expressed concern that the undertaking by both countries and the Organization of American States (OAS) to engage in the design and development of a mechanism of co-operation for the Sarstoon River remains outstanding and urged both countries and the OAS to reinvigorate their efforts to this end.
Heads of Government also urged Belize, Guatemala and the OAS to continue implementing fully the existing Confidence Building Measures. They expressed support for the crucial role of the OAS in the process aimed at resolving the dispute, arising from Guatemala’s claims on Belize; and further called on the international community to continue supporting the OAS Office in the Adjacency Zone.
Heads of Government reaffirmed their unwavering support for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and security of Belize.
Heads of Government received an update on the most recent developments in the controversy between the Cooperative Republic of Guyana and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
They noted that Guyana had begun to prepare its Memorial for submission on 8 March 2022 in accordance with the schedule set by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to hear the case on the merits of Guyana’s application concerning the validity of the Arbitral Award of 1899 and the related question of the definitive settlement of the land boundary between the two countries.
Heads of Government reiterated their full support for the ongoing judicial process that is intended to bring a peaceful and definitive end to the long-standing controversy between the two countries and urged Venezuela to participate in the process.
Heads of Government reaffirmed their firm and unwavering support for the maintenance and preservation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Guyana.
UPDATE ON COMMISSION OF INQUIRY IN THE BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS
Heads of Government reiterated support for the Government and People of the British Virgin Islands and agreed to issue the attached statement.
INSTRUMENTS FOR ADOPTION AND SIGNATURE
Recalling the decision taken at its Eighteenth Special Meeting to amend the definition of CARICOM national in Article 32(5) (ii) of the Revised Treaty to make it clear that paragraph 5(ii) applied to Montserrat only, Heads of Government adopted the Protocol to amend Article 32 of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas establishing the Caribbean Community including the CARICOM Single Market and Economy.
Antigua and Barbuda and Montserrat signed the Protocol.
CARIBBEAN REGIONAL POST-COTONOU DEVELOPMENT COOPERATION PROGRAMMING
Heads of Government endorsed the priorities for Caribbean Regional Post-Cotonou Programming, identified by the Council of Ministers of CARIFORUM.
Heads of Government agreed to expand the priorities to include Transportation and Health.
Heads of Government also agreed that CARIFORUM internal consultations and dialogue between CARIFORUM and the European Union (EU) on a Caribbean Multi-Annual Programme, Post-Cotonou, should be intensified.
Heads of Government further agreed that CARIFORUM should negotiate for continued access to bilateral grant resources through national Multi-Annual Indicative Programme, based on vulnerability, for those CARIFORUM States being denied access to bilateral grant resources.
SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE COMMONWEALTH
Heads of Government noted the current situation regarding the renewal of the Right Honourable Patricia Scotland, Q.C., for a second term as Secretary-General of the Commonwealth.
Heads of Government also noted that the Secretary-General has been viewed as a champion of developing countries and of the interests of small states during her tenure.
Heads of Government expressed their broad support for the renewal of the term of office of the Secretary-General.
SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE CARIBBEAN COMMUNITY
Heads of Government expressed their deep appreciation to the outgoing Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque. They lauded his commitment and his hard work to advance the regional agenda despite the challenging circumstances during his tenure. They expressed the hope that his knowledge and experience would continue to be available to the Community and they wished him well in his future endeavours.
Heads of Government welcomed the imminent succession to the post by Dr. Carla Barnett on August 15 and looked forward to working with her in continuing the quest for the sustainable development of the Community.
DATE OF THE 33RD INTER-SESSIONAL MEETING OF THE CONFERENCE
The 33rd Intersessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government is proposed to be held in Belize on 23-24 February 2022.
Statement by Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community – Situation in Haiti
Taking into account the Report of the Haiti Expert Group and its update on the situation, Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) expressed their grave concern over the untenable situation in Haiti which is in the throes of a protracted political, constitutional and humanitarian crisis. They were particularly alarmed by the precipitous deterioration of security calling into question the state’s ability to protect the people of the country.
