CARICOM to continue robust advocacy against de-risking

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is advancing its efforts to address de-risking and its effects on the region and heads of government have taken the decision to approach the government of the United States directly.

caricom-logo.jpg Prime minister of Jamaica, Andrew Holness, briefed the media on the subject on Wednesday afternoon, the final day of the two-day 37th regular meeting of the conference of heads of government of CARICOM held in Georgetown, Guyana.

Holness added that the meeting also agreed to increase the region’s voice in various international fora as well as to enlist the support of friendly countries.

At a subsequent press conference at the conclusions of the meeting, president of Guyana, David Granger, pointed to the latest developments with respect to the loss of corresponding banking arrangements that were severely affecting member states. It remained a very serious issue that the region had to find a solution to, given its effect on financial and trading systems in particular, he said.

A communiqué issued at the conclusion of the meeting pointed out that the heads of government emphasised that correspondent banking was an important global public good and that the current de-risking strategy was discriminatory and counter-intuitive to good public policy. They re-iterated that CARICOM’s trade, economic welfare and the transfer of remittances were gravely affected by the de-risking strategies of foreign banks.

Heads of government agreed that CARICOM would continue its robust and unrelenting advocacy on the issue and that the Committee of Ministers of Finance on Correspondent Banking should maintain the current high level engagement.

The heads also agreed to host a global stakeholder conference on the impact of the withdrawal of correspondent banking on the region, which would include banks and regulators from the region, the United States, Canada and Europe, international development partners and representatives from civil society.

De-risking is international banks’ withdrawal from their relationships with indigenous banks because of fears of money laundering and questionable sources of funds which would cause the international banks to receive heavy fines from their regulators. Regional banking institutions rely on such relationships in order to allow residents to conduct international financial transactions. The issue has been occupying the attention of regional policymakers, following signals by international banks that they are unwilling to continue carrying the business of regional banks.

Transfers of remittances, cheque payments, international trade and the facilitation of credit card settlements for local clients are among the areas that have been affected by de-risking.

The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) has quoted a November World Bank survey as saying that about 75 percent of international banks have experienced a reduction in correspondent banking services, with the Caribbean being the worst affected.

Reports are that eight financial institutions in Barbados, about seven in Jamaica and five in Belize have been affected by a termination of or restriction in correspondent banking relationship.

Courtesy: Caribbean News Now

UK may join its Caribbean territories as tax havens after Brexit

LONDON, England -- Once free of European Union strictures following its exit from the EU, European finance ministers and financial experts have expressed concern that Brexit could prompt a “race to the bottom” on tax policy, with the UK joining its Caribbean territories as a tax haven type of economy.

Finance minister, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, announced that Britain would slash its corporate tax rates to one of the lowest of any major economy, in a bid to avoid what he called a “DIY recession” after Britain voted to leave the European Union, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) reported.

The tax rate would be cut from 20 percent to less than 15 percent by 2020 in a bid to attract continued international investment after the United Kingdom’s exit from the EU.

According to Reuters, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) head of tax, Pascal Saint-Amans, warned in a memo written around the time of the Brexit vote that “the negative impact of the Brexit on UK competitiveness may push the UK to be even more aggressive in its tax offer" and that "a further step in that direction would really turn the UK into a tax haven type of economy."

Even before the vote, Britain was in the process of lowering the corporate tax rate from 20 percent to 17 percent to make itself a more attractive destination for multinational corporate headquarters. The still lower rate announced by Osborne is a sure sign that the UK’s exit from the EU will redouble its resolve to maintain London’s status as Europe’s premier financial centre.

“The UK had been fairly aggressive in going after US companies like Starbucks and Google over their tax bills, I think they will be much more friendly to them now,” said Gary Hufbauer, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

Experts have long suspected that a British exit could lead to the adoption of tax haven-like policies beyond lower corporate tax rates, particularly in the financial services industry, in a bid to prop up the country’s finances in the wake of a potential post-Brexit economic slump.

Adam Posen, the director of the Peterson Institute, had warned that the UK’s departure from the EU would tempt the British government to adopt similar financial regulatory regimes as its famously opaque overseas territories.

