GEORGETOWN, Guyana — Barbados and Suriname have stressed the importance of youth participation in the regional integration movement, as they reassured the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) secretary-general of their commitment to active participation in CARICOM’s success.
The sentiments were expressed on Thursday when their new ambassadors to CARICOM, David Comissiong of Barbados and Chantal Elsenhout of Suriname, presented their letters of credence to secretary-general Irwin LaRocque at the Georgetown, Guyana Headquarters of the CARICOM Secretariat.
LaRocque said both countries have played historic roles in CARICOM; Barbados as one of the four original signatories and Suriname as the first non-English speaking member of the Community.
Comissiong in his remarks said that the active engagement of the youth was critical to “advance the CARICOM project.”
“The future of the Caribbean will be achieved through the involvement of our young people. Geographical boundaries do not exist in the minds of our young people. They fully recognize the Caribbean space as theirs to exploit, with or without the help of Governments, but beyond that they see the whole world as their horizon,” he said.
Within Suriname’s responsibility in the CARICOM Quasi-Cabinet for community development, cultural cooperation including youth and sports, Elsenhout said her country considers it important, “to constantly invest in our youth.”
“Suriname reiterates its commitment to the work in the social and economic development of this group in the region. We are looking forward to closely working together on projects and programmes to enhance youth participation, sports and cultural people to people contact within our country,” she added.
LaRocque acknowledged the role being played by Suriname’s President Desi Bouterse.
“These are important elements of Community life to which President Bouterse has demonstrated great commitment and dedicated leadership,” he stated.
The secretary-general also praised the impetus that Mia Mottley, prime minister of Barbados, brought to the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) since her election earlier this year. He said that this energy will continue at the special meeting of the conference of heads of government on the CSME in Trinidad and Tobago on December 3-4, and well beyond.
Comissiong noted that his prime minister is endeavouring to “reenergise the successful implementation of the CSME, with the ultimate goal of the sustainable development of individual member states and the long-term sustainability and success of CARICOM.”
Barbados also remains committed, he said, to continue to highlight the need for urgent attention to the effects that natural disasters present to the lives and the living of the people of small island developing states (SIDs).
Mottley holds responsibility for CSME in the CARICOM quasi cabinet and also serves as the chair of the prime ministerial sub-committee on reparations. In respect of reparations, LaRocque noted the role of Comissiong, describing him as one of the pioneers in the region, having campaigned extensively in support of reparations as well as having published a book on the topic.
Underscoring the significance of the ambassadors’ accreditation, he said as new members of CARICOM Committee of Ambassadors and as special representative of their head of government, they will play key roles in implementing decisions of the Community organs at the national level.
“A significant part of your mandate is to engage and interact with the citizens of your country to highlight and promote the objectives, work and benefits of the Community. This is an essential contribution to strengthening the CARICOM identity and spirit of community,” LaRocque said.
As the Community approaches 2019, the final year of the first community strategic plan, he said that much work is still left to be done, while planning for a second five-year plan is already underway. The CARICOM Committee of Ambassadors’ involvement in the preparations for the second plan will be of critical importance, he told the new ambassadors.
“You, therefore, come on board in a dynamic phase of our integration process. I look forward to your participation in the next meeting of the Committee on 6 December,” he said.