Dominica assumes chair of CARICOM’s Foreign Ministers Council

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Dominica has assumed the chairmanship of the CARICOM Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR), receiving the baton from Jamaica at the 27th Meeting of COFCOR in Roseau, Dominica.

Ministers of Foreign Affairs met from 23-24 May over a packed agenda covering bilateral, multilateral, hemispheric, and intra-CARICOM relations; climate change; candidatures; and border issues. Dr. the Hon. Vince Henderson, Dominica’s Foreign Affairs Minister chaired the meeting.

CARICOM Secretary-General, Dr. Carla Barnett, in her remarks during the opening, thanked Jamaica’s Foreign Minister, Senator the Hon. Kamina Johnson Smith for her service to the Community over the past year, in her role as Chair of COFCOR.

Dr. Barnett urged CARICOM Foreign Ministers to continue the work toward actionable outcomes to advance CARICOM’s collective interests.

This is particularly critical as the global context becomes increasingly challenged with threats to multilateralism, disregard for international law, and increased instability in many parts of the world, she said.

“As Small Island and Low-lying Coastal Developing States, we are more vulnerable to these international fluctuations which continue to adversely affect our economies, environments, and societies,” Dr. Barnett stated, adding that this reality becomes critical as the Caribbean approaches another hurricane season.

Against this backdrop the Secretary-General noted, “Climate resilience cannot be realised without affordable resources necessary for infrastructural development. In our bilateral and joint engagements, we must continue, as a collective, to reinforce the urgency of reform of the global financial architecture, as proposed in the Bridgetown Initiative, to facilitate increased access to resources, at costs that we can bear, to address the impact of climate change on our economies and societies.”

She said that the Fourth International Conference on Small Island Developing States, which is underway in Antigua and Barbuda, presents a significant opportunity for CARICOM Member States to engage with international partners, including SIDS outside the Community, to establish a common agenda regarding climate change and financing for development.

Describing CARICOM’s relations with non-traditional partners in the Middle East as “one of great potential,” the Secretary-General said the Community has demonstrated its commitment to diplomacy, and multilateralism.

This is evident in its call for the peaceful resolution of the war on Gaza and the recognition of the State of Palestine by CARICOM Member States, Dr. Barnett said.

“This commitment to diplomacy is integral to the reputation of integrity that CARICOM has established on the international stage. Undoubtedly, this reputation has, in part, propelled significant interest by Third States in the Latin American and Caribbean region, and beyond, to deepen relations with CARICOM Member States, through Associate Membership of the Community,” she noted.

Encouraging the COFCOR to continue its work to provide foreign policy guidance to the Community, the Secretary-General said, “Let us remain cognizant of what we can achieve together to enhance the development of our societies and the quality of life of the people of the Caribbean Community.”

Senator Johnson Smith in her remarks recalled the robust engagements the Council facilitated with international, regional, and bilateral partners.

These engagements included the first in-person meeting since 2016 between the Region and the United Kingdom (UK) in the 11th UK-Caribbean Forum last May. On the sidelines of the Forum, CARICOM and the UK signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on a Consultation Mechanism to facilitate greater cooperation.

The Outgoing Chair also highlighted the strengthening of relations with other partners including Canada, Japan, South Africa, and the United States, as well as regional organisations such as SICA and CELAC.

She said that intra-regionally priority focus was on “the multifaceted situation impacting our fellow CARICOM Member State Haiti.”

“At both the Conference of Heads and COFCOR levels, we continue to support unabated efforts, through the CARICOM Good Offices initiative, towards peace, stability, and development in Haiti,” Senator Johnson Smith told her colleagues, underscoring the need for continued support to CARICOM’s French-speaking Member State.

During his address as the new Chair, Dr. Henderson said the matters before Foreign Ministers reflected the complex realities that the Region must navigate in the global landscape.

“Our collective voice and shared purpose are crucial as COFCOR undertakes its work to provide policy guidance in advancing our shared vision and development goals,” the Foreign Minister stated.

In this regard, he said that CARICOM’s increased engagement with emerging partners including countries in the Middle East, underscores the Community’s enduring commitment to maximising opportunities for development.

This was demonstrated as Foreign Ministers engaged with Qatar’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, H.E. Sultan bin Saad Al Muraikhi, during the meeting. Dr. Henderson said the engagement reflected COFCOR’s belief in diplomatic cooperation and shared priorities for growth.

“As Foreign Ministers, we must promote an environment that enables increased opportunities for collaboration, cooperation, and strategic partnership,” he said, underscoring the importance of South-South Cooperation.