Media Center



April 23, 1998 - OAS Headquarters, Washington, DC

Dr. Edwin Carrington, Secretary General of the Caribbean Community,
Assistant Secretary General Christopher Thomas,
Ambassadors and Alternate Representatives,
Representatives of the CARICOM Secretariat,

Ladies and Gentlemen

It is a pleasure for me to welcome you, Mr. Secretary General, and your staff to OAS Headquarters on the occasion of this Second General Meeting of the OAS and CARICOM Secretariats, to continue the work that we began three years ago at CARICOM Headquarters in Georgetown, Guyana. Let me also welcome you to this Special Session of the Permanent Council, which has been convened to focus our attention on the next steps forward in building a stronger and more fruitful relationship between the Organisation of American States (OAS) and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

Our two organisations embarked on this very important and mutually-reinforcing process six years ago when we signed the Agreement Between the General Secretariat of the Organisation of American States and the Caribbean Community in Nassau, Bahamas. We recognised then, that CARICOM deals, at the sub-regional level, with issues and activities that are in harmony with those pursued by the OAS at the hemispheric level. As such, it is important to coordinate our efforts, with a view to pursuing our common aims within the framework of the Charter of the OAS and the Treaty Establishing CARICOM.

Since the signature of the OAS-CARICOM cooperation agreement in May 1992, much has happened, which convinces me not only that we set out on the right path at that time, but also that we must act with greater urgency to deepen our relationship in order to attain our common vision. Since 1992, there have been two summits of the 34 democratically-elected leaders of our Hemisphere. The Summit of the Americas process -- which is focussed on the core interests of the region such as democracy, trade and economic integration, security cooperation, and the integral and sustainable development of our region -- has resulted in a major reorganisation of hemispheric relations at almost every level of interaction.

In this renewed effort to find a common vision for the future of our Hemisphere, sub-regional and regional organisations like CARICOM and the OAS have played a critical role, transforming and updating our traditional agenda to one that is more reflective of, and responsive to, the time and context in which we must continue our work for the progress of the peoples of this Hemisphere. A new and dynamic sub-regionalism has emerged, allowing countries with similar interests to forge consensus on critical issues and to increase both their relevance and their stake in hemispheric affairs.

This sub-regionalism, which can be understood as a preliminary step in the consolidation of the new hemispheric order, demands enhanced collaborative and cooperative action. One of the first steps in this process is the reinvigoration of existing agreements that define our relationships.

We will have no better opportunity than the present. As the OAS enters its 50th year, and CARICOM celebrates the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Chaguaramas establishing the Caribbean Community, we are seized with a golden opportunity for review, refocus, and retooling.

Over our 50 years of existence, the OAS has seen its membership expand to embrace the independent member states of the Caribbean Community. With different historical experiences and traditions, new expectations and ideas, and a special appreciation of the role small states can play in shaping the hemispheric agenda, the CARICOM member states have brought fresh perspective to the OAS. At this point in our history, therefore, it comes as no surprise that the integration of the wider membership has become the fundamental challenge for the OAS in discharging its hemispheric mission.

To meet this challenge and set a sustainable course for realising the new vision of its role and responsibilities in hemispheric affairs, the OAS has undertaken, as an integral part of its strategy, to widen and enhance its network of regional out-reach by updating and expanding existing cooperation agreements with sub-regional bodies, like CARICOM, and developing new ones. Together with our sub-regional counterparts, we have moved to promote regional dialogue and consequent joint action on important social and development issues. The unique position of the OAS as the single political body that comprises all independent member states of the Hemisphere places it in a central position to coordinate this wider hemispheric agenda.

CARICOM is vital to this process. From its inception, the Caribbean Community has concentrated on promoting the integration of the economies and coordinating the foreign policies of its independent member states, and on functional cooperation. In the run-up to its quarter century milestone, efforts to revise the CARICOM Treaty demonstrate the commitment of CARICOM to keep abreast of global changes as the Community seeks to establish a functional Single Market and Economy for the 21st century. The cooperation and understanding among CARICOM member states have provided the motivation to deepen the sub-regional integration process, which, in turn, has positively impacted hemispheric integration on every level.

