Historic civil society encounter to precede CARICOM summit By Wendella Davidson
Guyana Chronicle
June 27, 2002

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CARIBBEAN Community (CARICOM) Heads of Government due here next week for their 23rd summit will create history when they meet and spend the entire morning of July 3 in discussion with representatives of civil society from CARICOM member states.

The coming together of the Heads and civil society stems from an initiative conceptualised by the leaders when they met in 1999 for a Special Session in Chaguaramas, Trinidad.

The `Encounter with Civil Society' to be held at the Ocean View Hotel Convention Centre, Liliendaal, East Coast Demerara, will precede the meeting of the Heads billed for July 3-5 at Le Meridien Pegasus Hotel, Georgetown.

Director for Human Development at the CARICOM Secretariat, Ms. Jacqulyn Joseph, told representatives attending a `media clinic' organised by the secretariat Tuesday, that the rationale behind the July 2-3 meeting is to provide a free and wide ranging interchanging of ideas with the aim of arriving at a consensus for a strategy for the development of the region and its peoples.

According to her, following the idea put forward by the Heads in 1999, a team was put together to help guide the process and subsequently formulated guidelines applicable for the respective member states, with the expectation that each member state will, under national consultations involving a broad group consisting of civil society such as trade unions and labour, private sector and the traditional non-governmental organisations (NGOs), ensure that issues such as gender and women were included in the process.

The team, she added, had provided some guidelines for the consultations such as identifying the strategies for financing development to pay attention to the needs of the poor and marginalised group; establishing new approaches to collaboration and consultation between civil society and government, especially in pursuit of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), and strengthening the scope for dialogue and collaboration in the various strands of non-state actions in promoting regional development.

Over the past year, national consultations were convened in most of the member states with the exception of Dominica and Montserrat and reports from the forums were circulated.

Before meeting the Heads of Government, the civil society conference will seek to move the process forward by trying to develop and finalise a regional position out of the national consultations, Joseph said.

This will be achieved when on the initial day they form themselves into three working groups themed CARICOM Single Market and Economy; Human Resource Development with Equity; CARICOM Single Market and Economy, Capital Investment and Requirement for Competitiveness; and Governance to include the Relevance and Efficiency of the Instrument of Governance.

Joseph said they hope that at the conclusion of the first day to be concise as to the issue to be raised when they meet the Heads the following day.

The some 200 delegates expected to attend the conference will be drawn from traditional NGOs, trade unions, the private sector, youth, women and the media.

Member states have been working to put together that kind of composition, Joseph said, pointing out that selection would be from persons who had participated in the national consultations in their respective countries.

Financial support for the process was made available by the Inter-American Development Bank.

Secretary General of CARICOM, Mr. Edwin Carrington expressed surprise when it was disclosed at the meeting that the Guyana media were not invited to be part of the national consultations convened here.

A brochure on the `Encounter with Civil Society' issued by the CARICOM Secretariat notes that genuine consultation with the region's civil society has been identified as a critical requirement for ensuring good governance and the suitability of the integration process.

It referred to a 1993 publication `Time for Action' in which the West Indian Commission had recommended that the new modalities of governance and sustainability of the integration process would require a strong and supportive civil society.

CARICOM Heads, following the proposals, individually (some to a greater extent than others) and collectively, adopted the Charter of Civil Society at the Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government in Antigua and Barbuda in 1997 and promoted consultations with the private sector, labour and non-governmental organisations.

Other issues discussed at the `media clinic' were CARICOM at 30: 1973-2003; Status of Implementation of the CSME; Status of Implementation of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ); An Overview of The Caribbean Community in the International Arena; An Overview of The Development of West Indies Cricket, and an Overview of Crime and Society.

The CARICOM Secretary General who gave an insight into the issues which are likely to be on the agenda for discussions, noted that the Heads of Government of at least 12 of the 14 members, including Trinidad and Tobago, are expected to attend the summit.

Meanwhile, President Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil who may not be able to arrive in time for the July 3-5 conference, is tentatively due here on July 6 to hold discussions with his colleagues, Carrington said.