CARICOM SG wants big role for young people in new Caribbean
Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretary General, Irwin La Rocque Wednesday said that any new strategy to ensure the future socio-economic development of the region must take into consideration the role to be played by young people.
“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,” La Rocque said as he addressed the second day of the three-day “Forum on The Future of the Caribbean”.
He told delegates that young people in the Caribbean have been clamouring for an integrated region, adding “the region, they say, is their home. It is where they want to live, work and, crucially, be involved in the planning and building of the future”.
The CARICOM Secretary General said that the region was at present still coming to grips with the realities of the global economic crisis and warned that during this year several critical international events will have an impact on the future course of developing countries as well as the future of the planet.
He said these include the Third International Conference for Financing for Development in July; the UN Summit on the Post-2015 Development Agenda in September; and the UN 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.
“Our vulnerabilities have been ruthlessly exposed by the various crises that have plagued the world since the first decade of this century. The food crisis, the energy crisis, the financial and economic crisis, and pandemics, have all affected us adversely in differing degrees. Indeed the effects of the 2008-2009 financial and economic crisis are still resonating in our Region. Further we are faced with the existential threat posed by the effects of climate change.”
La Rocque said that none of those crises, nor indeed the causes of climate change, emanated from within region or due to the actions of Caribbean countries.
“The question is: how can we develop our societies and economies to withstand the effects of these exogenous shocks? They have become a permanent feature of our existence as small states with open, vulnerable economies and which are prone to natural disasters.”
He said the forum organized by the University of the West Indies (UWI) and a host of regional and international agencies as well as the Trinidad and Tobago government, was taking place against the background of a dynamic and increasing complexity of the hemispheric and international environment. He said this includes the shifts in the global centres of power economically and politically.
“The inward gaze and the economic difficulties of the developed world in the face of the crises have diminished even further an already shrinking pool of development finance. Many of our member states’ access to much needed development finance is lessened due to being classified as middle income. “
La Rocque said that the use of GDP (gross domestic product) as a primary criterion for determining such access does not take into account the vulnerabilities which we constantly face.
“Many Caribbean economies find themselves in a situation of paradox, with low growth, high debt, fiscal deficits, and low domestic private sector investments which coexist with a financial sector replete with resources,” he said, asking “how can this paradox be brought to an end?”
But he told delegates “we cannot consider our future without taking into account the transformative role of innovation and technological change.
“In all spheres of life, Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is making a profound difference. Its influence stretches through all sectors and must be a key factor in driving the development of our human resources and in increasing our competitiveness.
“Innovation, creativity, digital literacy, entrepreneurial attitudes and skills are constantly being proven as platforms for growth and development. CARICOM has recognised these realities in its Strategic Plan.”
The CARICOM Secretary General said that there is no doubt that serious fore-sighting and visioning need to be undertaken about the future of the 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.”
He said the Caribbean has always had an eye on the future and that Caribbean integration has never been static.
“Transition from free trade through CARIFTA, to a Common Market, to a Single Market and eventually onto a Single Economy, gives evidence of that fact. In truth, the depth and width of our integration has always gone beyond economics.
“The human and social dimension preceded economics and trade and remains a most vigorous element in the integration of our Community. That integration also is grounded in foreign policy co-ordination and security co-operation,” he said, adding that CARICOM is now engaged in a process of restructuring measures to deal with the future.
“In that context, we also see the need to further revise the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas. The Treaty, which is the foundation instrument that determines our formal relationship, has taken us thus far. We have recognised its limitations and are taking steps to enhance it.”
But he acknowledged that there are difficult questions which “we must reflect upon as we go forward.
“How do we deepen our integration to give effect to the Single Economy and to strengthen foreign policy co-ordination? What impact would widening have on our ambitions of achieving a single economy and on foreign policy co-ordination?
“How do we simultaneously achieve wider Caribbean Sea convergence while deepening our integration?
Given that we are a community of sovereign states, what are the most appropriate governance arrangements which we must put in place in order for us to realise our full potential as a Community?
He also asked whether sanctions be introduced as a means of enforcing compliance with Treaty provisions and decisions“.