Summit of `progress' By Rickey Singh
Guyana Chronicle
July 7, 2002

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CARIBBEAN Community (CARICOM) leaders have completed their 23rd regular annual summit here on a high note of optimism and convinced they have made "excellent progress for the way forward".

Both the current Chairman of CARICOM, President Bharrat Jagdeo, and immediate past Chairman, Prime Minister Said Musa of Belize, as well as Barbados's Foreign Minister, Ms. Billie Miller, who headed her country's delegation in the absence of Prime Minister Owen Arthur, rated highly the progress achieved.

Topping the list of achievements are:
** Final agreement on the operationalisation of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) with original jurisdiction on resolution of disputes arising from interpretation of the revised Community Treaty.

** The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) was mandated to raise US$100M for an independently-administered Trust Fund for the CCJ, which the leaders feel could be inaugurated by late 2003, and which is central to the functioning of the emerging Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME).

The President of the CDB, Dr. Compton Bourne is to report to the Community's heads of government in six months time on the bank's effort to raise the US$100M to guarantee the financial sustainability and independence of the CCJ.

** The leaders also agreed to extend the life of the Regional Task Force on Crime and Security with an expanded mandate to help in addressing "immediate needs" to arrest the escalating levels of crime and violence afflicting a number of the Community's 15 member countries.

Among new measures to be pursued, and arising from recommendations of the Task Force's report, are:

** Establishment of broad-based "National Commissions on Law and Order", including civil society representation; and the preparation and implementation of "National Anti-Crime Master Plans".

** The new relationship developed with civil society and resulting from the first-ever Community-organised high-level Civil Society Conference, was also cited as an area of "much satisfaction".

What is to be known as the "Liliendaal Statement of Principles on Forward Together" -- (Lillendaal is a village on the East Coast) and venue for the day-and-half event) -- provides the basis for civil society to emerge as an integral partner with the public sector on issues of national/regional importance and development.

And, as President Jagdeo told a late night end-of-summit media briefing Friday, the intention is to have a Regional Civil Society Encounter at least once every three years.

A small Task Force, comprising representatives of civil society and coordinated by the CARICOM Secretariat, is to develop a "comprehensive regional strategic framework" to advance the recommendations from last week's civil society event.

This Task Force is to report to the next Inter-Sessional Meeting of Community leaders on concrete proposals for advancing the collective partnership process in the interest of the region's peoples.

** Haiti's accession to full membership of CARICOM, which hopes to make "substantial progress" in the creation of the CSME with the marking of its 30th anniversary next year, was also a new 'progress' area for the just-concluded summit.

A unique feature of the summit was the extensive caucus sessions of heads of delegation, some of which are normally covered at a "retreat", and the reduction of plenary sessions.

With their revised agenda of issues completed, most of the visiting heads of government, including the Prime Ministers of Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, left for home, while ministerial and diplomatic colleagues, as well as other members of their delegations participated in a day of sight-seeing and relaxation at the Baganara tourist resort in the Essequibo.

But before concluding their final work session, the CARICOM leaders issued a statement strongly condemning the attack by protesters of an illegal march on the Office of President Jagdeo, their host for the summit.

They made clear also their collective opposition to "extra-constitutional and illegal means aimed at removing democratically elected governments".

** The Community leaders have decided to have a special meeting by August 16 in St. Lucia to deal specifically with the serious financial/economic problems facing a number of CARICOM states, with Dominica perhaps in a worse case scenario.

The opportunity will also be taken to address issues from both the Prime Ministerial Sub-committees on External Negotiations and the CSME, neither of which met, as is normal during a regular summit, although updates of issues of immediate concerns were considered.