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Commentary: How well- known is the CARICOM Charter of Civil Society?
Published on January 15, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Dr Joseph E. Edmunds

In the light of the judgment of the Constitutional Court in the Dominican Republic on the question of citizenship of persons born in that country, it is useful to bring into sharp focus the Charter of Civil Society for the Caribbean Community. This solemn Charter was adopted at a conference of the heads of government of CARICOM at a special meeting in Port of Spain in October 1992 following the recommendation of the West Indian Commission.

Dr Joseph E. Edmunds is a former Senior Research Fellow, UWI, St Augustine Campus; former Director of Research and Development, WINBAN; former Ambassador of St Lucia. He is currently Consultant and Senior Advisor to The Edmunds Group International, LLC (
The Articles of the Charter spell out, inter alia, fundamental principles that are to govern our Caribbean society as regards human rights and freedoms, human dignity, the right to life, liberty and security of the person, equality before the law, the rights of women, children, disabled persons, workers, indigenous people, and family.

The Charter reaffirms confidence in the Caribbean Community as an association of states and territories bonded by common heritage committed to the fundamental principles of human rights and freedoms within a Caribbean integration embodiment.

It contains 27 Articles that constitute the integrated fabric of our Caribbean Community. One should therefore presume that the Charter is well known to all the Parliaments of our Caribbean Community, our external representatives, and that it has been tabled as a matter of record at every local, regional, and international organization or affiliation in which the Caribbean is represented. Further, it should be in every school, public and private library in the Caribbean region and in our local and regional institutions, as well as universities of higher learning. It should also be well-known among our Caribbean scholars.

It follows from the Charter that any country wishing to become a member of the Caribbean Community must be aware of the Charter’s guiding principles and prepared to adhere to them before contemplating any request for membership. Is the situation in the Dominican Republic an example of lack of awareness?

Caribbean governments and communities have an important role to play in the dissemination of those principles within our region and internationally.
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Paco Smith:

This is a rather insightful article as the author, indeed, highlights that which should be the case. Based on my observation in Belize, it appears as though our leaders unfortunately either do not have the level of cognizance required or, heaven forbid, they don't have the requisite interest.

Nonetheless, I concur. The Charter is something that must be introduced and inculcated in our schools and via a variety of mediums, in order to attune the people of the Caribbean, concerning the fundamental tenants to which we have committed to uphold.

Although CARICOM has since acted on the matter concerning the highly prejudicial determination of the Dominican Republic's High Court (albeit not to the satisfaction of many), I posit that had the aforementioned Charter been afforded its due care and attention, regionally, we would have experienced a more robust call for CARICOM to act and act decisively on the matter.

This is meaningful food for thought, throughout the region and it lends to the underlying view that both individually and collectively, we must become more attuned to many aspects which are part and parcel of CARICOM and each territory should renew its efforts to educate its people in such regard.


The Charter of Civil Society although adopted by Conference in Antigua on 19/2/1997, to date has no legal standing. It has not been incorporated into the domestic laws of ,member states, nor has it been made an appendix to the Treaty of Chagauramus.

It is for every private citizen with interest in seeing the Caribbean go forward as a untied front to take this matter up with our politicians. We must be forceful, collective and non partisan in this effort.


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