It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light

Mwen se echantiyon yon ras kap boujonnen men ki poko donnen

Si vous voulez vous faire des ennemis essayer de changer les choses

Sunday, July 1, 2007


Let me begin by thanking CSIS, and especially Ambassador Peter DeShazo, for organizing this scene-setter session for the upcoming Conference on the Caribbean.I believe that this Conference will serve as a vehicle for deepening and broadening relations at all levels between CARICOM and the USA. In this respect, the Conference objectives, as I understand them, are clear:to strengthen the dialogue between CARICOM and the US Government; to transmit Caribbean perspectives on regional growth and development to the year 2020, and to showcase the region.Through this encounter CARICOM governments intend to achieve these objectives through interaction at three specific levels:government to government; government to people; and people to people. No doubt, this is a very ambitious undertaking, which is meant to consolidate existing ties of friendship and kinship, and open new doors for dialogue, mutual understanding, cooperation and, hopefully, trade, investment and development.----------------------------- ---------------------------The responsibility for bringing it to fruition has rested with the CARICOM Caucus of Ambassadors in Washington and the United States State Department, and Ambassador Shirley and Ambassador Patrick Duddy will no doubt tell you more about the challenges faced, the process of preparation and the programme of encounters next week.Ladies and Gentlemen, we are all aware of the differences in size, wealth and population between the USA and the Caribbean. But the two areas are linked by very strong ties, owing to geography and proximity, migration patterns and the supply of labour in a broad range of professions, trade relations, US investments in the Caribbean sub-region, and concomitant security concerns. The Caribbean Diaspora in the USA is significant both in terms of size and impact on this country as well as the Caribbean. As we look around the United States from Miami to New York, Chicago to California, individuals of Caribbean heritage are achieving prominence as leaders in both the public and private sectors.I am particularly encouraged that the Caribbean governments recognize the importance of reaching out to this group and that is reflected in the systematic way in which the Caricom Caucus has reached out to the Caribbean Diaspora in the USA with a view to harness their skills and resources to aid development in the region, and promote awareness abroad. This idea of popular buy-in amongst the Caribbean Diaspora adds tremendous value to the Conference and adds a critical component which makes these meetings more than a series of high-level political meetings. Indeed, I would say that this approach can be described as politics for the people in order to better serve the development of the people and nations of the Caribbean. Once concrete area for consultation and action should be the issue of how best to make the most effective economic use of remittances from the Caribbean Diaspora, which account for a significant percentage of the GDP of many Caribbean countries. In Haiti alone, annual remittances account for 40 percent of GDP. One idea that might be explored is the establishment of mechanisms to facilitate the transfer of funds and their investment in development projects. ----------------------------------------There is also a political role for the Diaspora, which should be tapped at all levels - community, state and federal – to raise the profile of Caribbean concerns in the USA and to boost U.S.-Caribbean relations. Mr. Stanley Lucas has written a paper on “Institutionalizing Caribbean Diaspora Efforts in the US” and this will be discussed in the Diaspora Forum. Among his recommendations worthy of consideration are:the establishment of a CARICOM-US Business Council;a Caribbean Committee of 100 to encourage a broader range of voices in the policy process to highlight the sub-region and to bring a Caribbean-American perspective to US relations with the Caribbean;the formation of a Caribbean Congressional Caucus; and the establishment of a Caribbean Youth Leadership Programme. In the latter respect, allow me to highlight the role of the Young Americas Business Trust, an affiliate of the OAS, which is already doing sterling work in fomenting youth entrepreneurship in the Hemisphere, including in the Caribbean. Just as the Caribbean Diaspora maintains a vibrant cultural identity, it has to be recognized that Caribbean culture, identity and values are as much at risk at home as abroad and, in this regard, I should like to throw out the idea of establishing more Caribbean focused programs. The Caribbean diaspora is an important channel to promote the tourism industry in the Caribbean. The support of the Diaspora is critical to underlining the message that CARICOM is worth regarding as a continuing political and economic partner for the USA. In the OAS, CARICOM commands 14 votes and is therefore a vital partner, in addition to being a strategic geo-political sub-region in terms of security, with ample scope for increased cooperation in combating organized crime, the illegal trafficking of firearms and drugs, and the threat of terrorism. Development cooperation, increased investment and enhanced trade from the Caribbean to the USA will also be important to sustain and raise levels of economic growth. In terms of foreign policy, whilst there is disagreement on some international policy objectives and actions, there is sufficient common ground to strengthen the relationship and to continue to pursue other areas of mutual interest, particularly in the social, economic and security spheres. In showcasing the Caribbean, Heads will be opening doors for trade and investment. One therefore expects that delegations will explore possibilities for niche markets in the USA, particularly amongst Diaspora communities. The opportunity might also be taken to explore frameworks and opportunities in areas such as tourism, renewable energy and agro-industry. --------------------------------------- ---------Politically, CARICOM is already proving to be a useful partner in efforts to support the consolidation of constitutional democratic government in Haiti and, in my view, can also be a useful interlocutor in the emerging informal dialogue regarding Cuba. Much of the success of the Conference will lie in effective follow-up and the hope that announced outcomes at the official level will go beyond mere statements on foreign policy and platitudes on the importance of US-Caribbean relations. The current reality is that CARICOM brings strengths to the hemisphere and can contribute meaningfully in many areas such as good governance, democracy, civil society, etc. ----------------------------------------- ------------------------------------The reality is also that these economies are prone to vulnerabilities beyond their own control, such as illegal drug trafficking, international organized crime, natural disasters, phasing out of preferential treatment of their exports, etc.I believe that the best way to deal with threats, challenges or security issues in the Caribbean is to make these small economies stronger, sustainable and able to withstand external shocks. Creating employment and, promoting investment are key in this strategy to strengthen vulnerable economies in transition.The shared interest and common values between the US and Caribbean economies provide a solid basis to make this relationship a meaningful one. One that is based on the recognition that it is in the strategic interest of the Caribbean and the USA to build and sustain such a relationship, not only in times when domestic agenda’s require such an friendly climate and response, but in a more structural sense by establishing dialogue mechanism that work and deliver to both.One that delivers on the promise of creating wealth in those countries by dealing with the trade imbalance, by restructuring the Caribbean Basin Initiative, by facilitating and supporting the transfer of these economies towards financial and other services. One that supports the realities of the new security paradigm in which governance and development issues are closely linked to security concerns – and in which US security regulations directly impact security efforts and development issues for the Caribbean, and security concerns in the Caribbean have direct bearing on the United States. The 14 CARICOM nations, that are a member of the OAS, form almost 50% of the independent countries of the Americas: clearly it is better to count these nations as friends of the USA. In my view, this conference provides an unique opportunity to solidify this environment, by making the relationship visible and an equal one.I thank you for your presence and attention.