Remarks delivered by The Honourable Darren A. Henfield, MP, Outgoing Chair of COFCOR. at the opening of the 22nd Meeting of the COFCOR by Bahamas’ Minister of Foreign Affairs, St. George’s, Grenada.
It is with distinct pleasure that I have been able to preside over this very important organ of the Caribbean Community, the Council for Foreign and Community Relations, for the past twelve months.
When we met last May in Nassau, I underscored The Bahamas’ commitment to regional, hemispheric and international organizations, whilst promoting and maintaining close relations with our neighbours. It is safe to say that we managed to achieve this, having had ongoing discourse over hemispheric and international affairs while maintaining a mutual understanding and respect for national positions that were not shared by all members of our community. Despite the challenges to our unity and solidarity, which from time to time will arise, we must determine to work through our differences whilst holding firm to principles that brought us together as a community. Our bonds, though tested, must always remain strong.
Our region has been rocked over the past few years by extreme weather events, leading us to make a united clarion call for the international community to place greater emphasis on building resilience. Over the last twelve months, we have made strides towards this end. I was pleased to participate, with other CARICOM Ministers in March of this year, in the “Building Resilience to Natural Disasters” Conference convened by the Government of Romania. Discussions at that meeting centred around the need for collaboration and cooperation against climate change, and on the building of resilience to the various natural disasters that are becoming more frequent and more intense as a result of changing climate. This conference was followed by a similar meeting in Miami, Florida, held in April that led to the launch of the “USA-Caribbean Resilience Partnership”. The aim of the Partnership is to strengthen relations between the US and the Caribbean, and to work together to achieve greater resilience to natural disasters.
The focus on resilience comes at a time when we are preparing for the 2019 hurricane season while many of our neighbours are still in recovery mode and rebuilding phase. It is an unassailable truth that global warming and climate change represent an existential threat to our way of life. As such, resilience for us includes not just building stronger, better and faster, but building resilience is imperative to our survival. Resilience, therefore, must permeate every aspect of our existence. Only through collaboration, synergy, and inter-operability will we collectively achieve the desired outcomes. Conferences such as those held in Romania and the USA must deliver on their goals and objectives and not be allowed to become just mere perfunctory events.
Coupled with the environmental threats we are faced with daily, there also persists other threats to our economies. For example, during the Romania meeting, we made the point that building resilience must necessarily incorporate financial resiliency which, for us, is severely impacted by the unfair and unwarranted pressure being brought to bear by the European Commission and other developed country mechanisms on several member states of CARICOM, with regards to the financial services sector. Although we are heartened that Romania, through its presidency of the European Union (EU), will advocate and facilitate on the issue of the blacklisting of the financial services sector of CARICOM countries by several EU member states, we must not rest on our laurels in this regard. Later this month, we will continue to discuss these issues when we meet in Germany.
The community’s relationship with third countries remains stronger than ever, as was evidenced by meetings held with Japan, the Nordic countries, the US and Canada during the 2018 Session of the United Nations General Assembly and the UAE last November.
At this year’s Meeting, I look forward to the upcoming exchange with H.E. Ms. Helen McEntee, T.D., Minister of European Affairs from the Republic of Ireland.
Indeed, these opportunities to share with Representatives from Third States are a reminder of our Regional influence and provide further opportunities for us to act in a cohesive manner to address threats to our economies and Regional security. I look forward to a solutions-focused exchange on how, through continued partnership, we might continue to increase the safety, security and benefits that can accrue from such encounters and mechanisms.
I am indebted to the Secretary-General and all Members of Staff of the Secretariat for their unwavering commitment to the goals of the Community, their hard work and the guidance given to me and my Ministry Officials over the past year.
I am also indebted to my colleague Foreign Ministers for their support of this neophyte in their ranks. Each of you, in your own inimitable way, made my job a little easier, and for this I am grateful.
Mr. Chairman, I extend my sincere appreciation to you and to the Government and people of Grenada for the warm welcome and excellent arrangements that have been put in place for this Meeting, and I wish you a successful and rewarding tenure. Please be assured of my support during your chairmanship of the Council.