In a Financial Times column written before the vote, Posen said that deregulating Britain's financial services industry would be the “the most obvious parachute” to a post-”Brexit” economic slowdown. “The people in power after a Leave vote would want to be seen to shore up the City and the economy in the face of the recession they had caused,” Posen concluded, “especially given an ideology that says deregulation is the avenue to prosperity.”

Although they are not subject to EU law, Caribbean jurisdictions such as the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands are British overseas territories and were repeatedly used by Mossack Fonseca, the law firm of Panama Papers fame, to shield the assets and identities of their clients.

But the UK and its overseas territories have adopted the OECD’s new Common Reporting Standard (CRS), which makes disclosure of tax residency information compulsory starting in 2016. Writing in the July issue of Taxes, a specialist publication, Brian D. Burton, an American attorney who has advised high-profile corporate clients in their dealings with the IRS, called 2016 “a landmark year for anti-tax avoidance and financial transparency initiatives,” citing the Panama Papers as an important source of information and political impetus for these efforts.

According to Hufbauer, it’s still clear which direction Britain is heading: “They won’t become more transparent. I don’t think they’ll do anything to make their system more opaque than it already is, but it’s definitely not going to go the other way either.”

However, Nicolas Veron, a Senior Fellow at Bruegel, the Brussels-based economics think-tank, who is also a visiting fellow at Peterson, pointed out that any regulatory changes would not happen overnight, since the decoupling of current financial regulations from EU-era norms would likely be a lengthy process. “Rather than a big bang, you’re going to have more of a gradual divergence,” he said.

Courtesy: Caribbean News Now

CARICOM to create new Prime Ministerial sub-committee on cricket

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (GINA) -- Effective governance of Caribbean cricket has long been an issue under the radar of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders and incoming CARICOM chairman, prime minister of Dominica, Roosevelt Skerrit, told media operatives at a press conference held at the end of the 37th regular meeting of the conference of CARICOM heads on Wednesday evening that, having discussed cricket, a new prime ministerial sub-committee will be created.

“There were two before; one on governance issues and one of the larger issues confronting cricket… this is a new committee on cricket mandated to examine all matters relating to the development of cricket which is a very wide area of concentration,” Skerrit said.

In March, Grenada’s Prime Minister Keith Mitchell threatened to step down as chairman of CARICOM’s sub-committee on cricket governance, after being at the forefront of spearheading efforts to affect the restructuring of the West Indies Cricket Board. He also endorsed the 2015 Barriteau Report provision, which recommended the immediate dissolution of the WICB.

At the 27th inter-sessional conference of heads of government held in Belize earlier in the year, leaders discussed the problems facing West Indies cricket, which include governance. At that meeting leaders signalled their intention to approach the International Cricket Council.

Barbados’ Prime Minister Freundel Stuart then stated that heads of government had to intervene to protect the interests of the people in the region, in the face of a stand-off between the WICB and CARICOM heads of government. The stand-off was over the state of West Indies cricket and the issue of cricket governance.

During that summit, leaders also examined recommendations coming out of a report by a special cricket review panel chaired by professor and pro vice chancellor of the University of the West Indies, Dr Eudine Barriteau.

A final report of the review panel on the governance of cricket, which was issued in April last year, indicated that West Indies cricket had failed to evolve in a manner that accords with the exigencies of the modern game. The report also added that cricket continues to be governed by a structure that is not reflective of the transformation of the game elsewhere.

“This is especially evident in relation to the requirements of the player-coaching community, stakeholder investors, and the expectations of the Caribbean cricketing public. The existing governance structure, in its most essential features, remains closely aligned to its origins in the early 20th century when it was established to coordinate inter-colonial tournaments, select West Indian XIs and touring teams, than with the modern governance, administration and ongoing commercial progress of the industry of cricket in other parts of the world,” the report stated.

Courtesy: Caribbean News Now

Jamaica's CARICOM Review Commission begins its work

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Wednesday July 6, 2016 – Jamaica’s Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Review Commission, chaired by former Prime Minister Bruce Golding held its first meeting today yesterday, beginning its work, as regional leaders met on the first business day of their 37th Regular Meeting in Guyana.

