Media Center



March 9, 2006 - Washington, DC



It was indeed with great pleasure that I accepted the invitation extended by the distinguished Secretary General to address this august body. I consider it a distinct honour to be doing so in this prestigious Hall of the Americas. Most importantly, the opportunity afforded me at this time, takes on added significance as it comes at the juncture when I am about to take formal leave from the “field” of active politics. In a few weeks, my involvement in regional and hemispheric developments henceforth will be from the vantage point of the spectator’s stands.

As one who has participated in these two processes from very early in my political career, I have been asked to share a few thoughts on my vision for the Caribbean and the Americas, bearing in mind the current global realities and our shared commitment towards advancing the political, economic and social development of this hemisphere.

As such, I propose to focus on the nexus between developments in the regional integration process, particularly within CARICOM, and developments taking place at the hemispheric level. How do I see these two processes coalescing to bring about a partnership that will meet the needs of every member state, regardless of their size or wealth and one that will improve the quality of life for our peoples, our most important assets?

The International Scenario

In order to fully appreciate where our countries are going, we must first understand the milieu in which they are operating. This will affect the vision we all have for a hemisphere in which we can enjoy peace, stability and prosperity on a sustained basis.

Some sixty years ago when the OAS was created, no one would have thought that we would have experienced such rapid and radical shifts in the international environment, propelled by marked transformations in the global economy. These, together with the emergence of new threats to international peace and security, now challenge the very survival of many of our countries.

As the twin forces of globalisation and liberalization have become more pronounced, new demands were thrust upon the countries of the hemisphere forcing, in varying degrees, modifications to our national objectives and priorities. Increased vulnerabilities to the vagaries of these two phenomena have led to the abandonment of traditional economic policies and the adoption of new models of economic development as we seek to secure a greater space in the world economy and a more participatory role in international economic relations.

There is no doubt that both globalisation and liberalization, especially in the last decade, have been the driving force behind the integration of the global economy. Despite the potential benefits of this process, we have to acknowledge that the long-term survival of many of our countries continues to require adjustment to the new realities of an international environment which has become increasingly hostile and unpredictable.

Notwithstanding improvements in global economic prospects and the potential benefits to be derived there from, we have to admit that inequities still remain, putting a number of countries at economic risk, including those in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The quest for sustainable growth, particularly for small economies, has become even more elusive as traditional support mechanisms are gradually eroded. There continues to be increased pressure to move more rapidly to reciprocal trade rules as we bear the brunt of rising energy prices and the weakness in non-oil commodity prices.

All of these are occurring simultaneously, as investors become increasingly risk averse and restrict capital flows, and as the fiscal positions of our economies weaken and debt increases.

While we welcome international commitments to the Global Partnership for Development as outlined in the Millennium Declaration, Monterrey Consensus, and Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, we are discouraged by the limited progress to date. This means that priority projects which form the core of our development agenda such as poverty eradication and improvements in health and education will continue to lag in implementation. We remain hopeful but by no means certain, that the UN General Assembly’s Outcome Document of last September will spur renewed action with a greater degree of political will.

If this scenario were not daunting enough, emerging security concerns have brought added uncertainties resulting in new changes in objectives and priorities, causing even further delays in implementing national agendas, as we seek to be “reliable partners” in implementing international security objectives.

Against this backdrop, the current international situation poses a number of challenges to regional integration, notwithstanding the fact that the popularity of regionalism evolved from this very same process in the early 1970s as an effective response to the onset of globalisation.

The Hemisphere’s Challenge

In this present scenario, how do we reduce our vulnerability to external shocks, achieve sustainable development, strengthen governability, promote democracy and at the same time, comply with our international, regional and hemispheric obligations?

Jamaica and indeed CARICOM, has always maintained that there is an urgent need to make this process of global economic governance and integration more inclusive and more beneficial to the interests of developing countries.

By so doing, there would be greater prospects for tangible signs of development and strengthening democracy in our countries and societies around the world.

We are reminded everyday of the sense of unease and restlessness which emerges when the people we lead are not given meaningful opportunities for self-expression and self-actualisation. We regard these as fundamental elements of democracy and civil society. In order to meet the challenges which militate against peace and stability, we must provide a truly enabling environment.

The Hemispheric Agenda

It is not surprising, therefore, that we in this hemisphere share a wide range of similar problems and concerns. Our regional and hemispheric agendas are inextricably linked and have therefore become inseparable. This is reflected in both our interdependence and the elements of globalisation that today characterizes international relations and which ultimately leads to a myriad of interlocking issues. Within this context, both the OAS and our respective regional integration movements have a salient role to play.

From its creation in 1948, the OAS was envisaged as the primary political forum in the hemisphere to maintain peace and security, to promote and consolidate democracy and advance cooperation for integral development. The OAS has undoubtedly played a pivotal role in the settlement of disputes and in bringing solutions to various political crises within the hemisphere as we have seen through the important role it has played in dealing with the political situation in Haiti. We welcome and applaud the return of President René Preval as the duly elected Leader of Haiti.

