Newly installed Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretary General, Dr. Carla Barnett, has voiced her commitment towards greater stakeholder engagement for a “truly integrated, inclusive and resilient community that is driven by knowledge, excellence, innovation and productivity”. She made this pledge while outlining her vision during an installation ceremony streamed online on August 16.
Dr. Barnett, who assumes office as CARICOM’s eighth and first appointed female Secretary General, acknowledged the many “economic, social, environmental and financial challenges” affecting lives and livelihoods in the region. She specifically outlined the issues of climate change, youth unemployment, rising crime, the need for greater food security and the issue of blacklisting by large global powers which has led to the loss of correspondent banking relations (CBRs) for many indigenous Caribbean banks. The new SG also extended condolences to the people of Antigua & Barbuda on the passing of their second Prime Minister, Sir Lester Bird, who she acknowledged as a committed regionalist. She also expressed solidarity with the people of Haiti where over 1,200 innocent lives were lost as a result of a 7.2 magnitude earthquake on August 14 and who also face the impending Tropical Storm Grace.
Dr. Barnett implored stakeholders to reach out to the Secretariat to share their “their fears, concerns, and vision for the future of the Community and telling us how they feel they can contribute to building our Community”, as no one has all the ideas or answers so all must be involved. She further noted that “it is, therefore, incumbent on all of us to be engaged in finding solutions and taking action to overcome these obstacles in our path to a secure, viable and ultimately sustainably prosperous Community for all”.
She made reference to the unity showed by CARICOM people during sports, culture and in times of adversity. She stated she would “build on and maintain that strength” and “will require that my team and I reach out on a regular basis to explain, to exhort, to inform, to educate so that all will feel a part of the whole that constitutes CARICOM and “I Am CARICOM” will mean much more than a catchy slogan”.
In addition to greater stakeholder engagement, Dr. Barnett also called for new thinking “not only to solve the problems of the present but to outline new paths for the future of our integration process”, including for closing the implementation gap. She praised the work of her predecessor Ambassador Dr. Irwin Larocque of Dominica who served from 2011-2021. She noted that much has been achieved in the past 48 years, but “a lot of it is taken for granted today, to the extent that some are not even associated with the integration movement”.
Dr. Barnett is the first Belizean national to be appointed CARICOM SG. She brings to the position a wealth of experience, including as an economist and having previously served as the first woman and the youngest person appointed as Deputy-Secretary of CARICOM (1997 -2002).
We at the Caribbean Trade Law & Development Blog wish Dr. Barnett the very best during her tenure.
The recording from the event may be viewed here, while the transcript from her full address is available here.
Photo credit: CARICOM