We now have the good fortune of an unprecedented community of interests between the OAS and CARICOM. Recent summits of the Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community indicate that the direction proposed by the OAS for the new millennium is both consonant and compatible with the priority issues that engage the sub-region. This increases our potential for effective cooperation and expands the possibilities for joint action.

The cooperation agreement, which forms the basis for this Second General Meeting Between the CARICOM Secretariat and the General Secretariat of the OAS, reflects the interest of our two institutions in working on behalf of the Caribbean and, indeed, the entire region. Over the course of the next two days, we will continue our work to cement our relationship and deepen our cooperation, recognising that cooperation entails both shared responsibilities and shared benefits. Acting as equal partners in the quest for the continued and integral development of our societies, we will find creative ways to maximise the potential of our cooperative action.

We will exchange information on the developments and progress in our respective activities, as well as on matters of common interest within the scope of the general objectives of our two organisations, and chart courses of action to attain these common goals. But we will endeavour to do more.

The technical experts of our two Secretariats, under your guidance and that of Assistant Secretary General Thomas, will examine the possibilities to strengthen the means for identifying and promoting joint policie and approaches, as well as for the joint programming and implementation of projects that are in consonance with the approved programme activities of our two organisations. Critical to the success of the latter are co-financing arrangements between CARICOM and the OAS to share the costs of these joint programmes and activities.

Equally important, especially in light of the reduction in OAS voluntary funds for the Caribbean, the meeting should focus on ways to obtain additional external funds for the Caribbean sub-region. CARICOM and the OAS must consider strategies to leverage their political strengths that devolve from the member states, to mobilise additional external donors to contribute resources to advance the priority initiatives that are common to the sub-regional and hemispheric agendas.

I also encourage our technical experts to seek ways, such as the exchange of personnel, to bridge gaps in our understanding, and to improve our respective organisational capacities by capitalising on the comparative advantages of each institution.

These efforts, taken collectively, will prove critical in determining and measuring the practical usefulness of OAS-CARICOM cooperation.

We have already made important strides in this direction. The OAS worked closely with CARICOM in holding the First General Meeting of our two secretariats in March 1995. At that time, Mr. Secretary General, the participants, under your wise leadership, reviewed the scope of cooperation between our two organisations and made proposals for coordinated and joint action. The XXV Regular Session of the OAS General Assembly, meeting in Haiti that same year, received a report on the meeting and endorsed the holding of a second meeting, setting the framework for our joint discussions here. I have no doubt that measurable progress will be made over the next two days.

Mr. Secretary General,

At the same time that we have moved forward our relations with the CARICOM Secretariat, the OAS has increased its participation in other important fora for the Caribbean. In particular, we have strengthened our participation in the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM, and I hope that in the very near future, we can build on the existing opportunity for dialogue that we enjoy in that forum. Enhanced dialogue between the CARICOM region and the OAS General Secretariat, facilitated by you Mr. Secretary General, will increase the flow of information and foster understanding between the sub-regions, and in the Organisation as a whole. In this way, CARICOM will continue to contribute to the collective aims of the new OAS, following the Declaration of Principles and the Plan of Action of the Summits of the Americas held in Miami in 1994, and this past weekend in Santiago.

The OAS also has stepped up its activities within the framework of the Caribbean Group for Cooperation in Economic Development (CGCED), which is also meeting today and tomorrow in Brussels to improve donor coordination for development cooperation with the Caribbean sub-region. In this regard, the establishment of CIDI has improved our own capacity to deliver services to the member states and to coordinate with other donors through a more organised and rational structure. With CIDI now in place, and the restructuring of the CGCED process to encourage greater ownership of the process by CARICOM Member States, we hope to play a stronger role in donor coordination to assure the best use of available resources.

Mr. Secretary General,

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. Assistant Secretary Thomas and I look forward to a most productive meeting, which, we are certain, will contribute to marked progress, not only in the relations between the two secretariats, but also in the further integration of the CARICOM member states into this hemispheric body.

Thank you.