Patricia Scotland KC, Commonwealth Secretary-General, is expected to attend the Conference of the Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in Port-of-Spain from 3 to 5 July 2023 as a special guest.
This year marks 50 years since the signing of the Treaty of Chaguaramas in Trinidad and Tobago in 1973, which led to the establishment of the Caribbean Community. The next week’s meeting will officially launch CARICOM’s 50th-anniversary celebrations.
Speaking ahead of her visit, the Commonwealth Secretary-General commended the achievements of the organization, stating:
“CARICOM came together 50 years ago to enhance the connections, well-being, prosperity, and security of Caribbean countries and their citizens. Those objectives were prescient then, and now, half a century later, they are more important than ever.”
She added, “The Commonwealth’s partnership with CARICOM spans over the past 50 years, and today, our cooperation on a wide array of initiatives is more comprehensive than ever before.”
In Trinidad and Tobago, the Secretary-General will engage with Caribbean leaders, seeking their perspectives and collaborating on strategies to provide more tailored and practical assistance to the region.
She will also update leaders on preparations for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) scheduled to take place in Samoa from 21 October 2024.
With 12 of the 15 CARICOM members also being part of the Commonwealth, the Secretary-General emphasized the importance of strengthening the collaboration between the two organizations.
She will highlight the targeted assistance being provided by the Secretariat to the region, particularly through the Commonwealth Climate Finance Access Hub. As of June 2023, the hub has helped secure over US $52 million in climate finance for Commonwealth member countries in the Caribbean.
During the conference, Secretary-General Scotland will reaffirm the Commonwealth’s unwavering commitment to championing the concerns and interests of small states on the global stage, with a focus on urgent climate action and advocating for a new global financing system that addresses the needs of the small and vulnerable.
In particular, she will draw attention to the significant gap between the ambitious climate finance pledges and the limited funding actually being disbursed to help developing countries to tackle climate change.
Secretary-General Scotland said “We cannot stand by as small and vulnerable states drown in rising seas and suffocate under crushing debt. Small states, least responsible for climate change, suffer a double injustice – enduring the devastating aftermath of disasters and grappling with exorbitant borrowing costs for recovery.”
She further highlighted the resilience of the Caribbean region, stating, “For decades, when it has been faced with the worst, Caribbean leaders have shown their best. They have led the world on the issues of the day, and they have shown their true power as a united voice for those who are in need.”
Acknowledging the recent announcements made at the Paris Climate Finance Summit as “important steps in a much longer journey”, the Secretary-General added that after advocacy from the Commonwealth and the Caribbean, spearheaded by the Prime Minister of Barbados, the Hon Mia Mottley, with the support of other regional leaders, the reforms to multilateral lending practices are now being seriously considered.
There is hope, she added, that these will be amended to reflect the realities of the climate crisis and the disproportionate impact on vulnerable states.
This CARICOM conference is convened under the chairmanship of the Hon Roosevelt Skerrit, Prime Minister of Dominica – the Commonwealth Secretary-General’s country of birth.
Following the CARICOM conference, the Secretary-General will embark on an official visit to The Bahamas to take part in the country’s celebrations for the 50th anniversary of independence.