By Sharon Austin
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (BGIS) -- Barbados Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has described the recent sixth summit of heads of state and government of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) as “exceeding the expectations of those attending”.
Prime Minister Freundel Stuart
Stuart further expressed the view that, with the commitment of president of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, to the work of the ACS in tangible terms, “new life was breathed” into the Association.
“And the energetic spirit of the discussions augured well for the work ahead in areas of interest to small island developing countries like Barbados,” he said.
On the sideline of the summit, Barbados held bilateral meetings with a number of countries, including Panama, El Salvador and Martinique.
The summit brought together 31 countries and welcomed Martinique, Guadeloupe and St Maarten as associated states for the first time. It was held on the 20th anniversary of the forming of the ACS, and its many achievements were highlighted, including the formation of the first sustainable tourism zone in the world.
During the high-level meeting, Peña Nieto, announced four important initiatives to be undertaken by his country in the integration of information systems among the countries of the Greater Caribbean (formed by ACS members). This will be done through the implementation of a geospatial and infrastructure system; the creation of a platform for territorial information among ACS countries that would assist with better disaster risk management; a project between the main ports of the ACS on short distance maritime transportation; and a project on the harmonisation of customs procedures.
In the context of sustainable tourism, Stuart shared with the summit Barbados’ structure for disaster management in the tourism sector and the information was welcomed by the delegates from other participating countries.
The Declaration of Merida, signed by the participating countries including Barbados, underscored the importance of the Greater Caribbean region, which accounts for almost half the population of Latin America and the Caribbean and represents 55 percent of its total trade.
It also highlighted the challenges facing small island developing states (SIDS) in achieving sustainable development; assigned priority to work on comprehensive disaster risk management to reduce the effects of natural or manmade disasters; restated the commitment of the countries of the Greater Caribbean to the protection of the Caribbean Sea and the work of the Caribbean Sea Commission; and noted the entry into force of the convention establishing the sustainable tourism zone of the Caribbean on November 13, 2013, and of the regional cooperation agreement in the area of natural disasters on March 31, 2014.
Several working groups were set up on trade facilitation and business visas, among others. Delegates present also paid tribute to the outstanding work of Professor Norman Girvan, a former secretary general of the ACS from Jamaica, who recently passed away.