Guyana to sell itself as gateway to South America
…at upcoming CARICOM conference By Neil Marks Guyana Chronicle
June 11, 2002

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“It’s a brave new world we are entering into. With globalisation, the windows have been opened, so we have to look further afield…to see how we can establish meaningful relations with non-traditional countries” - Foreign Minister Rudy Insanally

GUYANA is looking to explain how it can serve the Caribbean as a gateway to South America when the 23rd Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) comes off in Georgetown early next month.

The July 3 - 5 meeting coincides with the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the Community.

Brazil’s President, Henrique Cardoso, upon invitation of President Bharrat Jagdeo, will be in Guyana for the meeting, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Rudy Insanally confirmed at a press conference yesterday.

“We want to show CARICOM that we can be the gateway to South America. Also, Guyana can serve as a gateway to Latin America and open up possibilities for trade not only with Brazil, but with the Andean countries (like) Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador (and) with the Amazonian countries and MERCOSUR”, he told reporters at the Foreign Service Institute in Georgetown.

“It’s a brave new world we are entering into. With globalisation, the windows have been opened, so we have to look further afield…to see how we can establish meaningful relations with non-traditional countries”, Insanally added.

Meantime, a main item on the draft agenda, Minister Insanally said is crime with CARICOM heads expected to consider the report of the regional task force on crime and security.

“Security and crime are now not indigenous to one country but… it is now endemic in most of our territories”, Minister Insanally said.

He noted that crime in the region is fueled by arms and drugs trafficking and the recent waves of deportation, which “have put many governments under siege”.

Insanally told reporters that no CARICOM member state has expressed reservations about the conference being held in Guyana, given the recent escalation of criminal activities. This, he said, is because CARICOM member states realise that Guyana is not worse off than they are when it comes to crime.

Nonetheless, he said adequate security arrangements are in place for the conference, which will open at the National Cultural Centre, Homestretch Avenue. The working sessions will be held at Le Meridien Pegasus in Kingston where most, if not all, of the delegates will be staying.

Civil society will also have an input at this year’s conference.

A region-wide civil society encounter will be held on the eve of the conference at the Ocean View Convention Centre, Liliendaal, East Coast Demerara, at which the heads are expected to participate.

The encounter is a major attempt by CARICOM at consultation with the private sector and other non-state actors to broaden the discourse on the challenges of development and social stability for the region.

It will explore the role of civil society in identifying strategies for development that take into account the needs of the poor and marginalised groups.

Among the other objectives will be to establish new approaches to collaboration and consultation between civil society and government on development issues, particularly in the pursuit of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy.

An inter-agency task force headed by Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ms. Elizabeth Harper, was set up to ensure the smooth running of the conference.

During their visit here, the CARICOM heads will be taken to the site of the permanent CARICOM Secretariat headquarters building for a ceremony, the details for which have not yet been finalised.

On February 19 last, the Government announced the award of a G$1.65 billion contract to construct the building, paving the way for Guyana to fulfill a more than 25-year-old promise to the Community.

But it will not be all work for the leaders, Minister Insanally said, as President Jagdeo also wants to show off Guyana to his CARICOM colleagues and others attending the conference.