Forty years after the signing of the Treaty of Chaguaramas, the people of the Caribbean are ???stronger than ever???.

This assertion was made by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, as he addressed the Opening Ceremony of the 34th Regular Conference of the Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) on Wednesday, at the Diplomatic Centre in Trinidad and Tobago.

Highlighting some of the myriad of challenges the region had faced over the last four decades and more due to slavery, indenture and racism, Mr. Stuart maintained that Caribbean people were ???more closely knit today than at any other time in the region???s history???.

He added: ???Our own 40th anniversary celebrations are taking place against the sombre background of the most daunting economic challenges this region has had to face since World War II. The economic downturn which has been haunting the world since the last quarter of 2007 was not of CARICOM???s making but CARICOM must face and deal with the inevitable fall out.

???Present problems of debt and deficit, of unemployment and low or no growth are a continuing challenge to the character and resilience of our people. The global crisis is bad enough for the damage which it has done; but it is worse for what its continuation portends,??? he noted.

Mr. Stuart reminded persons that the region???s unity remained strong in the midst of the many storms of the past including the first oil crisis of 1973 -1974; the recessions of 1981-1982 and 1991-1992; and the downturn occasioned by 9/11 events in the United States of America in 2001 ??? 2002.

???Whether we are talking about trade, transport, education, health, agriculture, the Caribbean Sea and the environment, culture, sport, politics or marriage, our people across the Caribbean have shown a growing faith in the future of this regional space,??? he said.

Mr. Stuart told the gathering of regional leaders and delegates that 40 years after the signing of the Treaty of Chaguaramas, another generation of Caribbean leaders have come to Trinidad and Tobago to celebrate its existence and to reflect on ???battles fought and won???, and to ???chart a new way forward???.
He added that the founding fathers of the regional integration movement all understood that local or regional politics was ultimately ???about using power to make the lives of people better socially, politically and economically???.

???They believed that their best chance of making the lives of our people better was by bringing our countries much closer together in a relationship of shared aspirations, shared effort and shared resources???.

???Their initiative sprang from a deeper and even more important belief – that of the uniqueness and the special importance of our Caribbean region. The speeches on that occasion emphasised the special richness of the regional identity; warned us against being imbued with a sense of our own inadequacy; and challenged us to teach the world a lesson, a lesson of how people who number their populations in terms of a few million could mobilise their resources for the benefit of their nation, the benefit of their region, and ensure social justice, ban unemployment, and remove from their midst discrimination on the basis either of ethnicity or accident of birth,??? Mr. Stuart said.

The Prime Minister pledged his unwavering commitment to making the region a better place for its people.

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