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April 23, 1998

Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretary-General Edwin Carrington, speaking in Washington at the Organization of American States (OAS) today, staunchly defended hemispheric programs designed to benefit Caribbean and other small countries.

Explaining the concern held by Caribbean and other small countries of the region, Mr. Carrington, who is in Washington for the OAS-CARICOM meeting that opened this morning, told a special session of the Permanent Council that the new mandates given the OAS at the just-ended Chile Summit of the Americas could jeopardize programs and hence would only "further weaken the capacity of the smaller economies to effectively participate in the Summit of the Americas process especially in the Free Trade Area of the Americas." Negotiations got off the ground recently on the FTAA.

He said "the member states of CARICOM reiterate the need to observe the agreements and understandings previously reached and reaffirmed" at the Summit of 1994. Those agreements pertained to moves to incorporate measures that ensure the full and effective participation of the smaller economies in what the CARICOM chief called a historic adventure. He continued: "Neither this nor the objective to combat the illegal traffic in drugs or to alleviate poverty would be met by the reallocation of existing resources.

"This organization cannot afford to endanger programs keenly required, especially by small states, to finance the other programs," he insisted.

Expressing appreciation for OAS contribution, another area he touched on specifically was education: "Should such reallocation involve shifting resources from areas such as technical assistance and scholarships/fellowships, not only will that diminish one of the critical benefits which the CARICOM region enjoys from its membership in the OAS, but would also serve to undermine the educational thrust in the wake of a Summit which has placed education at the top of its priorities."

Cuba also featured prominently in Mr. Carrington's speech, which emphasized the Caribbean countries' call for Cuba's return to the inter-American community, declaring that "one cannot avoid Cuba if one is faced with the task of Caribbean development. After all, Cuba is a major Caribbean state."

Carrington was welcomed to the CARICOM-OAS meeting and to the Council by the chairman, Trinidad and Tobago's Ambassador Michael Arneaud. Said Ambassador Arneaud: "This second meeting has the potential for increasing collaboration as part of the partnership for the development process between both organizations in the interest of member states."

OAS Secretary General CÚsar Gaviria, meanwhile, gave a commitment that "the OAS will continue to improve our coordination with the CARICOM member states and with the Secretariat as we strive to attain our common objectives." He also stated that his hemispheric agency had stepped up its activities through the Caribbean Group for Cooperation in Economic Development, adding that by establishing the Inter-American Council for Integral Development, its technical assistance arm, the OAS had improved its capacity to deliver services to the member states to engage a more organized and rational coordination with donors.

The OAS Secretary General, along with Assistant Secretary General Christopher R. Thomas, later hosted a luncheon in honor of the visiting CARICOM team, after which technical experts from both secretariats began reviewing and working out together the specifics of the cooperation endeavor.

The two institutions last met in 1995 to discuss cooperation at a high level.

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