Head of Government condemn the escalating violence, the wanton killings and the ravages of the armed gangs seeking to expand their territory and influence. Heads of Government are deeply disturbed by the resulting internal displacement in the capital in particular of thousands of persons, including persons with disabilities and other vulnerable groups, and by the impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators of these crimes.
The Heads of Government view as unacceptable, the breakdown of law and order, the shrinking of good governance and the range of developments adversely affecting the well-being of the Haitian people that are contrary to the principles enshrined in the CARICOM Charter of Civil Society, the normative moorings of the Community.
These principles give life to good governance – respect for the constitution and the rule of law; the effective administration of justice and maintenance of its independence and impartiality; enjoyment by the people of their fundamental human rights and freedoms, including the right to assemble and to demonstrate peacefully and to select their representatives through free, fair and secure elections at the appointed time; the complementary roles of government, the social partners and the citizenry; and morality in public affairs.
Heads of Government express their support for dialogue between the contending parties, an approach that has become more acute as the overall situation deteriorates, and reiterated the Community’s willingness to extend its good offices in attaining a Haitian-led peaceful resolution to the current impasse.
The Heads of Government underlined the importance of creating the enabling conditions without which there can be no transparent, inclusive and secure elections by curbing insecurity; enhancing transparency, impartiality and popular confidence in the conduct of the scheduled electoral process; eliminating voter disenfranchisement; and avoiding the controversial referendum.
Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community
ST JOHN’S DECLARATION ON RE-DEDICATION TO CSME IMPLEMENTATION
WE, the Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), meeting virtually on 5-6 July 2021 for the Forty-Second Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM;
Recognising that the commitments made in our 2018 ST ANN’S DECLARATION ON THE CARICOM SINGLE MARKET AND ECONOMY (CSME) to inter alia, take action at the national level to advance the regional integration agenda, have for the most part not materialised;
Reiterating our conviction that CARICOM integration and particularly the CSME continue to be important for the growth and development of the Member States of CARICOM especially in the face of the debilitating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic which has absorbed the focus of Member States over the past fifteen months and more;
Conscious of the vastly different economic environment that is currently prevailing;
We have all individually and collectively recommitted to take all action necessary to ensure timely and effective implementation of the CSME, especially in light of the challenges of the current demanding environment.
We have agreed that achieving full implementation of the CSME would require immediate specific action by the Organs and Bodies of the Community, Cabinets and Ministries of Member States, stakeholders (particularly the private sector) and the CARICOM Secretariat.
We have agreed to have regular inclusion of the CSME as an item on the Agenda of Cabinet meetings.
We have also agreed to give specific and focused attention to ensuring that our governance and accountability mechanisms and structures at the national and regional levels are made sufficiently robust for effecting the required CSME implementation including a greater oversight role for our Ambassadors to CARICOM.
We have endorsed the COTED decision to convene a special session on CSME implementation before its next regular meeting in November 2021 to agree on other specific actions proposed for immediate implementation by the various stakeholders towards ensuring full implementation of CSME provisions and to approve an overall Action Plan for CSME implementation.
Statement by Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community on Commission of Inquiry in The British Virgin Islands
“The Caribbean Community has noted the ongoing Commission of Inquiry in the British Virgin Islands announced in January 2021, backed by the UK Government. It notes with concern some indication that the democratic political institutions in the British Virgin Islands have not been allowed to fully perform their constitutional functions. It recalls its dismay as expressed at its Thirty-Second Inter-Sessional Meeting held in February 2021, at the manner in which the Commission of Inquiry was established with no consultation, or prior communication, between the UK government and the duly-elected government of the BVI.
As a Region committed to democracy, transparency and the rule of Law, the Caribbean Community salutes the full cooperation of the Government of the BVI with the Commission of Inquiry. Heads of Government urge that every effort be made to ensure that the constitutional functions to be carried out by the Government can be undertaken without hindrance. They look forward to an early conclusion of a COI that will lead to a just outcome.”