Regional foreign ministers end meeting in St. Vincent

Caribbean Community (CARICOM) foreign ministers have ended their meeting here putting in place mechanisms for closer cooperation with Sweden and the Netherlands, according to a CARICOM statement issued here Wednesday.

It said that the move comes even as CARICOM seek to place issues impacting the development of Small Island Developing and Low-lying States (SIDS) in the spotlight.

The statement said that the regional foreign ministers met with their counterparts from the two European countries and discussed several issues including climate change.

Netherlands holds the presidency of the European Union and the statement said that the regional foreign ministers engaged that country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bert Koenders “on climate change, particularly its impact on SIDS and low lying States.

“While acknowledging the diplomatic success of COP21, the urgency of operationalisation of the Agreement was stressed. The concerns of the Community over blacklisting by EU Member States, and the withdrawal of correspondent banking services, both of which had an adverse impact on CARICOM States were also presented to the Minister,” the statement said.

It said regarding the discussions with the Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom, issues such as renewable energy, water management, ocean security, citizen security, as well as a proposal by Sweden and the Nordic countries to conclude a Memorandum of Understanding to facilitate cooperation in a range of areas dominated the discussions.

The communique issued at the end of the foreign ministers meeting noted that CARICOM had also considered its relations with a number of other Third States, and regional groupings, as well as with important development partners with whom the region enjoys long-standing ties.

“In acknowledging that many of these relationships were undergoing dynamic changes, they considered how best to position CARICOM to take advantage of these changing realities. They also deliberated on the Region’s priorities and challenges within key regional, hemispheric and multilateral bodies including the United Nations, the ACS and CELAC.”

Regarding the United Nations, the regional foreign ministers recalled the active participation of the Community in the successful meetings in 2015 on Financing for Development, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and COP21, noting the significance of the outcomes or CARICOM SIDS.

With regard to climate change, the Communique noted that Foreign Ministers encouraged the early ratification of the Paris Agreement as well as the need for mechanisms to ensure access to climate financing such as the Green Climate Fund.

“Given the importance of the maritime environment to the sustainable development of SIDS, the Ministers discussed the Region’s response to matters relating to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biological Diversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ). In this regard, they called for greater representation of CARICOM Member States at the annual meeting of the International Sea Bed Authority (ISA).

“The Ministers pledged the Community’s continued commitment to the work of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS). They welcomed Cuba’s appointment as Chair of the Executive Board of the ACS, and their hosting of the Seventh ACS Summit scheduled for 4 June 2016 in Cuba, and reaffirmed the importance of CARICOM’s participation at the highest level,” the statement added.

Antigua Observer