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UK-Caribbean ministerial forum concludes in London
Published on June 21, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

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UK-Caribbean Forum 2014 in London

LONDON, England -- Following the conclusion of the eighth UK-Caribbean Ministerial Forum held at Lancaster House in London on 16 and 17 June 2014 under the theme "A Partnership for Prosperity", the foreign ministers and representatives of the United Kingdom and Caribbean governments issued the following communiqué:

The UK-Caribbean Forum was first held in Nassau in 1998 and, since that date, has been the principle platform for high-level dialogue between the UK and the Caribbean on important bi-national, regional and international issues. We re-iterated our support for the Forum as an important vehicle for co-operation, reflecting the special relationship that exists between the UK, the Caribbean states and the six British Overseas Territories.

The changing global economy presents challenges and opportunities for both the UK and the Caribbean. In recognition of this fact, we agreed that this, our eighth Forum, should focus on building stronger partnerships for prosperity. Specifically, we agreed on action to develop secure and sustainable energy solutions, to support the development of education and skills for economic development and job creation, and to reduce the impact of serious and organised crime on our shared prosperity goals.

We discussed Caribbean concerns that in the changing global context new terms of engagement between small states and the global economy, and between small states and larger developing and developed economies, were needed. This should take into account the unique nature of small island developing states and of their resilience challenges. As a consequence, Caribbean states outlined their desire to see a redefined relationship which takes into account the structural limitations of small states. In this regard the Caribbean governments proposed the following:

• the need to review the metric used to determine the level of development assistance and consequently graduation and differentiation, instead basing it on a wider metric than just GDP per capita which takes into account small islands’ vulnerability and resilience;

• the need to review the financial windows and buffers provided by the IFIs and international development partners which Caribbean states maintain is based on a false assumption that external shocks which small states suffer are temporary rather than permanent. These windows and buffers should be consistent with domestic policies;

• the need to take into account that the flow of funds, private and official, are to the disadvantage of the region as the outflow is greater than the inflow and results in the persistence of debt;

• the Caribbean was willing to cooperate with regard to international financial rules but called for their participation in the process of rule-making whose outcomes such as black-listing were adverse and major constraints for their economies.

We agreed that greater consultation would be required on these proposals.

Caribbean Ministers raised their concerns about the impact UK visa policy is having on business persons and artistes seeking to benefit from the trade opportunities of the EPA as well as students whose completion of their professional qualifications requires job placements.

The Caribbean welcomed as a first step in the right direction the announcement by the UK Government earlier this year of the decision to amend the Air Passenger Duty bands but expressed the concern that as long as the tax remained it would continue to have a negative impact on the Caribbean tourism industry.

Energy Security

The Forum enabled UK and Caribbean governments, public, private and donor experts to share knowledge, experience and best practice in the development of sustainable energy solutions.

We reaffirmed our commitment to diversifying our energy sources and minimising energy waste to ensure a more sustainable and secure energy future. We recognised that upgrading existing generation plants from oil to natural gas and other forms of alternative forms of energy has the potential to reduce energy prices and carbon emissions.

We acknowledged that the Caribbean has an abundance of natural energy resources including geo-thermal, wind, solar and hydro that could significantly reduce reliance on fossil fuel imports both in the short and long term. We agreed that accelerated deployment of renewable energy sources will increase the region’s energy independence and reduce exposure to high and volatile oil prices. The UK confirmed its commitment to working with its partners in the Caribbean to optimise its use of indigenous energy resources and its support to enable Caribbean governments to establish, where necessary, the appropriate policy, regulatory and commercial conditions for private sector investment across the energy spectrum in accordance with the Caribbean Energy Policy to assure access to affordable, adequate, safe, and clean energy products necessary for the development of Caribbean States.

We committed to work together in the following areas:

• Caribbean governments will continue to explore the potential for natural gas as well as other forms of sustainable energy as an alternative to fuel oil imports. In support of this, working with the Inter American Development Bank, the UK will provide technical assistance on options for catalysing a regional gas market.

• The UK will share its experience of managing complex renewable energy systems through a private sector-led knowledge-sharing mechanism on smart grids, distributed generation and holistic energy management systems.

• The UK will work with regional regulators and utilities to progress dialogue on utility reform and models for electricity provision which respond to the challenge of diversifying and securing energy supply whilst maintaining viable electricity companies.

Education and Skills for Economic Development

Education and skills are key priorities for both the UK and Caribbean governments and are vital for addressing the underlying challenges that face disadvantaged groups, particularly young people. We agreed that our young people need vocational education, technical skills training and critical life skills to prepare them for the world of work in an increasingly competitive and economically fragile environment. We recognised that there are inherent societal and economic risks for both the UK and Caribbean when unemployed and underemployed youth are excluded and marginalised.

