Task force to push `Forward Together' proposals By Magdalena Morales
Guyana Chronicle
July 9, 2002

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THE Civil Society `Forward Together' Conference, a historic and successful consultation involving representatives of Civil Society in the 15-member states of the Caribbean Community and the Heads of Government, held at the Ocean View Hotel, Liliendaal, East Coast Demerara last week, has agreed to establish a Task Force.

The working group comprising a small representative group of Civil Society and coordinated by the CARICOM Secretariat, will seek to develop a comprehensive regional strategic framework to carry forward the main recommendations of the `Forward Together' conference and report to the Conference of Heads of Government at its next Inter-Sessional Meeting in 2003, a statement issued at the end of the conference said.

According to the `Liliendaal Statement', the task force would be guided by the recommendations submitted by the three Working Groups of the `Forward Together' conference, under three broad-based topics - Human Resource Development with Equity, including issues in relation to Gender, Youth and Persons with Disabilities, Migration and the Diaspora: the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) - Capital Investment and requirements for competitiveness; and Governance and Participation.

The forum noted the increased challenges to the Caribbean Community posed by globalisation and the resulting complex economic, trade, environmental, social and legal issues.

It also expressed deep concern about social conditions prevailing in the Community with regard to increasing transnational crime linked to trafficking in illicit arms and drugs; money laundering; the widening negative impact of terrorism; the migration of scarce skills; racism; ethnic insecurity, the high incidence of male dropouts; increased violence against women and children; persistent and increasing poverty, and the HIV/AIDS pandemic eroding the region's human capital.

Of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME), it was recognisd that the objective of achieving it is not only a response to globalisation, including the impending Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), but is of the greatest value for a more coordinated system to enhance the region's competitiveness, given the historical realities of the Caribbean region, the statement said.

It said the conference acknowledged that Civil Society has a vital role to play in the development of regional, political and social policies, the development of those programmes and frameworks currently in existence, their modification, where necessary, and the creation of new areas as required.

The conference also said that the establishment of mechanisms for continuous dialogue between the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community and Civil Society is an essential way to complement relevant programmes to ensure social reconstruction, cohesiveness, peace, poverty reduction, and equity that would enhance regional integration and make the Community more economically viable.

"In this context, the meeting affirmed the importance of programmes with regard to youth, labour, the elderly, people with disabilities, women, men and gender relations; sport, labour, education and training, health and access to technology; and programmes aimed at promoting respect for the rights and aspirations of our indigenous peoples", the `Liliendaal Statement' said.

"Further, it agreed on several broad principles for strengthening the relationships between the Caribbean Heads of Governments and national governments and the Civil Society.

"These include to institutionalise the Forward Together process in the form of more regular engagements between the Civil Society and the Heads of Government, a triennial engagement as suggested, and emphasize the need for more constructive participation of Civil Society representatives in appropriate decision making Organs of the Community such as the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED), the Council for Finance and Planning (COFAP), the Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD)", it added.