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Regional progress on reparation
Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders are hoping to hold talks with Europe in June on the issue of reparations for slavery and native genocide, St Vincent Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves has said.
“I would say that we made good progress on that issue, and, before the end of June, some approach is going to be made to the European countries in relation to this matter of reparations,” Gonsalves told journalists at the end of the first day of the two-day CARICOM inter-sessional summit here.
Gonsalves said that the regional leaders are expected to continue discussing the issue on Tuesday with the main focus being on a budget for the regional commission on reparations for African slavery and native genocide.
The leaders who will meet in caucus on Tuesday, had also adopted a 10-point reparatory justice framework, presented by Professor Sir Hillary Beckles, head of CARICOM’s Reparations Commission.
He said the framework comprises “basically issues relating to things which have been talked about all the time like an apology, the question of organising with African countries and those persons who want to have reparations, matters relating to health, education and literacy, building the cultural institutions and matters concerning a special programme for the development of the indigenous people…”
He said the issues “touch and concern” the post 2015 Millennium Development Goal discussion and that
CARICOM would continue its research even as it seeks the conference with Europe.
At least 14 CARICOM member states have set up national reparations commission even as some Europeans countries against which claims are being made have said that they will not pay compensation for slavery and native genocide.
“We believe we have the law and the facts on our side in relation to addressing the legacy of native genocide and African slavery and we will make our case,” said Gonsalves, who is also an attorney.
“It is a serious proposal, with serious issues, within the same context of not fighting anybody,” he said of Beckles’ presentation.
“These things never come easy but these are 14 sovereign countries representing 16 million people with a huge Diaspora in the United States, in Canada, in Europe. I think we have some influence. I am satisfied and we are satisfied that we have the law on our side, and we have the acts on our side.”
CARICOM has said that it will opt for litigation if Europe refuses to negotiate and Gonsalves, who is also Chairman of the 15-member regional grouping, said the conference in June will be” a mature conversation with the Europeans” and that CARICOM is hoping that the Europeans will agree to the conversation.
“And then after that conversation, we will make a formal claim,” he said.
A British law firm Leigh Day is expected to lead the region’s legal battle against Europe.
Gonsalves said that the regional leaders at the end of their first day of deliberations had made progress on a number of agenda items including agreeing to a road map for a single information and communication technology (ICT) space in CARICOM and to link ICT in a coordinated manner with education and production.
“We are a little behind the curve with ICT,” Gonsalves said, adding that the region has, however, done tremendous work over the last few years.
He said that a presentation on a presentation on human development, particularly education, was also made to the leaders who have since decided to set up a commission on education, similar to the one on health “that has delivered a lot of benefits across the region”.
Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar told reporters that the leaders had agreed to recommendations by the Council on Trade and Economic Development (COTED) on ICT that had been established by the leaders.
“Today coming out of the report by that working group we agreed to recognise that the digital economy provides an important key to changing the economic profile of the region and in general innovation and competitiveness.
“We agreed that the priority areas of focus in building the digital economy during the period 2014-2019 would include…establishment of a single CARICOM ICT space to enhance the environment for production and investment; bringing technology to the people and transforming them to digital entrepreneurs”.
She said the leaders would also discuss further, legislation on cyber security legislation.
She said the leaders had also mandated that COTED-ICT “oversee the development and implementation of the road map on the single ICT space and that the road map be presented for consideration at the July 2015 conference of heads”.
She said that national councils on ICT should consider ICT development initiatives at their meetings in 2014 and 2015 “to ensure that sustained attention is given to this critical sector during that period”.
The regional leaders also received a preliminary report from the Commission on the Economy, including suggestions on addressing debt management, and fiscal consolidation.
“Darcy Boyce of Barbados did tremendous work to bring us a series of suggestions relating to the priorities, how to address them. The question of debt management, fiscal consolidation, several ideas and we discussed that document and adopted it, Gonsalves said.
Barbados Prime Minister Freundel Stuart who has lead responsibility for the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSM) also presented the report of the prime ministerial subcommittee on the CSME that Gonsalves said “intertwined with several of the issue regarding the Commission on the Economy and that was also accepted.
“Basically, (we are) deepening the integration process, working on the priorities in a joint way. In other words, there is not a pause, we are addressing the built-in agenda within the Treaty and moving as fast as we can possible move,” Gonsalves said.
Caribbean leaders convene for CARICOM inter-sessional summit in St Vincent
Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders began their inter-sessional summit here on Monday reiterating the importance of the regional integration movement to the socio-economic and political development of the region.