We committed to working together on UK and Caribbean government priorities on skills for sustainable economic development for young people. Our debate highlighted the links between UK and Caribbean priorities, including youth employment, ‘green skills’/ ‘green jobs’, ICT in education and training, employer engagement, gender equality and the empowerment of women.

We also noted the risks of alienation of young people from participation in public life and the political process in the UK and the Caribbean, which could impact on the prospects for effective national and regional leadership in the years to come. We recognised that to mitigate this there was a need to identify and help develop our most talented youth and future leaders, as well as helping ensure the bonds between the UK and Caribbean remain strong in the next generation. We committed to work together in the following areas:

• The UK and Caribbean governments will continue to build partnerships in skills for employability, including through the British Council.

• The UK will continue to develop further links and scholarship programmes between UK and Caribbean Higher Education institutions, including through a tertiary education fair in early 2015.

• The UK and Caribbean governments will explore, with partner organisations such as universities, think-tanks, civil society, cultural organisations, and the private sector, establishing programmes that bring together young leaders from the UK and Caribbean - in business, entrepreneurship, civil society and academia - to develop their leadership potential and exchange experiences.

Security

Serious and organised crime threatens UK and Caribbean security. It fuels violence, leads to loss of life and deprives people and communities of their security and livelihoods. It also poses a significant threat to prosperity by undermining economic growth, discouraging investment and creating barriers to business. The UK and Caribbean have an excellent track record of working together in partnership to address organised crime but we agreed that there is more to be done.

We recognised the need for all countries to work together to prevent and deter criminals from concealing their identities and their assets. It will make it more difficult for criminals to misuse our companies and will help build trust and confidence in our businesses. Likewise, depriving criminals of their criminal proceeds through improved asset recovery legislation and support to financial investigators, prosecutors and the courts will act as a further deterrent to criminal activity.

We also recognised the need to work in partnership to identify criminals and improve our ability to prevent them travelling between our countries to engage in criminality.

The Caribbean agreed to refer to capitals the options for pursuing reciprocal asset-sharing agreements, implementing automatic tax information exchange, exchanging criminality data, and working together to build effective extradition regimes.

Development

The UK reaffirmed its continued commitment to the sustainable development of the Caribbean region, particularly in the areas of growth and job creation; tackling crime and corruption; climate change and natural disasters. The UK will continue to work in partnership with the Caribbean countries and pool resources with other donors and institutions to maximise development impact. Caribbean states recognised the importance of maintaining fiscal discipline and seeing through structural reforms.

The UK and Caribbean governments agree to work together to secure a single and inspiring compelling framework and set of post-2015 development goals centred on eradicating extreme poverty, with sustainable development at the core. The framework and goals should be universal in nature and applicable to all countries, while taking account of differing national circumstances and respecting national policies and priorities. It should also promote peace and security, democratic governance, the rule of law, gender equality and human rights for all. The importance of the Third International Conference of Small Island Developing States was restated for injecting SIDS-relevant content into the post-2015 Development Agenda.

The Caribbean and the UK urged the need for the capitalization of the Green Climate Fund, the expeditious commencement of its operations, and timely donations from donor countries in order to help the most climate vulnerable SIDS.

Foreign Policy

We discussed the foreign policy challenges of an increasingly unstable and multi-polar world, and expressed concerns over the many continuing unresolved armed conflicts around the globe and their grave humanitarian impacts, including as a result of the use of sexual violence in conflict.

Grave concern was expressed over the terrorist acts taking place in north-eastern Nigeria and appreciation expressed for the international efforts being made to assist the Government of Nigeria address these reprehensible acts, in particular the large scale abduction of school girls, as well as the causes of the insurgency. Concern was also expressed about the scourge of sexual violence which we are determined to eliminate around the world.

We reiterated our support for the principle and the right to self-determination for all peoples, recognising the historical importance of self-determination in the political development of the Caribbean, and its core status as an internationally agreed principle under the United Nations Charter.

We discussed the recent launch of the Caribbean and UK Diplomatic Academies and agreed that this presented an excellent opportunity to forge closer links between our respective diplomatic services and to invest in the future of UK-Caribbean diplomatic relations. We committed to developing links between our academies, through initiatives including speaker exchanges, joint master-classes and workshops.

The Caribbean expressed their support for the interest of Trinidad and Tobago to host the Secretariat of the Arms Trade Treaty.

Both sides also took note of the situation in Venezuela and expressed their concern over the continued instability which could affect the Caribbean, and reiterated their support for the continuation of the dialogue initiated by UNASUR.

Next Steps

We expressed our determination to work together in pursuit of the goals described above. We agreed to meet again in the Caribbean in 2016 to review progress and explore further ways to strengthen the special partnership between the UK and the Caribbean.
 
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