Barbados has been congratulated for its positions on the Association of Caribbean States (ACS), the Caribbean Sea Commission, and the Special Committee on Budget and Administration.
Secretary-General of the ACS, Dr. June Soomer, praised Barbados recently, while here on an official mission to visit Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Dr. Jerome Walcott, and update him on the work and advances of the ACS.
While thanking Barbados for agreeing to chair the ACS, she said the mission not only brought Minister Walcott up-to-date with the issues being tackled within the association, but focused on planning for his year-long chairmanship.
“We think that our chair must always have tangible results for the region and that of course is only done when you have good objectives. So, we met to discuss our objectives for the year; to look at how we would implement them to ensure that we can achieve these objectives, and at year-end to present the Ministerial Council with a comprehensive list of successes from Barbados’ chairmanship,” Dr. Soomer noted.
Recalling the origins of the ACS, the secretary-general said the formation of the association was recommended following the Time For Action Report produced by the CARICOM Special Commission established by CARICOM Heads of Government in the early 1990s.
“The grouping was meant to ensure the widening and deepening of integration among countries that formed the periphery of the Caribbean Sea. CARICOM felt that it was important for there to be deeper relations with countries such as Colombia, Mexico, Venezuela, the Central American countries, Panama, Cuba and the Dominican Republic, in specific areas. And, so the ACS deals with trade, transport, disaster risk reduction, sustainable tourism, the environment and with all of the things that impact the Caribbean Sea,” she explained.
Calling it “a very good decision” by the Heads of Government “to move ahead” with the formation, Dr. Soomer stressed: “We can see some of the fruits of the Time For Action Report, and we are on the verge of celebrating the 25th anniversary of the ACS, so it means that we have a celebration of that report; something that came out substantial.”
The secretary-general noted that discussions with Senator Walcott surrounded the Declaration of Havana passed in 2016, and with an emphasis on the need for continued revitalization of the ACS.
“We agreed on the process of ensuring enhanced relevance and enhanced visibility, and we have the great opportunity of doing that not only with the projects and programmes that we have in place, but also because we are going to be celebrating our 25th anniversary this year, and we think that the successes we have had as an organization should be showcased.
“So, that is one of the things we are going to do. We are also going to look at enhanced governance in terms of how we do things in the ACS. This is an organization that we have moved from strength to strength with regard to management and structure, and we are going to look at continued strengthening of it,” she stated.
While adding that the issue of increasing partnerships was tabled, Dr. Soomer said: “CARICOM founded the ACS, and we have to deepen that partnership; we have a number of other regional organizations that we think we can have partnerships with, not just to ensure visibility for the organization, but efficiency for the ACS. We do not want to do things that other organizations are doing. We believe that we can all have our space within the regional integration movement, and that we can enhance the way of living for the people of the region without duplicating effort.”
With the ACS set to celebrate its 25th anniversary on Wednesday, July 24, the secretary-general wants the occasion to be recognized as the turning point of the ACS. Along with preparing promotional material for the media, schools and territories, the organization aims to showcase major projects.
Key among these is what is referred to as “The ACS’ biggest project” – the monitoring of sea level rise around the perimeter of the Caribbean Sea.
“We call it our Sandy Shorelines Rehabilitation Project, and with the help of South Korea, which is one of our observers, we are doing that monitoring. We are doing it not only with the members, but also with our associate members. We have a comprehensive monitoring around the Caribbean Sea for three years.
“We have a lot of good technical support in that regard; we have a technical committee consisting of different experts from around the region. From Barbados, we have for example, Dr. Leo Brewster, and from Cuba, Dr. Jose Luis Juanes, experts who have been involved in beach rehabilitation for a number of years,” Dr. Soomer noted.
Proud of this aspect of work, the official stressed: “For me, the ACS is about the Caribbean Sea. We must define this area; we have to ensure that at the level of the United Nations (UN) it becomes an area for protection; we are the only organization charged with preservation and protection of the Caribbean Sea.”
As she acknowledged there were already some successes, the ACS official said: “Our resolution was recognized by the UN, and so we are now putting things in place for that clear definition with regard to what we mean about protection of the Caribbean Sea and that special area…. We want that done quickly because we are moving towards the blue economy and exploring the Caribbean Sea for economic purposes.
“Preservation is important also. So, I am hoping that the ACS will be at the forefront of that movement to protect the Caribbean Sea. It is in our convention – Protection of the Caribbean Sea. So, I think it is time that we fulfill that mission for which we were set up.”
The anniversary celebrations will also see the association showcasing its artisan’s project at CARIFESTA in Trinidad, from August 17 to 23.
Elaborating on the rationale behind this, Dr. Soomer said: “We are upgrading and helping a lot of our artisans to rebrand, and it’s for us to understand the importance of these people within our communities. So, we are going to make the best of that anniversary to ensure that people know who we are, as the ACS, and what we do.”
With the expectation that the year 2019-2020 will be one where the dreams and aspirations of the new chairman and people of the ACS will materialize, Dr. Soomer shared her own vision.
She said: “The ACS, perhaps, is one of the biggest secrets of the region. And, as the representative from CARICOM, and now as the secretary-general, the first female to be exact, I also see the ACS as a place that must make a space for both women and for young people. It must be an organization that must be able to reach the people and so I have that dream also for the ACS. I just have one more year as secretary-general, but I must say, we are moving very quickly to achieve the things that I have stated here.”