By Caribbean News Now contributor
CASTRIES, Saint Lucia — Director General of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), Dr Didacus Jules, speaking at the opening ceremony of the 67th meeting In Antigua and Barbuda stated that, “More than ever before diplomacy matters and the outreach to non-traditional partners that we have started in the thrust to Africa, the strengthening of our diplomatic coordination in the entire European theatre and the heightening of our battles against economic dictation, arbitrary blacklisting and de-risking will be intensified” under the chairmanship of prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Browne.
“This includes enabling trade and business anywhere in the OECS to operate everywhere in the OECS and to allow every citizen of a member state to travel freely and without hassle with family for work, leisure or residence anywhere in the OECS and that the region will be better able to adapt and recover quickly from adversity in climate and the environment, economic and social systems.”
The mid-June meeting of the OECS authority marks the beginning of the new financial and programmatic year of the OECS and invariably involves the hand-over of the chairmanship of the regional body. This year our out-going chairman Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves hands over the baton to our incoming chairman Prime Minister Gaston Browne.
“As we mark the transition, [form prime minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves to incoming chairman Browne, ] we express our sincere gratitude to chairman Gonsalves for his guidance in the past year and we celebrate the hugely significant diplomatic accomplishments of his administration on the international stage – first with the election of Rhonda King of St Vincent and the Grenadines as the 74th president of the UN Economic and Social Council in July 2018 and secondly the election of St Vincent and the Grenadines to the Security Council of the United Nations. With the support of 185 nations – an overwhelming vote of confidence by 90 percent of the membership of the UN, this OECS member state becomes the first small island developing state to it on this critical global forum,” Dr Jules explained.
Dr Jules’ remarks continued:
When chairman Gonsalves assumed his term, his charge to the commission was clinically realigned to the revised treaty of Basseterre. We did this and can proudly report on some big wins in the past year:
Architecture of free movement regime
The preparation of a suite of free movement bills that will ensure the provision of contingent rights, lay the basis for the free circulation of goods and create mechanisms for short-term benefits.
Financing and resource mobilization
Access of new funding to Bio-Diversity and climate change (10.7 million euros); 11th EDF (10.7 million euros) and increased access to Inter-Reg funding for joint initiatives between the French and the Anglophone members.
These funds are not money being spent on bureaucratic endeavours: They will mostly be spent on the ground in member states, making a difference in communities and on the essential things that we need to put in place to ensure that the economic union becomes a reality in the shortest possible time.
Inter-Reg funding, in particular, is designed to create new business futures and jointly open the door to innovation. For example, 19-year-old Sophie Kline was awarded 10,000 euros for her project for integration of virtual reality in the world of education.
The 3.6 million euro, ACP-funded TradeComm II Project will develop stronger trade expertise in each member state, create a harmonised trade information and facilitation platform that will result in greater integration of OECS member states into regional and global value chains by stronger trade in goods and services.
Membership enlargement and deeper intra-OECS cooperation
The accession of Guadeloupe marked an important milestone in strengthening the chain of Islands that geographically constitute the Eastern Caribbean. Not only are we ensuring that none are excluded from this chain of hands across the sea but also that by working together on concrete projects such as the Trade Enhancement for the Eastern Caribbean (TEECA) we permanently alter the pathways of doing business among ourselves.
A series of inter-related initiatives that are aimed at making the OECS commission a more effective and efficient place to work and having this accredited by the international standards of development partners such as the European Union. In the last year, we have revamped and put in place a comprehensive suite of policies in HR, governance and accountability. The government of Saint Lucia has granted us 6 acres of land for the construction of an OECS campus that will house the OECS commission as well as the Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority (ECTL) and we express our sincere appreciation to Chastanet for this substantial contribution to the regional integration effort.
Browne assumes the chair of the OECS authority at an exceedingly challenging time for us all – a time that is as full of peril as it is ripe with opportunity. More than ever before diplomacy matters and the outreach to non-traditional partners that we have started in the thrust to Africa, the strengthening of our diplomatic coordination in the entire European theatre and the heightening of our battles against economic dictation, arbitrary blacklisting and de-risking will be intensified under Browne’s leadership. Cometh the hour, cometh the man and we look to your professional expertise to lead this charge [as] chairman.
While fighting on these external fronts, we will assiduously pursue the five strategic priorities that we have set for the triennium ending in 2021.
We pledge that by 2021
The OECS will enable trade and business anywhere in the OECS to operate everywhere in the OECS and to allow every citizen of a member state to travel freely and without hassle with family for work, leisure or residence anywhere in the OECS.
That we will be better able to adapt and recover quickly from adversity in climate and the environment, economic and social systems.
That we will create avenues of fairness and impartiality, use our cultural richness and turn our language differences to advantage.
Use our international friendships to advance our development agenda and that the OECS commission will work smarter, reach further and deliver better.
Finally, distinguished heads and colleagues, June 18 marks our 38th anniversary as this collective endeavour, as this Tet ansamb. What has been achieved thus far has been hard fought in extenuating circumstances but also the struggle against our contradictions.
The assumed magnitude of our accomplishment falls far short of the unrealized scale of our potential. I am sure that one Edward Hale would not mind if I modified his quotation to conclude that: “coming together was a beginning; keeping together has been progress, but it is in working together that we find success.”