As CARICOM countries work towards the goal of vibrant societies as a platform for the creation of resilient economies, incoming CARICOM Chairman and Prime Minister of Barbados, Freundel Stuart, says it is the people of the Caribbean who will be at the centre of this initiative.

Speaking at the opening of a High-Level Strategic Dialogue at Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Conference Centre today, Prime Minister Stuart said: ???We must depend, first and foremost upon ourselves, upon our peoples, whose ability to survive and thrive in the most adverse circumstances is well-known.???

He added that civil society, the private sector, entrepreneurs and the labour unions all had vital roles to play. And, also critical to the success of the initiative were partnerships with industrialised countries and international institutions.

The Prime Minister took issue with critics who described events such as the Dialogue and the CARICOM Heads of Government Conference as ???mere talking shops, unconnected to the needs of our societies???.

He emphasised the leading role small states have played and continued to play on issues of importance and relevance to the international community.??

???As we engage in our deliberations at the High-Level Dialogue, we do so with the conviction that our size does not determine the value of our contribution or our relevance, but rather that it is the quality of our ideas, our initiatives, our creativity and our dynamism which distinguish us.???

The new CARICOM Chair identified one such initiative as the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF), which he said was ???an example of Caribbean ideas and dynamism at work???.

The agency, which was established to cater to the needs of disadvantaged CARICOM countries in the event of natural disasters or other eventualities, is the first multi-country risk pool in the world and the ??first insurance instrument to successfully develop a parametric policy backed by both traditional and capital markets, he explained.

As the region prepares to participate in three major high level meetings this year – the Third International Conference on Financing for Development, the Post-2015 Summit of the United Nations and the 21st Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Mr. Stuart said the emphasis would be on ???strategies to ensure that our voice is heard and our concerns are reflected in the final outcomes of these meetings???.

Crucial too, he said, would be the implementation of these outcomes, and therefore, there was need to focus closely on the means of implementation, issues such as access to financing, partnerships and building capacity.

Attention must also be paid to legal, administrative, statistical and other policy frameworks to support the effective implementation and monitoring of the sustainable development goals which will be agreed upon, he added.

The High-Level Strategic Dialogue, which was moderated by Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, Sir George Alleyne, and brought together distinguished discussants from CARICOM, UWI, the Organisation of American States and the United Nations, had as its theme CARICOM – Vibrant Societies, Resilient Economies: A Partnership for Implementation.

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