- Colleague Heads of State and Government
- Other Caribbean Ministers of Government
- Ambassador Irwin LaRoque, Secretary General of CARICOM Members of the CARICOM Secretariat
- Members of the media
- Ladies and gentlemen
We have come to the end of a very successful 39th Conference of Heads of Government for the Caribbean Community, CARICOM.
I am pleased to note that we had very useful, energetic and spirited discussions, exchanges and interactions over the last two days. These have led to a successful, productive and decisive conference here in Montego Bay.
We had a record number of delegates this year and I am even more pleased to note that all Heads of Government for all 15 Member States and four of our 5 Associate Members attended this conference.
Our theme: Building stronger, resilient and secure partnerships for prosperity was very appropriate, as individual states and as a regional bloc, we all want to see a stronger region and prosperity for all.
We can confidently say that the 39th Conference has delivered on the long-awaited promises to the citizens of this region.
We promised our peoples free movement and this conference has recommitted to the free movement of skills, and has agreed that by 31 December 2018 all Member States who have not facilitated all ten approved categories will have the relevant legislative framework in place.
We promised that we would ensure family unification through the granting of important rights to spouses and dependents of citizens that move across the region to work, provide their services and establish companies. We have guaranteed these rights through the Protocol on Contingent Rights that we signed today. This is a matter that has been long outstanding and is a major step that should encourage greater use of free movement regimes as it ensures greater levels of comfort and peace of mind for families. This is crucial to making CARICOM functional and relevant.
Another significant achievement of this Conference is the unanimous adoption of procedures on the refusal of entry which will be applied at the border. These procedures, which all Member States must have in place no later than 1 August, 2018, will guide border officials on how they should treat nationals who are refused entry. This will safeguard the rights of all Community nationals moving across the region, a matter we note is of great importance to many.
To continue this momentum to deliver for the citizens of the region, the leaders have also agreed to a Special Meeting on the CSME to be held in Trinidad and Tobago in November this year to give sole focus to this flagship issue of the Community. Furthermore, the Prime Ministerial sub-committee on the CSME will now have quarterly meetings (beginning in September) to give urgency to the implementation process.
We have also placed a great focus on advancing those areas which would help to create enabling support measures for a competitive Single Market. These include:
- an Investment Policy and Investment Code,
- an Incentives Regime,
- an Integrated Capital Market and;
- Securities Legislation.
As leaders we expect that these matters will be ready for full adoption at the 40th meeting of conference in July 2019.
These mechanisms will enable strong support measures for a successful CSME.
We have also simplified administrative procedures for the issuance of Skills Certificates and Police Certificates of Character.
In respect of the CARICOM Review Commission Report, the Heads agreed that it would be taken into account in the work of the Prime Ministerial Sub-committee on the CSME and at a Special Meeting of the Conference in November 2018.
In relation to building resilience, Member States were urged to promote and maintain the Regional Response Mechanism (RRM) coordinated by CDEMA and encourage the international community to align its support with this mechanism including early recovery.
On the matter of security, Regional Security Agencies were mandated to work closely with National Security Heads to address the various challenges emphasising the need to strengthen the network of security heads in the Region to promote further information and intelligence sharing. Member States were also encouraged to urgently update all legal instruments required to combat crime and enhance regional security.
Heads of Government also endorsed six priorities related to non-communicable diseases for the Region to advocate for during the negotiation of the Outcome Political Document. These are: establishing and maintaining a smoke-free status for the Region; implementing policies geared to preventing childhood obesity, including for health-promoting school environments and Front of Package (FOP) labelling; promoting the elimination of cancer of the cervix; support for mitigation of post-disaster vulnerabilities related to NCDs in particular: nutrition, treatment and care; increasing international financing and technical support; and strengthening accountability through national coordinating mechanisms.
At this 39th Confer4ence, we welcomed His Excellency Miguel Diaz-Canel, President of Cuba and acknowledged the continued strength of the fraternal relations between CARICOM and Cuba based on solidarity, mutual support and technical cooperation. We underlined the need to increase trade and economic relations and, in this regard, noted the proposal of Cuba to appoint working teams to identify commercial opportunities.
We also welcomed His Excellency Sebastian Pinera, President of Chile and reaffirmed the Community’s commitment to strengthening relations and technical cooperation links. They also viewed the visit as an opportunity to explore the possibilities for further political dialogue and meaningful co-operation between CARICOM and Chile.
CARICOM Heads expressed an interest in furthering collaboration in the areas of food security, the Blue Economy/Oceans, and trade promotion.
We have recognised that the current classification of marijuana as an illicit drug presents a challenge in the conduct of research to fully understand and ascertain the medicinal benefits.
We therefore agreed that action is necessary at the national level by the relevant authorities, to review the current status of marijuana as a Schedule I drug with a view to re-classification.
We also agreed that each Member State, in accordance with its own circumstances, would determine the path it will pursue in relation to the Law Reform Models proposed by the Regional Marijuana Commission.
At this, the 45-year milestone of this institution we have recommitted to making the mechanisms within CARICOM work. I believe that we have made good progress in our deliberations over the last two days. I am confident that the citizens of the region will be pleased with the outcome of this conference and we will continue to deliver on our promises to them. I am resolved as the Chair to ensure we take action. We must get things done to make a difference. We are resolved to now begin to implement the decisions we make to improve the perceptions especially among the youth.
For credibility, we must have meaningful benefits of the integration process. We must deliver and implement. CARICOM must function to benefit our peoples. As CARICOM citizens we must make this project an effective reality as we hold ourselves accountable and press for success in our Community.