The Commission will evaluate the effects that Jamaica’s participation in CARICOM has on its economic growth and development, and will solicit feedback from the public. It is expected to submit a final report within six months.

Jamaica has been a member of CARICOM for 43 years. However, there have been much-publicized incidents, as well as complaints by Jamaicans, regarding treatment of Jamaican nationals in other Member States and trade imbalances, that have spurred debate on whether the island is benefitting from being a member of CARICOM.

“Jamaica has raised, within this forum and outside, the question about the treatment of our citizens arriving at various ports of entry,” Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness said yesterday during the plenary meeting.

“I believe, Mr. Chairman [Prime Minister of Dominica the Honourable Roosevelt Skerrit], that our complaints have been heard, and I am pleased to report that we are making progress.”

Holness said that he gets a “genuine sense that there is a concern about this in the region” and that there is “a willingness to show brotherliness and respect for the Caribbean citizen.”

“I was deeply concerned when I saw reports in a local newspaper of Jamaicans asking ‘So what is the value of having CARICOM on our passport?’…So, Mr. Chairman, we have taken a strategic approach in Jamaica to establish a Commission on CARICOM so that Jamaicans can have a voice, but that the voice can be guided by expert views and strategic thinking to preserve the strength of this very important forum.”

The Prime Minister reiterated that his country wants to see a strong, robust integration movement that is built on a mutual interest in seeing the prosperity of the people.

Meantime, Holness also disclosed at the opening ceremony on Monday, that Jamaica is negotiating a Joint Commission Agreement with Trinidad and Tobago with the objective of developing a mutually beneficial cooperation programme.

“We intend to undertake similar initiatives with other Member States,” he said.

He noted that strengthening bilateral relations is an important element of the regional relationship, and is an issue that members of CARICOM should give more attention.

Courtesy: Caribbean 360

CARICOM Heads of Government begin discussions in Guyana

GEORGETOWN, Guyana -- The plenary sessions of the 37th meeting of the conference of heads of government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) got underway in Georgetown, Guyana, on Tuesday morning.

The heads of government will discuss a wide range of issues, including the CARICOM Single Market and Economy and the free movement of CARICOM nationals, border issues, correspondent banking, cricket and Brexit.

At the opening ceremony, incoming chairman of the CARICOM conference of heads and prime minister of Dominica, Roosevelt Skerrit, said the conference was an opportunity to seriously consider the effect Britain’s exit from the European Union would have on CARICOM.

Skerrit noted that the region had a long and deep relationship with the United Kingdom and stated that Britain remained one of CARICOM’s most important trade partners.

He reminded those present, particularly those skeptical about CARICOM, that the circumstances of the EU were completely different from those in CARICOM. He explained that the United Kingdom had a historical fear of losing its sovereignty. He said, from the British point of view, nearly every country in Europe had tried to conquer them. He further outlined that EU citizenship not only brought with it free movement but also automatic access to welfare and other benefits.

Skerrit explained that the difference with CARICOM was that it was the fulfillment of a longstanding aspiration of its peoples.

“CARICOM is primarily a community. It has been built with the powerful emotions of empathy and caring for each other,” he said.

He encouraged the region not to resolve to blindly imitate what had happened in Britain, but instead work together to strengthen cooperation and collaboration to create a stronger more vibrant community.

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) remains a well respected regional block in the international community.

Prime minister of Jamaica, Andrew Holness, said during his remarks at the opening ceremony that it was commendable that CARICOM had embarked on a reform process to improve its effectiveness, and stated that it was a step in the right direction. While recognising that a lot had been done by the Community, the Jamaican prime minister said that a lot more could be done and needed to be done.

He told the audience that a Commission to assess the impact of CARICOM on Jamaica, which was the first of its kind, had been established and was being headed by former prime minister of Jamaica, Bruce Golding.

Speaking to the matter of regional integration, Holness said it was not an end in itself, but a means to achieve a much broader objective, the economic growth and development of CARICOM countries and the improvement of the lives of its people.

Courtesy: Caribbean News Now

CDB launches historic bond offering in Swiss franc market

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados -- The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) has launched its inaugural bond offering in the Swiss franc (CHF) market. The 12-year CHF145 million bond offering carries the lowest coupon rate, 0.297%, achieved by an international public sector issuer for this tenor, in the CHF market.