Host Prime Minister and CARICOM Chairman, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said that 41-year-old 15-member grouping was not designed as a central government for a “bundle of disparate territories” neither was it a unitary state or federation or confederation.
“The Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas conceives CARICOM as a community of sovereign states. Its centre has been deliberately designed as a weak superstructure which constantly gropes for consensus.
“That is what the political market can bear, that is the reality which the broad citizenry in the community has endorsed.”
Gonsalves said that neither the political leadership as a collective nor the populations as a whole have an appetite for much more than what is currently on offer in the treaty commitments.
“So our political mandate is to ensure that what is fashioned in the Revised Treaty is implemented optimally. To achieve this we must first love and care for CARICOM, secondly we must ensure that the organs of the Community work as intended and that its decisions are implemented in each nation-state if the Community”
He said thirdly, the political leaders and populations in each nation posses the requisite political will for CARICOM’s opimal functioning as structured.
Gonsalves told the summit that a compelling agenda for CARICOM has been outlined by numerous studies, including one by Trinidad and Tobago’s Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran and that a “strategic path is being further elaborated by CARICOM.
Gonsalves said that CARICOM is frequently lambasted for its failure or refusal to implement the decisions of its treaty based institutions.
“Invariably, the CARICOM Secretariat is excoriated for this implementation deficit. However, the Secretariat is not CARICOM, it is the central administrative instrument of CARICOM but it possesses no authority to compel enforcement of decisions of the various Councils of Ministers and the Heads of State and Government conference.”
Gonsalves said that in the absence of an executive CARICOM Commission, buttressed by the requiste constitutional or legal authority, the central responsibility for the implementation of CARICOM’s decisions rests with the governments of the individual nation-states.
“Thus, each government is enjoined in its responsibility, nay its solemn obligation to put appropriate institutional arrangements in its national executive and administrative apparatuses to facilitate the speedy and efficacious implementation of CARICOM decisions.”
Gonsalves told his regional colleagues that to be sure, the delivery of the Secretariat’s administrative and coordinated functions ought to be enhanced even as he acknowledged that the implementation deficit has to be put “squarely where it belongs, at the level of national governments.
“Accordingly, vaunted change drivers cannot reasonably facilitate meaningful change in decision-making and implementation in CARICOM if the individual governments or several of them do not embrace a commitment, made manifest through structured arrangements day-to-day, in the making and implementation of CARICOM’s decision.”
“So the success of the CARICOM enterprise truly begins with the political leaderships, though it does not end with us alone. It ends with us, our national populations and national institutions massaged by the balm of our regional apparatuses,” Gonsalves said.
He said while the summit here has a “long agenda” the subjects to be discussed or reviewed for determination all have one focus, “the improvement in the quality of life and living of the people our our CARICOM region.
”Our deliberations at this conference do not take place in an abstract world, but ina lived global, regional and national conditions stuffed with possibilities and limitations.
“The real world of life, living, and production compel us at this time to reflect centrally on measures for strengthening our regional and national economies incuding the fortification of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME|), addressing efficaciously the existential challenge of climate change, improving markedly the delivery of air and sea transportation and enhancing citizen security”.
Gnsalves said that apart from these issues there were also the perennial matters such as governance, institutional and administrative arrangements of CARICOM deemed “best suited to achieve CARICOM purposes”.
In her address to the conference, outgoing CARICOM Chairman, Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar said that she was pleased one of the major outcomes of the last summit was the approval for the establishment of the Commission on the Economy to advise regional governments on solutions that would lead to growth and development.
“The Commission’s work has already begun and with a deep appreciation of the fact that sustainable development can only be achieved through the free movement of people and goods, reliable transportation across the region has also become a top priority. “
The Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister said that in planning for the future of the region, her country would continue to take its responsibility “ very seriously in linking our progress to the region’s success.
“As one of the founding members of the Community, we have worked hard to build a reputation on good faith that wherever we seek our best diplomatic and bilateral interests on the global stage, so too will we seek the best interests of CARICOM.”
She said more critical to the sustainability of the region “is our need to work decisively to eradicate crime and threats to the safety of the people of CARICOM.
“In this regard, Trinidad & Tobago proposed an amendment to the agenda of this meeting for the ratification of the Arms Trade Treaty and support for Trinidad and Tobago’s CARICOM-endorsed bid to Host the Secretariat in Port of Spain.”
She said the Arms Trade Treaty provides the region with a significant component in the global fight against the trade of conventional arms in illicit markets.
To date 116 States have signed the ATT, including all CARICOM members, except Haiti.
Eleven States have ratified the Treaty thereby expressing their consent to be legally bound by its provisions. They are Iceland, Guyana, Antigua and Barbuda, Nigeria, Costa Rica, Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, Panama and Norway.