Today, we are confronted by new threats and challenges which our Governments are simultaneously obliged to address and surmount. The hemispheric agenda has expanded significantly over the years to address issues such as corruption, the fight against drug abuse and drug trafficking, transnational organized crime, terrorism, money laundering, children’s issues, women’s affairs and the protection of human rights.

The pursuit of these programmes at the level of the OAS, complements the important initiatives on which we have all embarked at the national and multilateral level, as we seek not only to come to grips with, but also to overcome these problems. The multi-dimensional nature of many of these issues requires a comprehensive, cooperative approach.

Today, the OAS has also assumed additional responsibilities for the implementation of the mandates of the Summit of the Americas, aimed at creating prosperity through economic integration and trade, eradicating poverty and discrimination and protecting the natural environment. Moreover, within this process, we have adopted a shared vision to consolidate democracy and security in the hemisphere, and to create conditions to advance prosperity, a multitude of items for an ever-increasing agenda.

The adoption of other mechanisms and instruments, including the Inter-American Democratic Charter, have served to concretize our adherence to the tenets and principles of the democratic agenda. These commitments have brought tremendous impetus to what we are doing at the regional level. Our citizens at all levels have become involved in every aspect of governance; more women are running for political office and being appointed to high positions and I can certainly attest to that! An increasing number of civic organizations are actively monitoring transparency and accountability; the exercise of the undeniable freedom of expression and of the press is widely enjoyed; and access to information legislation has been passed in many countries, including my own.

While the foregoing is laudable, however, are we satisfied that in this dynamic process of globalization, the OAS is fulfilling the economic development aspect of its mandate?

Democracy, Security and Development
I am convinced that unless we focus in a meaningful way on the intrinsic link between democracy, good governance and international security on the one hand, and development on the other, our goals for peace, stability and political and economic security will always remain elusive. We must therefore address the development agenda with the same energy and commitment as we have sought to strengthen the democratic agenda, giving each equal dedication, in order that the benefits of democracy can be widely felt to improve the quality of life for our peoples.

When Heads of Government of the Hemisphere met during the 4th Summit of the Americas in Mar del Plata, Argentina last November, we jointly committed ourselves to the task of Creating Jobs to Fight Poverty and Strengthen Democratic Governance in the Hemisphere. Our Declaration, issued at the end of the meeting, was a clarion call for sustained, long term and equitable economic growth that creates jobs, reduces poverty, eliminates hunger and raises the standard of living for the most vulnerable sectors and social groups in our diverse societies. We also stressed the need to expand trade, as a means of boosting growth and our capacity to generate more, higher quality, and better-paying jobs.

As small open economies, CARICOM countries are highly dependent on trade as the primary driver of economic and social growth, and by extension the stability and democracy of the region.

In 1994, when we launched the Summit of the Americas process, Jamaica and the rest of CARICOM readily put our efforts and scarce human, financial and technical resources into ensuring that our collective vision of prosperity in the Americas would become a reality. Four years later, we formally launched the FTAA negotiations, fully cognizant of the contribution that economic integration and trade liberalization in the Americas could make to create jobs, fight poverty and strengthen democratic governance in our Hemisphere.

It is with disappointment that on the eve of my departure from office as Prime Minister of Jamaica and Chairman of the Prime Ministerial Sub-Committee on External Negotiations of CARICOM, the FTAA is faltering on the rock of political will.

CARICOM is fully committed to the goal and objectives of the Summit of the Americas generally. If the FTAA has no future, we must be realistic and begin to explore new alternatives. Given the slow progress to date in the Doha Development Round of multilateral negotiations, we need to find a hemispheric impetus for advancing discussions on key issues in the WTO.

For example, the Work Programme for Small Economies in the DDA as well as the recent Aid For Trade initiative could build on the initiatives and acceptance by Hemispheric Heads at our Fourth Summit, that smaller economies should be recognised as a special category of countries. Special and differential treatment in favour of smaller economies have to be an accepted fundamental principle of whatever negotiations we pursue.

Our collective vision of growth, economic prosperity and stability for the Hemisphere must not be confined to the narrow territorial boundaries of the hemisphere. Let us broaden the boundaries of our collaboration beyond the OAS and the United Nations. It is high time for the Caribbean and Latin American countries to pool our collective bargaining resources in the WTO, where we also have common goals and concerns.

Every effort must be made to bring Haiti into full participating in the various trade negotiations in the hemisphere and the WTO. In this case, there can be no question about the need for special and differential treatment and technical assistance.

Let me place on record the appreciation of CARICOM for the contribution of OAS and CIDA to technical assistance and capacity building. As we contemplate the multiple trade agendas facing our region, there will be need for sustained assistance to ensure our adjustment and implementation of these new obligations.

How can we then ensure that actions taken at the hemispheric level dovetail automatically into the regional development agenda, the two processes working simultaneously towards a united objective? I will return to my own thoughts on this later in my presentation.

