Wednesday, April 21, 2010

CARICOM offical defends integration movement

GEORGETOWN, Guyana -- Dr Edward Greene, CARICOM Assistant Secretary-General, Human and Social Development staunchly defended the Caribbean regional integration movement at a recent UNESCO Conference on Higher Education, at which he was the keynote speaker.

Speaking on the topic Regional Integration and Development: the relevance of Functional Cooperation, Dr Greene dispelled speculations that the regional integration movement would erode the ‘sovereignty’ of member states. Noting that there was more to the integration movement than the CSME which was the popular yardstick seemingly used to measure progress, Dr Greene highlighted major achievements spawned by the integration movement since its inception.

The Assistant Secretary-General gave examples of the more recent establishment of the Regional Development Fund in Barbados, the replacement of the Caribbean Regional Negotiating Machinery (CRNM) with the Office of Trade Negotiations now under the aegis of the CARICOM Secretariat and the establishment of the CARICOM Competition Commission headquartered in Suriname as successful building blocks in sustaining the integration process. He noted further, their importance in “sustaining a level playing field, coordinating trade negotiations and guaranteeing the application of common standards in trade production within the Community.”

Moreover, Dr Greene said, much economic, political and social development had been achieved which should definitely be attributed to the regional integration movement.

However, Dr Greene was not un-mindful of the challenges plaguing regional integration and the CSME asserted that the major roadblocks were due to national resistance, changes in governments and delays in the facilitation of the necessary national regulations or legislation to bring policies and programmes into effect.

He lamented that attempts to deepen the integration process were usually hindered by what he described as “the sustained pre-occupation with the notion that CARICOM comprises sovereign states which would be eroded by the application of shared sovereignty.”

This he said couldn’t be further from the truth and pointed to functional cooperation as the critical lever of the regional integration movement that he argued advanced rather than stymied the sovereignty of member states.

According to the Assistant Secretary-General, ‘sovereign states’ had benefited from functional cooperation in the areas of foreign policy and diplomacy, and therefore could “identify the value of acting collectively in negotiating theatres, internationally.” These benefits he said “were all indicative of forms of integration that had helped in no small way to sustain the cohesiveness and viability of the community in the hemispheric and global systems.”

“The principles of Functional Cooperation,” Dr Greene concluded “if properly applied allows sovereign states to advance specific programmes in a series of South-South arrangements that contribute significantly to economic development.”

April 21, 2010