‘Open minds to new ideas, to thinking differently – CARICOM SG
As Regional and international organizations gather in Trinidad and Tobago for the Forum on the Future of the Caribbean, Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretary-General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque has underscored the importance of anticipating the needs of the future.
There is no doubt that serious fore-sighting and visioning need to be undertaken about the future of our Region. In so doing, we must be prepared to open our minds to new ideas, and to thinking differently. Allowing ourselves to be shaken out of our conventional thinking modes and approaches is an essential prerequisite in our quest for the future development of the Region,” Secretary-General LaRocque stated.
He was speaking to an audience that included representatives of the University of the West Indies (UWI), the United Nations (UN), the Commonwealth, CARICOM, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS). They are guided by the theme, ‘Disruptive thinking; Bold Action; Practical Outcomes’, as they seek to devise new approaches to the challenges the Region faced. The Forum is hosted by the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus in Trinidad and Tobago. The three-day Forum began on Tuesday.
Ambassador LaRocque cautioned that the ideas presented at the Forum had to take account of the baseline realities of the Region, if they were to result in plans and policies.
Among the realities he listed were the effects of climate change, an already shrinking pool of development finance owed to economic difficulties in the developed world, the classification of many CARICOM Member States as Middle Income Countries and its concomitant challenges, and the high debt coupled with low growth in which Member States were enveloped.
Consideration, he said, should also be given to influence of critical international events including the Third International Conference on Financing for Development in July; the United Nations Summit on the Post-2015 Development Agenda in September and the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change in December.
“All of these processes will have a significant policy and agenda-shaping impact on the nature of international development priorities and relations. They will also influence the forms and sources of assistance and resources available,” the Secretary-General said.
He noted that there was no better place to stimulate the kind of “thinking” and no better partner that would realise the potential of Regional development than the UWI whose involvement in the history of Regional integration and development allowed the Forum to benefit from its unique perspective. He therefore urged the Forum to consider “difficult questions,” among which were: “Given that we are a community of sovereign states, what are the most appropriate governance arrangements which we much put in place in order for us our realise our full potential?”
On the part of CARICOM, Ambassador LaRocque said the Community Strategic Plan for the period 2015-2019, reforming the CARICOM Secretariat, reviewing the integration architecture, and revising the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas against the acknowledgement of its limitations, have all enabled the Community to better respond to current and future demands.
The CARICOM Secretary-General noted that failure to invest in “our own future” could be interpreted as lack of confidence with the consequent effect on foreign investment. Therefore, he added consideration on the future must also take account of the transformative role of innovation, technological change, and the voice of the youth.
“… most certainly the voice of youth must be brought to the table. We have a duty to consider the views and ideas from a group that comprises 60 percent of the population. A forum such as this is in essence discussing what kind of Caribbean our youth will inhabit,” he said.