Prime Minister Gaston Browne travelled is In Trinidad for the 50th anniversary of the formation of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) taking place from today.
Some of the biggest names in Caribbean and geopolitics have begun arriving in T&T for the Caribbean Community’s (Caricom) Heads of Government Meeting that takes place at the Hyatt Regency in Port-of-Spain from Monday through to Wednesday.
The United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres arrived after lunch on Sunday. Guardian Media understands he was taken to the Asa Wright Nature Centre before being treated at Maracas Bay to some local cuisine.
Among the other dignitaries to arrive at the Hyatt Regency yesterday were Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs of China Hua Chunying, Antigua Prime Minister Gaston Browne, Commonwealth Secretary-General Baroness Patricia Scotland, and St Lucia Prime Minister Philip J Pierre.
Antony Blinken, the United States Secretary of State, is due to arrive in T&T in the coming days while the President of Guyana will arrive on Monday ahead of the opening ceremony scheduled for 4.30pm.
While it is the 45th meeting of the Caricom Heads of Government, it’s the 50th anniversary of the signing of The Treaty of Chaguaramas which gave birth to the regional body. It was signed on July 4, 1973.
Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, who arrived in T&T on Sunday, is the incoming chairman of Caricom.
Speaking with the media upon arrival, Skerrit says the meeting presents an opportunity to reflect on how far the Caribbean has come but also deal with the most pressing issues facing the region at this time.
Skerrit said, “It’s a time for introspection and reflection after 50 years of Caricom. I think it’s important for us to assess where we are at 50 years and where we would like to be 50 years down the road. It’s being held in Trinidad and Tobago, the birthplace of Caricom and what better place to have that introspection and reflection. We have a number of critical matters to discuss on the agenda. We have some very important guests—the UN Secretary-General, the President of Rwanda and several countries that are represented—so I’m very excited about the next few days and I think we will have some very frank engagements.”
On the back of the Caricom Regional Crime Symposium held at the same venue on April 17 to 18, Skerrit says security is one of the main challenges that need to be met in the region.
He added that issues such as health, trade, food security when it comes to maritime and air transportation are critical.
“The other thing at 50 I really think we should be looking at is completing the lease of free movement. We cannot have an integration process and people can’t move freely, and it cannot be a class system. I think we need to look at an integration movement and everybody needs to be part of this integration movement.”
Skerrit said Caricom was a friend of all and the rest of the world recognised the regional body as a bloc.
“Once Caricom is united, we can bring the attention that is required to the region and negotiate a better deal,” the Dominica Prime Minister said.
The UN Secretary General will deliver remarks at the opening ceremony this afternoon.
Guterres is expected to underscore that the world needs to match the leadership, energy and commitment of the Caribbean countries in issues such as the restructuring of the international financial system and the climate crisis in his speech.
He is also expected to reiterate the United Nation’s commitment to call for more ambitious action on these two areas before travelling back to New York on Tuesday.
The Commonwealth Secretary-General, Baroness Scotland, will also deliver remarks. In the build-up to the meeting, Scotland commended the achievements of the organisation, stating, “Caricom came together 50 years ago to enhance the connections, well-being, prosperity and security of Caribbean countries and their citizens. Those objectives were prescient then, and now, half a century later, they are more important than ever.”
In T&T, the Secretary-General will engage with Caribbean leaders, seeking their perspectives and collaborating on strategies to provide more tailored and practical assistance to the region. She will also update leaders on preparations for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) scheduled to take place in Samoa from October 21, 2024.
While the meeting will open with a ceremony at 4:30pm, the official flag raising ceremony to mark 50 years will take place on Tuesday, in Chaguaramas, followed by tributes at the Hyatt. There will also be a 50th anniversary concert on Tuesday from 7 pm before with business sessions on both Tuesday and Wednesday. The meeting wraps up with a media conference at 6:45pm on Wednesday.