by Donella Hosten
Alexandra Otway-Noel, MP for South St George gave a warm welcome to the visiting leaders, and their delegates from across the region gathered at the Trade Centre for the opening ceremony of the 38th Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (Caricom), on Tuesday, 5 July 2017.
Otway-Noel encouraged them to enjoy Grenada while making decisions to create a better Caribbean, as they look forward to 2030 and beyond.
Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, Secretary-General of Caricom, thanked outgoing Chairman of the Conference, His Excellency Brigadier David A Granger, President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana and welcomed incoming Chairman, Grenada’s Prime Minister, Dr Keith Mitchell.
According to Ambassador LaRocque, the next 2 days will cover discussions about “issues that have the potential to contribute significantly to economic growth, competitiveness and sustainable development.” He spoke to improving the ability and ease of free movements of goods and people between the islands.
Newest members of the conference, Hon Dr Hubert Minnis, Prime Minister of the Bahamas and His Excellency Jovenel Moise, President of the Republic of Haiti, also addressed the audience. Both addresses reiterated the importance for the Caribbean nations to work collectively to achieve their individual goals.
Brigadier Granger said ‘citizens are the centre of this community.’ He spoke of strengthening the bonds of the Caribbean people and improving the standards of work and living. “We respect every citizen from the Mental Human Rights including the Right to Life, Liberty and the Security of the person.” He echoed the sentiments of Caribbean unity. “When we speak with a single voice as a community, our solidarity is [stronger].”
Founder and president of the Jamaica Household Workers Union (JHWU) Shirley Pryce has been awarded the 12th Caricom Triennial Award for Women. Pryce received the award for her tremendous contributions throughout the Caribbean, and her pivotal leadership role in 2011 in Geneva, Switzerland, in the development and adoption of the ILO Convention for Domestic Workers. The citation reads in part… “Shirley Lee Pryce is a remarkable woman, Jamaican by birth and today, a true Caribbean and global citizen by virtue of her passion and advocacy for a cause which is very personal to her, and which touches the lives of so many women in Jamaica, the Caribbean Community and beyond. She has distinguished herself through her advocacy for women’s rights and empowerment and in particular, the rights of domestic workers at national, regional and international levels.”
Dr Mitchell noted that “having spent 32 years and counting in the political arena, I’ve become convinced that perhaps the most difficult task is to develop inclusive mechanisms that close political distance between our integration arrangements and the demands of our people at all levels of our societies.”
Mitchell added that ‘transportation is the lifeblood of our integration process,’ as he spoke of some countries not being able to export internationally, and people in the Caribbean being able to ‘connect more easily’ outside of the region than destinations within member states. Reduction of travel costs was also on the list of items mentioned.
Happy Hill RC School, Dr Mitchell’s alma mater and the Violin Ensemble from the National Schools’ Orchestra, provided cultural interludes.