Integration - A Response to Globalisation
The emergence of various economic blocs across the globe is not mere coincidence, but a natural progression towards strengthening the ability of individual countries to use their collectivity to face the new era of international economic relations.

Smaller units operating on their own can no longer be viable counterweights in this rapidly changing world. Based on this recognition, we in this hemisphere have not shied away from the inevitable and we see the integration movement as our best response to the challenges we face. The establishment of CARICOM, MERCOSUR, THE Andean Group et al, are therefore regional “lifelines” cast upon the turbulent waters of globalisation.

Let me share briefly with you, some of the challenges we face in the Caribbean. We have been seriously affected by the EU’s stipulation as it relates to bananas and sugar.

In the case of the former, we have expressed the importance of the higher tariff of Euro 275/t to ensure adequate protection is in place for our farmers.

For sugar, the proposed cut of some 39% is a grave concern for us, as is the proposed timetable for implementation over a four-year period.

In 2004 damage from Hurricane Dennis totalled some US$40million. The impact was much greater in 2005, with more hurricanes affecting the agricultural and tourism sectors, and even more horrible damage to our infrastructure.

Through these illustrations, which in some cases may be magnified based on the country in the region you choose, I proffer today, that our solutions for the various sub-regions we represent and by extension, the hemisphere, cannot be simple, unilateral or implemented overnight.

CARICOM formally launched the Single Market just over a month ago and we hope to move towards the Single Economy by 2008, as we had envisaged in the Grand Anse Declaration of 1989 in Grenada.

We have, through the methodical, comprehensive and measured approach, taken the necessary steps to ensure that our modus operandi, carries with it the philosophy, that no country will be left behind. For this reason, we in CARICOM have been careful to elaborate plans for a Regional Development Fund to assist in the adjustment period. We also fervently believe that at the hemispheric level, no country should be left behind.

Over the years and even now, we have put in place a number of other institutional arrangements that seek to ensure a structured operation through which we hope any future transition can be seamless and effective. CARICOM Heads entertain no misconceptions of the challenges we face. If we are to effectively deliver on the objectives in our revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, we must take some bold steps and remain unswerving in the commitment to achieve the targets.

The moment has arrived for us to now seek solid bipartisan commitment to national and regional goals, which will then translate into full integration into other institutional arrangements. The strength of governance will only be enhanced when we are able to replace the retracing of steps by different administrations, with a brisk walk forward towards our common goals.

Education must be an engine driving growth and pushing development. The technology-driven world we live in today demands knowledge, skills, research and solutions, and a thirst for answers by our youth. We must facilitate that process at all levels to ensure that progression from one level to the other, from one discipline to the next, takes place consistently. If we are to achieve these objectives as outlined in the Millennium Development Goals, the Charters of the Organization and the Strategic Plan, we must act now on this other pillar of development.

Justice and the rule of law in all its forms, at all levels, must exist without compromise or prejudice. We have to exercise the will to maintain law and order, not merely through the imposition of penalties but through the encouragement of a sense of just, law-abiding and ordered behaviour by all our citizens. Too much of our resources are being spent on managing conflict and security and therefore preventing us from providing more, as opposed to securing less, as we do now.

Sometimes when we seek to solve larger problems, such as the challenges to globalisation, we over-think and over-analyse them and by-pass the adherence to the fundamentals. We must always be mindful of the basic elements, the smallest cogs in the wheels, the importance of measurements.

Let me now address an issue which is very close to my heart. The conduct of international and institutional relations can only be improved when we allow principle, integrity, honour and justice to prevail. The people we lead and the interests we serve are looking to us to provide enlightened and inspired leadership. That expectation becomes magnified with every decision we are called upon to take, because we are more interdependent than we have ever been before.

Security, health and environment issues remind us daily of our own vulnerability as individuals and countries and behove us to be mindful of these concerns at all levels. The recent outrage in the Muslim world recalls for us the far-reaching effect of our actions and by extension our own intolerances. We must guard against these inclinations.

Inclusion and inclusiveness must be one of the principles which we use to dovetail our own actions and create what I would call concentric circles of goodwill. The old adage holds true today that “we will reap what we sow”. Let us be mindful of the seeds we put down today, to avoid reaping bitter fruits in the future.

Sixty years after its creation, the OAS is summoned to face bold new challenges which confront our entire Hemisphere. In order to adequately respond, the modality by which it operates must change. It must avoid sterile debate and become an instrument of positive change.

This requires that it become an effective Institution for decision-making at the highest political and economic levels. This must be your quest for the decade ahead.

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It has indeed been a pleasure for me to address you today; to share my thoughts and to issue a charge and a challenge to you all. As life and experience have taught me, the process of learning never ends. As we learn we must impart, for in the words of Khalil Gibran – “to withhold is to die”. We have a tremendous responsibility to make the world safer and better, for those who have placed their confidence in us. We have many opportunities to do so everyday by our own conduct and leadership. Let us not deny ourselves a Hemisphere of social justice where peace, prosperity and harmony will prevail.