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Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM)

The Caribbean islands have long faced an array of dilemmas. To cope with some of these, in 1965 Caribbean leaders formed the Caribbean Free Trade Association (CARIFTA) to encourage balanced development of the Region. In 1973 this organization was replaced by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) with the signing of the Treaty of Chaguaramas, Trinidad, on the 4th of July 1973. Members of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) include Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago.

The primary aims of CARICOM relate to issues of economic policy, and development, and there were no specific provisions in the initial Treaty or in its first revision in 2001 for regional security. CARICOM has taken on evolving objectives including improving standards of living, safer working conditions, full employment, and enhanced levels of competitiveness and productivity.

Regional security cooperation improved in 1991 with the formation of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency (now the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency [CDEMA]) among CARICOM countries and a few external nations. In 2001, a new focus on regional security led to the formation of a regional task force on crime and security. Only slightly more than half of the members appear to have implemented the CARICOM common external tariff (CET) whereby goods entering any member country from nonmember countries will be assessed with the same tariff rate.

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Regional Policy on Education was approved by the Standing Committee of Ministers with responsibility for Education (SCME) in a special meeting held on September 9, 1993. The policy constitutes a major regional effort to build a strong and dynamic community. An overall theme of the policy is regionalism as an ideal, as a resource, and as a style of operation. This document summarizes policy issues and concerns and identifies policy goals and actions required for various levels of the education system. The maintenance of good governance, together with the role of civil societies, migration, citizenship, economic growth and development, crime, HIV/AIDS, culture, and identity continue to strongly impact these countries as they cope with the impact of the ongoing global recession. Indeed, it is at this historical moment of global economic downturn, when countries the world over have been turning to their governments for more effective leadership, that the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM), the region's international governmental organization (IGO) that is responsible for regional governance, is facing its most strident criticism.

In February 2003, members of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) met to discuss the prospect of creating a single Caribbean market economy. In mid-April, members of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), a CARICOM subgroup, gathered to examine a similar proposal. Despite widespread enthusiasm among OECS members for economic integration, CARICOM participants Jamaica, Barbados, and other non-OECS members have expressed their reservations. In response to strains caused by declining tourist revenue and highly competitive pricing in the tropical fruit sector, some of the smaller Eastern Caribbean islands are recognizing that their interests and the interests of other CARICOM members do not always fully coincide.

Some island governments argue that the creation of a single market economy that would allow goods, services, people and capital to move freely throughout the Caribbean would be a bonanza for their citizens. They insist that the CSME will increase production and trade among member countries while it also improves the quality of goods and the competitiveness of their prices, creates jobs and improves living standards. Others, such as The Bahamas, contend that such an agreement would infringe on their sovereignty. It may sometimes appear easier and seemingly more beneficial for an island nation to enter into a bilateral agreement with a single country rather than with a multiplicity of its neighbors and fellow CARICOM members.

Patsy Lewis, in "Surviving Small Size: Regional Integration in Caribbean Ministates", argues that culture provides the most important noneconomic grounds for regional unity, and since Caribbean countries share many common cultural traits, political union (regional integration) "may become a possibility if these countries were to emphasize a shared West Indian identity, a democratic process, and a need to act as a sovereign entity to combat globalization and economic weakness." There is an intellectual and historical basis for this claim.

Peter Manuel, for example, in his edited volume, "Creolizing Contradance in the Caribbean", undertakes a pan-regional analysis of the diverse forms of contradance and quadrille, the most popular, widespread and important genres of Creole Caribbean music and dance in the 19th century, and demonstrates how these forms constituted sites for interaction of musicians and musical elements of different racial, social, and ethnic origins, which forged musical genres like the Cuban danzoacuten and son, the Dominican merengue, and the Haitian mereng.

The article, "Bye Caricom & WI Cricket," penned in the October 27, 2009, edition of the Barbados Nation News newspaper by retired (Barbados) diplomat and social commentator, Peter Laurie, contained a rather blistering attack against CARICOM. This attack registered the most high-level criticism of the quality of governance within this international governmental organization (IGO). Laurie opined that "CARICOM has exhausted itself. Caribbean regionalism is not so much in retreat as it is irrelevant. CARICOM leaders have absolutely no interest in regional integration other than what petty benefits each can gouge out of it. Most of them, except for the cheapskates and freeloaders, are slowly realizing that they get out less than they put in. CARICOM is no longer a win-win situation, but a zero-sum game... In a globalised world economy, we're all better off fending for ourselves. CARICOM has become a drag on the progress of its member states...." These sentiments capture the mood of many thinkers across the Caribbean, and speak to a large extent to the challenges, if not the failures of governance across the region.

While a permanent Caribbean security entity does not exist, regional forces have been fielded for Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada in 1983, on a larger scale for Operation Uphold Democracy in Haiti in 1994, and involving all Caribbean states for the ICC CWC 2007. Leadership for the battalion in the second instance rotated among senior officers of various CARICOM militaries, but funding was provided first by the US and then by the United Nations.

The 15-nation strong regional body stayed the hand of interventionist countries in the Organization of American States led by the US. In a statement issued after Caricom's 38 Heads of Government meeting, the regional body mandated the meeting's chair, Prime Minister of Grenada Keith Mitchell to write to the relevant parties in Venezuela to offer to facilitate a constructive dialogue. After Trinidad and Tobago's Prime Minister Keith Rowley requested Venezuela be included on the agenda, Caricom conducted a closed-door session on the situation in the South American country on 05 July 2017 and issued a statement at the end of its 3-day meeting on July 6, according to Dr. Rowley's office. Venezuelan Foreign Minister Samuel Moncada said that Venezuela needed the "friendly, honest and non-interventionist" support of Caricom, according to teleSUR correspondent Monica Vistali, "that will help Venezuela to find a solution on its own."

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