Launched on Wednesday June 15, 2016, the bond offering was facilitated by the global private bank and wealth manager Credit Suisse, which acted as sole bookrunner on the transaction. The offering also marks the first time that a borrower from the Caribbean region has accessed the CHF market successfully.

“The decision to enter into the Swiss market allows CDB the opportunity to diversify its investor base away from traditional sources. The bond offering was oversubscribed in a very short period of time, demonstrating that there is strong investor confidence in CDB, even in light of the less than optimal market conditions, including volatility due to Brexit concerns,” said CDB president, Dr Warren Smith.

The bond offering followed meetings in Geneva and Zurich between investors and a delegation of senior CDB officials. Investor feedback was positive, allowing for the execution of the transaction immediately afterwards. Due to the strong interest shown, the order book was three times oversubscribed in 15 minutes. The final coupon rate of 0.297% was the lowest ever in CHF by an international public sector issuer (i.e. sovereign, supranational or agency) in a maturity longer than ten years.

With over 60 accounts participating, the investor base was dominated by asset managers and banks, with the rest of the trade going to pension funds and insurance companies. The successful issue in the Swiss CHF market was attributable to the inherent strength of the Bank, which is reflected in its strong public rating.

CDB’s most recent bond issue prior to this one was in 2012, when the bank raised US$300 million through the placement of a 15-year bond in the US capital markets. Earlier this year, international credit rating agency, S&P Global Ratings, affirmed the Bank’s rating as ‘AA/A-1+’ with a ‘Stable’ outlook. The Bank is also rated Aa1 with a stable outlook by Moody’s Investors Service.

Courtesy: Caribbean News Now

Advancing health and wellness a priority in CARICOM development

Health and wellness are essential factors to the Caribbean region’s development.

Taking a very strong stance in reflecting what Caribbean Public Health Day, should mean to the people of the region, Dr C. James Hospedales, executive director of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), stated, “Nothing can be more important today to the resilience of the region than the state of public health.”

According to statistics from the Caribbean Development Bank, the region struggled to achieve 1% economic growth in 2015 and will likely fall below that percentage in 2016.

Other information in the State of Public Health report launched by CARPHA shows that health problems, particularly chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are also negatively affecting economic growth. Depending on the study and country, diabetes and hypertension alone can account for 3-8% negative impact on the Gross Domestic Product, yet these problems are almost entirely preventable.

The ageing of our populations also argues for investing in healthy ageing as an economic imperative.

In light of the data, Hospedales said, “Making the choice to invest in health promotion and disease prevention is one definite solution in the creation of healthy societies and economies, especially as many of these ailments are completely preventable through a combination of public policies, consumer education, and health services strengthening.”

He went on to say, “Achieving economic growth regionally can be as simple as managing the region’s health situation to reduce preventable impediments to growth.”

Caribbean Public Health Day is therefore an important vehicle to educate and inform the people and policymakers of the region of their role in supporting and maintaining good public health.

The CARPHA executive director maintains that tobacco and alcohol use, diet and physical activity are key factors which must be addressed to improve health. Attention must be given to tobacco taxation, labelling and having smoke free public spaces. Additionally, finding ways to reducing the harmful use of alcohol is also of paramount importance and can be achieved through pricing and enforcing underage drinking laws.

The reduction of fat, salt and sugars in processed foods, coupled with mandatory nutrition labeling and reducing marketing to children are part of the dietary considerations that have to be implemented, as is ensuring that fruit and vegetables, especially those that are locally produced, become part of our daily consumption.

Fiscal and trade measures such as aligning nutritional value with taxes and including consideration of health in trade negotiations will benefit our productivity and our economies.

Linked to our diet and our overall health and wellbeing is our need to ensure adequate physical activity. The introduction of bicycle lanes, walking paths in new developments and public recreational spaces for children and adults are key. Workplaces that support physical activity and wellness programs are making a positive investment to improving business productivity and reducing costs of illness.

People with chronic health problems and their families also have a responsibility to manage themselves and adhere to medications and lifestyle prescriptions.

