‘CARICOM has remained relevant but has much more work to do’ – Rowley


As Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) gather to celebrate the bloc’s 50th anniversary, Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr Keith Rowley emphasised that the body remains relevant and that the region’s children need to be taught its history.

Addressing a large gathering at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Port of Spain where CARICOM leaders will meet over the next two days, Rowley said, “I have the distinction of having served in the political sphere for decades…to have witnessed first-hand, the ways that CARICOM has remained relevant to the needs and dreams and aspirations of its regional citizenry.

“Our children need to be taught its relevance and its history.”

The recent COVID-19 pandemic that threatened people’s survival, the Prime Minister said, demonstrated the importance of the bloc. According to him, that period only made CARICOM more resilient.

Guyana’s President Dr. Irfaan Ali is among the regional and international leaders gathered in Trinidad and Tobago (Photo: News Room/ Shaconeil Burnette/ July 3, 2023)

“The resilience of our Community endured this test and survived, in large part due to the determination of our people and the strength bestowed upon us by our ancestors, due to the strength of our regional organs such as the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), and due to a calibre of leadership right across this Caribbean that joined in solidarity to advocate when needed, to demonstrate when necessary, to share when required, and through it all to stand together through thick and thin,” Dr Rowley said.

Further defending the relevance of the bloc, Dr. Rowley said CARICOM has rebuilt and faced challenges “head-on.”

On Tuesday, the community will celebrate 50 years since signing the Treaty of Chaguaramas. This treaty was signed in Trinidad on July 4, 1973 by the four founding nations of CARICOM: Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and Jamaica. And Rowley noted that the impetus for regional integration then is much stronger now.

“Never before have small states faced the broad and deep range of challenges that we face now.

“From climate change, pandemic, gun crimes and violence, transnational migration issues to insecurity with food supplies, our region has been buffeted by many systemic storms.

“Throughout all of this, the majority of the people of our region have proven themselves to be resilient, resourceful, determined, and dignified,” Dr. Rowley said.

Guyana’s President Dr. Irfaan Ali is among the regional and international leaders gathered in Trinidad and Tobago (Photo: News Room/ Shaconeil Burnette/ July 3, 2023)

And though he admitted that CARICOM is still facing many of the same issues since signing the Treaty, he contended that much progress has been made, including the establishment of several regional institutions that benefit the region. Some of these, he said, include the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB); the Caribbean Development Fund (CDF); the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU); the CARICOM Climate Change Center (CCCCC); the Caribbean Meteorological Organization (CMO); Caricom Implementing Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS); Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC); the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ); the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) and the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) among others.

“Even where there was doubt in the beginning, the experience must have shown us that we are stronger together and even though we are an amalgam of small pieces of the globe, on the world stage, we might be small but we are not insignificant. As CARICOM we are at our strongest. We could be at our best. Let’s claim our space in this world and just do it!” the PM said.

He added, “Our regional integration movement has not only survived but it has thrived, expanded and flourished. Whilst we recognize that there is a whole lot more to be attained, at this juncture, we can proudly say that we have been going in the right direction and with renewed confidence and vigour.”