House of Bishops Statement on Caribbean Unity

The House of Bishops and Standing Committee of the Church in the Province of the West Indies, meeting in St. Johns, Antigua, take note of the growing level of discontent among our Caribbean nations arising from issues related to the interpretation and application of regulations related to the Treaty of Chaguaramas, and more specifically, the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas establishing the Caribbean Community including the CARICOM Single Market and Economy, and the 2007 Heads of Government Agreement that allows for hassle-free travel within the Caribbean.

While it is acknowledged that all sovereign nations of the Region have the right to determine who they admit within their borders, nevertheless, the obligations inherent in the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas have broadened the understanding and implications of the exercise of this sovereign right in ways which are still to be fully understood. The recent ruling by the Caribbean Court of Justice in the Shanique Myrie case has brought the issue into sharp focus in a way that is threatening to undermine the progress which has been achieved toward Caribbean unity, thereby awakening protective and emotive national responses which may be counter to the furtherance of Caribbean unity.

Anecdotal evidence surfacing from time to time point to restrictions to the free movement of members of CARICOM across the Region, prejudicial treatment with the targeting of persons of specific nationalities, as well as unfair trade practices which pose a threat to the legal threads which have been created to further strengthen the fabric of Caribbean unity.

We would proffer the notion that many of these problems are at base manifestations of our common struggle to deal with the challenges of survival in a hostile global economic environment which threatens to undo the gains and the measure of stability which our nations and the Region have achieved. The danger in all of this is that, in face of these threats, we may be turning in on one another in the struggle of our peoples to survive, and to see in one another an impediment to our nation’s advancement. We are also aware of the potential for this issue to become fodder for the further promotion of the partisan political platforms which have often characterized the politics of the nations of the Caribbean.

Left unattended, this ominous development has the potential to reverse the benefits to be derived from membership of this Regional institution, CARICOM.
We affirm that the Treaty of Chaguaramas has marked a significant development in the quest for Caribbean unity, and anything which has the potential of weakening or reversing this expression of progress should be resisted, and evoke instead creative and positive responses to problem-solving by our Caribbean leaders within the political and commercial spheres.

We affirm that, at base, our people would not only like to see an integrated Caribbean under the CARICOM umbrella, but also the assurance of the protection of the integrity of each nation. We believe that our political leaders have a crucial role to play in this regard. The report of the West Indian Commission made it clear that the people of the region want to see the restoration and strengthening of the walls of the Caribbean community, and that must mean the strengthening of CARICOM. So the Commission said:


“We come back to what the people want. In meeting with us everywhere people have been concerned that what the Commission does should result in a better life and improved opportunities for their children. They believe that these ends can be advanced most effectively through accelerated CARICOM integration and closer co-operation with sister CARICOM countries”.

The interplay between the way in which economic challenges impact on governance and stability in our Region was also underscored by the West Indian Commission. In this regard the Commission issued more than a hint:

“It is now all too evident that tension between economic distress and democratic governance could be the major destabilizing factor of the future in developing countries. Social discontent in the wake of structural adjustment programmes forced forward at an inhuman pace could make nonsense of the democratic traditions West Indian societies have zealously cultivated… West Indian societies need each other more and more and West Indian political leadership of all parties acknowledges this. We need to reduce that tension both by development that removes a sense of inequality and by enhancing public confidence in governance”.

As members of one of the Caribbean’s oldest institutions (established 1883), we commit ourselves to the support of all legitimate attempts by the leaders in governance, business, and civil society, designed to foster greater Caribbean unity and the realization of the objectives of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy as one expression of this commitment. We further commit ourselves to the sensitization and education of our members to the importance of the pursuit of this objective for the promotion of the common good of the people of our Caribbean Region.

The leaders of the Caribbean must take the necessary steps to maximize the emerging opportunities for the benefit of the Region. Regional leadership must rise to the existing challenges to ensure a prosperous and self-sufficient Region in furtherance of the hopes and aspirations of the Caribbean people.

 

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