As the regional public health agency, CARPHA continuously monitors the health situation threats and assists member states with developing needed policies and programmes to respond to the changing situation. The agency coordinates the regional response to health threats such as chikungunya and zika, and has developed other value-added initiatives such as its tourism and health programme, the Caribbean regulatory system for pharmaceuticals, and has commenced a greening initiative.

CARPHA launched its inaugural State of Public Health Report on Caribbean Public Health Day. The report reviews the public health situation in the region and provides statistical and technical information which can be used to aid decision making.

On the eve of the 37th regular meeting of the conference of heads of government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) 2016, policymakers are urged to take note of the state of public health as a critical success factor in the region’s development and to pursue evidence-informed polices to promote health and prevent disease, with co-benefits to economic development.

Caribbean Public Health Day takes place on the July 2 each year and coincides with the anniversary of the official launch of CARPHA. The theme for 2016 is “Investing in Health for Regional Development.”

Since its inception CARPHA has been working with member states and partners such as the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Healthy Caribbean Coalition (HCC), the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and other regional and international institution in preventing disease, promoting and protecting health in the region.

Courtesy: Caribbean News Now

CARICOM Heads to tackle de-risking, Brexit

GEORGETOWN, Guyana -- When Caribbean Community (CARICOM) heads of government meet in Georgetown, Guyana, next week, they will do so against the background of a number of threats to the region’s financial and economic stability.

Chief among these are the threats posed by international banks limiting or terminating their relationships with regional financial institutions, and the yet to be determined implications of the British decision to leave the European Union (EU), a key partner in the Community’s development. The Brexit vote has sent Britain and the rest of the world into a tailspin. The pound sterling fell in value to the lowest in 30 years, and international financial markets took a downturn, as the implications hit home.

The Caribbean is not immune from the potential fallout, and economists and politicians alike are assessing the situation. The majority of CARICOM member states were former colonies of Britain, which was a key ally of the region within the EU.

While some have adopted a wait and see stance, confident that any domino effect will not occur in the short-term, others are predicting immediate consequences and want the CARICOM member states to appreciate the value of regional integration and band firmly together to chart the way forward.

The concerns range from a drop off in arrivals in tourist dependent member states such as Saint Lucia and Barbados where the UK is a major source market, a decrease in development assistance, to effects on trade agreements the region has with the EU.

Talking with journalists in Guyana last weekend, CARICOM secretary-general, Irwin LaRocque, said that though the breakaway was not on the agenda of the meeting, it would undoubtedly be discussed next Tuesday and Wednesday in Georgetown.

“We have to, of course, be concerned because the United Kingdom is a significant player in the arrangements in the European Union in terms of a voice, that also being a Commonwealth country but a voice as well in the European Union and the fact that it is a significant contributor to the European Union and of course the budget of the European Development Fund,” the secretary-general said last Saturday.

Pointing to the strength of CARICOM’s relations with both Britain and the 28-member EU, the secretary-general said he did not anticipate any “diminishing of the relationship with the United Kingdom or with the European Union in any way at all”.

Assessing the situation shortly after the vote, the head of the delegation of the EU to the Eastern Caribbean Countries, OECS and CARICOM/CARIFORUM, Ambassador Mikael Barfod, acknowledged that there could be some consequences for the Caribbean, such as renegotiations of trade deals with the United Kingdom. Barfod noted that the UK was a major trading partner for many CARICOM member states.

Correspondent Banking

From prime ministers, many of whom are their countries’ finance ministers, to the heads of regional banking institutions, the assessment of de-risking scenario is that it is unfair and the predictions about its impact on the region are dire, and the call to action is extremely urgent.

De-risking is international banks’ withdrawal from their relationships with indigenous banks because of fears of money laundering and questionable sources of funds which would cause the international banks to receive heavy fines from their regulators.

Regional banking institutions rely on such relationships in order to allow residents to conduct international financial transactions. The issue has been occupying the attention of regional policy-makers, following signals by international banks that they are unwilling to continue carrying the business of regional banks.

Transfers of remittances, cheque payments, international trade and the facilitation of credit card settlements for local clients are among the areas that have been affected by de-risking.

