Civil society encounter to focus on needs of poor, scope for dialogue
Stabroek News
June 29, 2002

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The regional Encounter of Civil Society will focus on identifying strategies for development that take into account the needs of the poor and marginalised groups.

Another of its main objectives is strengthening the scope for dialogue and collaboration among various strands of non-state actors in promoting development.

Briefing journalists at a ‘media clinic’ held at the CARICOM Secretariat on Tuesday on the upcoming two-day event which opens at the Ocean View Hotel and Convention Centre on Tuesday, Human Development Director of the CARICOM Secretariat, Jacqulyn Joseph said that the other main objective would be to establish new approaches to collaboration and consultation between civil society and government on development issues, particularly in pursuit of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).

The agenda on the first day, she said, will revolve around developing a regional position on issues that arose from the national consultations which were held in member states prior to the regional encounter. Those positions, she said, would be developed and finalised on the first day of the conference on July 2. Some civil society representatives in Guyana have expressed dissatisfaction with the consultation that was held here and the five persons to participate on this country’s behalf are still to be identified.

Joseph said that the reports from the national consultations have been circulated to all members states and are available on the CARICOM website. It is expected, Joseph said, that at the end of the first day, members of civil society would be clear as to what are the issues to be presented to the Heads of Governments who are scheduled to meet with them from 9 am to 12:30 pm the following day in a historic session. The regional encounter, like the national consultation, will be based on the CSME and at the regional encounter the participants will be divided into three working groups. They will look at (1) The CSME - human resource development with equity; (2) CSME - capital investment and requirements for competitiveness; and (3) Governance - to include the relevance and efficiency of the instruments of governance.

Joseph said the representation at the conference will come from the non-traditional, non-governmental organisations and will include the labour movement, the private sector, youths, women, sports and the media.

All member states, she said, have been working to put this kind of composition together. The representation at the regional encounter will comprise persons who took part in national consultations.

The civil society meeting is being supported by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) which have provided financial support for participants to attend the meeting in Georgetown.

Giving a background to the encounter, Joseph said the CARICOM heads at a Special Session held at Chaguaramas, Trinidad in 1999 mandated that each member state hold national consultations with civil society to ensure their participation in the decision-making process which will be integrated in the community’s strategy on the way forward for the regional integration movement.

She said that the process first began by pulling together umbrella groups to guide it through the various stages. They were guided basically by the broad objectives of the regional encounter. Over the last year, she said, most member states held the national consultations with the exception of Dominica and Montserrat. While Guyana conducted its in February, there is some dissatisfaction with the outcome of that meeting which was held at the National Library. (Miranda La Rose)