But Prime Minister Persad Bissessar said for the ATT to come into force, Article 22 requires the signatures and early ratification by 50 signatory States so that the Treaty can come into force with the minimum of delay.
She said Mexico and Chile have already formally pledged support for Trinidad and Tobago’s CARICOM-endorsed bid to host the ATT Secretariat.
“However, among CARICOM member States, only Guyana, Antigua and Barbuda, Trinidad and Tobago and Grenada have so far ratified the ATT.
“In addition, I want to urge CARICOM member States to prepare to participate, once more with an unified approach, in the negotiations that will ensue before and after the ATT comes into force.”
Caricom busca consensuar estrategia sobre regulación de mariguana
Los quince países miembros de la Comunidad del Caribe (Caricom) comenzaron a estudiar hoy los efectos que podría tener la despenalización de la mariguana con fines medicinales en la delicada economía de la región, entre otras posibles estrategias para potenciar la reactivación económica. Para ello contaron con un informe elaborado por un grupo de expertos que apoya la idea de despenalizar su consumo, al menos con fines medicinales, y argumenta que el Caribe tiene una “ventaja competitiva” con respecto a otra zonas del planeta a la hora de cultivar esa planta.
“La región debería pues explorar cualquier beneficio comercial de una potencial industria de miles de millones de dólares, incluida la investigación y el desarrollo, así como la producción de productos de mariguana médica”, señala el informe difundido hoy entre los asistentes a la cumbre. El presidente de Caricom y primer ministro de San Vicente y las Granadinas, Ralph Gonsalves, anfitrión de la cita, propone desde el año pasado que la organización territorial impulse una estrategia común respecto a la despenalización de la mariguana y se ponga así en una posición avanzada respecto a una tendencia que cada vez se afianza más en el continente.
Por el momento Jamaica ya ha anunciado que este año despenalizará la posesión de pequeñas cantidades de mariguana para consumo recreativo y que legalizará su distribución con fines médicos. “Aunque Jamaica no cumpla con ese objetivo, ha avanzado rápidamente y no tengo ninguna duda de que todos estos acontecimientos están teniendo un impacto en la región”, dijo Gonsalves en declaraciones a la prensa durante la reunión.
Sin embargo, reconoció que en su país no existe un clima claramente favorable, al igual que en Granada, cuyo primer ministro, Keith Mitchell, dejó claro que por el momento “el cultivo y consumo de mariguana es ilegal” en su país. También ha mostrado su oposición Barbados. En cualquier caso, y según el informe que estudian los miembros de Caricom (en su mayoría ex colonias británticas, y también francesas y holandesas) advierte que se podría obtener una gran cantidad de dinero a través de la despenalización y apunta que en Washington y Colorado su legalización podría suponer 2,100 millones de dólares en ingresos por impuestos durante los próximos cinco años.
“Uno de los problemas que preveo es que si no nos ocupamos de esto, e incluso si no nos ocupamos ya de ello, existe el peligro de que en los próximos diez años vamos a estar comprando a EU productos farmacéuticos relacionados con la marihuana”, dijo Gonsalves, respecto a un “potencial comercio transfronterizo que nos situaría en desventaja”. El mandatario reconoció que busca una opinión común en Caricomporque “es muy difícil hacerlo siendo un solo Estado, sobre todo un Estado tan pequeño como San Vicente y las Granadinas”.
“Si lo hacemos como Caricom, incluso aunque no todos lo hagan al mismo tiempo, todo será más fácil”, apuntó tras recomendar que se siga el liderazgo que ha tomado Jamaica, uno de los países más identificados a nivel mundial con la mariguana y que ha empezado a dar los pasos para relajar su prohibición. Otro de los temas más controvertidos sobre la mesa de esta reunión de dos días a la que acuden catorce jefes de Estado y de gobierno de los quince países que integran Caricom es la reclamación de indemnizaciones por los daños de la esclavitud.
Caricom tiene la intención de reclamar compensaciones a las antiguas potencias coloniales por los “daños” derivados de la esclavitud. Esas reclamaciones podrían ir contra Reino Unido, Holanda, Francia, España, Portugal, Noruega, Suecia y Dinamarca. Entre los miembros de Caricomhay doce ex colonias británicas, así que no es de extrañar que pretendan comenzar con el Reino Unido, precisamente el primer país del mundo en aboir el comercio de esclavos. Con la ayuda de una compañía británica preparan una demanda que reclamará “daños” derivados de la esclavitud como pobreza, analfabetismo y enfermedades.