“If you want to take it to the extreme, you and I will not be able to shop in a supermarket because the supermarket will not be importing the stuff we like to buy,” deputy governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB), Trevor Brathwaite said recently. “You and I will not even be able to buy shoes and clothes … cars, tyres and parts.”

The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) quoted a November World Bank survey as saying that about 75 percent of international banks have experienced a reduction in correspondent banking services, with the Caribbean being the worst affected.

Reports are that eight financial institutions in Barbados, about seven in Jamaica and five in Belize and others in Antigua and Barbuda, Montserrat and other member states have been affected by a termination of or restriction in correspondent banking relationship.

The heads of government, at their intersessional meeting held in February, decided to establish a high level advocacy team headed by Antigua and Barbuda prime minister, Gaston Browne. Browne’s mission is to represent the Community’s interest at all levels, including with the United Nations, the World Trade Organisation (WTO), and the United States Congress. A meeting has since been held with US Treasury and State Department officials in April 2016 and the matter was also discussed with the UK foreign secretary.

A report on the UN-Caribbean Public-Private Dialogue on Correspondent Banking held in Jamaica, also in April, was presented to the meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) held in Georgetown later in the month. the public-private dialogue brought together bankers in both the onshore and offshore sectors from the US and the Caribbean, as well as central bankers and government officials from both parties.

Trade ministers at the COTED meeting reiterated that the correspondent banking issue was a troubling one that was not limited to pure banking, but had trade and economic implications, and had the potential to lead to an upsurge in illegalities. They also underscored that the threat was being made even as all CARICOM member states were compliant with all international financial regulations. The ministers agreed that a comprehensive consistent and diplomatic offensive should be launched.

The trade ministers also supported a declaration of the Permanent Council of the Organisation of American States (OAS) that was tabled for adoption 30 March 2016 at a special meeting summoned by the then chair of the Permanent Council, Ambassador Sir Ronald Sanders. The declaration addressed the severe threat posed by the severing of correspondent banking relationships to the economic growth, social development and political stability of small economies.

The declaration also called for urgent action to ensure that banking regulations designed to foster transparency and accountability and prevent money laundering and terrorism financing do not create financial exclusion and economic decline of small economies by cutting off their access to international correspondent banking.

The heads know that there will be no easy solution to this matter.

One solution proffered by Prime Minister Dean Barrow of Belize was the pooling of business to achieve “critical mass” and to make it worthwhile for the correspondent banks that are weighing risks and returns. The governors of regional central banks, and the committee of ministers of finance on correspondent banking, that the heads of government have established, will consider the modalities of that recommendation.

Further action on correspondent banking will be determined by the reports presented to the heads of government during the two-day conference.

Border Issues

Heads will consider the border issues between Guyana and Venezuela, and Belize and Guatemala. The Community has consistently expressed it full commitment to the preservation of the territorial integrity of all member states.

Belize-Guatemala: Guatemala has had a longstanding claim to Belize dating back to the 18th century. At the center of Guatemala’s claim is the 1859 treaty between Britain and Guatemala. From Britain’s viewpoint, this treaty merely settled the boundaries of an area already under British dominion.

In November 2000, the heads of the delegations of Belize and Guatemala signed an agreement to adopt a comprehensive set of “confidence-building measures to avoid incidents between the two countries.

The OAS-mediated agreement seeks to resolve by peaceful means and through a specific agenda of measures to be implemented, a territorial differendum that originated two centuries ago between Britain and Spain over their colonial territories in Central America

CARICOM heads of government have encouraged both Belize and Guatemala to continue their efforts at constructive engagement and the building of friendly relations for the betterment of their peoples.

At their 27th inter-sessional meeting, in Belize in February 2016, heads of government “recognized the important role of the Organization of American States (OAS) in support of the efforts of the Belize and Guatemala governments to secure lasting peace and development. They “called on the international community to support the efforts of these two countries, and to be especially generous in their support for the sustained involvement of the OAS in these efforts”.

The heads “reaffirmed their unequivocal support for the maintenance and preservation of Belize’s sovereignity and territorial integrity”.

Guyana’s border controversy with its western neighbour Venezuela, relates to the more than a century-old dispute, which arose as a result of Venezuela’s contention that the Arbitral Award of 1899 is null and void. (The 1899 Award had conclusively settled the boundary between the two countries.)

Guyana’s pursuit over the years for a peaceful settlement has yielded mixed results. A founding member of the 43-year old integration movement, many of its diplomatic interventions have rested on the pillar of foreign policy coordination, one of five pillars which underpins CARICOM integration.

In its more recent act of aggression, Venezuela on 6 July 2015 announced presidential decree 1859, which lays claim to all the Atlantic waters off the Essequibo coast. This effectively reversed the 1899 agreement that settled the border dispute.

In response, CARICOM reiterated its position of “total support for the integrity of Guyana’s territory and maritime space, as well as that of all CARICOM states”, even as it emphasised the need to maintain peace and stability as the basis for enhancing regional cooperation and development for both these countries.

Speaking at the 36th regular meeting of the conference, in Barbados, in July 2015, then chair of the Community, Freundel Stewart, prime minister of Barbados stated –

“We [CARICOM] are committed to assisting Venezuela and Guyana in this dispute, preferring at all times a peaceful solution… But as of now, having regard to the fact that there was an arbitral award in 1899 and having regard to the fact that the Geneva Agreement of 1966 has not yielded the kind of results that either Venezuela or Guyana expected, CARICOM’s formal position has to be a commitment to the territorial integrity of Guyana,” he said.

At their 27th inter-sessional meeting in Belize, in February this year, heads of government “reaffirmed their unequivocal support for the maintenance and preservation of Guyana’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”. They also expressed their “full support for the role of the United Nations secretary-general and his efforts, in keeping with the provisions of the Geneva Agreement, to bring the controversy to a definitive and judicious conclusion”.

Plight of Persons of Haitian Descent rendered Stateless in DR

Heads will revisit this long standing, unresolved matter, as CARICOM continues to advocate for a resolution to the crisis which makes approximately 250,000 Dominicans of Haitian descent and Haitian migrants in the Dominican Republic stateless.

A 2013 Constitutional ruling by the Dominican Republic (DR) Government effectively renders stateless anyone with foreign ancestry born in 1929 or later. The international community’s response to this decision, established as the largest case of statelessness in the Western hemisphere, resulted in the DR Government instituting a regularisation system to enable Dominican Haitians and Haitian migrants to register and to be issued with identification cards.

The 17 June 2015 deadline set for this process was not met by many Dominicans of Haitian descent and Haitian migrants. This was due mainly to their inability to raise the required fees as well as the difficulty in acquiring the necessary documents which in many cases did not exist, such as ID cards that were confiscated by authorities. As a result, the DR government has indicated it will begin deporting non-registered migrants. “Up to 250,000 people are at risk of being deported to a country where many of them have no family members, no job prospects and no current ties.”

CARICOM has firmly “called out” the Dominican Republic for its treatment of Dominicans of Haitian descent and Haitian migrants in the recent immigration crackdown at the end of the June 2015 deadline. In a statement issued at the conclusion of the 36th regular meeting of heads of government, Stuart strongly indicated CARICOM’s condemnation of behaviour that enshrined “barbarity into the constitutional practices of the Dominican Republic”.

In June 2015, at the high-level dialogue between the European Union and the Caribbean Forum of African, Pacific and Caribbean (ACP) States, the Dominican Republic representatives had agreed that their country would undertake a new approach. The CARICOM statement also expressed concern about this breach.

At their 27th inter-sessional meeting in February, in Belize, heads “expressed concern at the continuing grave human rights situation of Dominicans of Haitian descent threatened by statelessness and the precarious humanitarian situation of undocumented Haitians in the Dominican Republic who have been deported to Haiti”. They concurred that “the human rights situation… must form part of the agenda of the CARIFORUM-EU policy or political dialogue.

In its advocacy process at every level, CARICOM has invoked the assistance of the United Nations, particularly its human rights agencies, as well as the OAS to help resolve this matter In July 2015, LaRocque also raised this issue when he accepted the credentials of Archbishop Nicola Girasoli, Plenipotentiary Representative of the Holy See, on the occasion of the establishment of diplomatic relations between CARICOM and the Vatican, in July 2015.

Courtesy: Caribbean News Now

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