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Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS)

The Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) states are not party to the Rio Treaty; the OECS Treaty is their regional equivalent, and is consistent with the purposes and principles of UN and OAS Charters. The OECS is a sub-regional body created in 1981 by the Treaty Establishing the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States. Among the purposes of the Treaty are the promotion of regional cooperation and collective security.

The six independent island nations of the OECS are located in the Eastern Caribbean Sea stretching from roughly due east of Puerto Rico in the north (St.Kitts and Nevis, Antigua) to the eastern coast of Venezuela in the south (St. Vincent, Grenada). The total population of the OECS is just over half a million.

The economies of the OECS member states are based on a mixture of tourism and agriculture. All of the countries except St. Kitts and Antigua are reliant on bananas for a significant portion of export earnings and are worried about the consequences of a loss of preferential access to the European banana market. All of the OECS countries are trying to expand their tourism industries in order to diversify their economies.

The currency of the OECS is the Eastern Caribbean dollar. The official language of all the OECS islands is English, though there are local patois which are widely spoken on certain islands. All of the OECS countries have deep water harbors and ports capable of handling large ships. St. Lucia has two such ports, one at Castries, and one at Vieux Fort. Most food imports come by boat, though a limited amount of fresh products arrive via air.

The United States had been concerned - well before the series of unique events which brought about the Caribbean Peace Force collective action - that Grenada could be used as a staging area for subversion of nearby countries, for interdiction of shipping lanes, and for transit of troops and supplies from Cuba to Africa, arid from Eastern Europe and Libya to Central America.

Responding to an urgent and formal request from the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), six Caribbean States and the United States joined in a collective action to restore peace and public order in Grenada. Elements of the combined force landed. on Grenada early on October 25. The force includes contingents from Jamaica and Barbados plus four OECS member states: Antigua, Dominica, St. Lucia and St. Vincent. The objectives of the collective security force were to restore peace, order and respect for human rights; to evacuate those who wish to leave; and to help the Grenadians re-establish govern- mental institutions.

The OECS acted pursuant to collective security. provisions of the 1981 OECS Treaty of Establishment and after receiving a confidential appeal from the Governor-General of Grenada. The Eastern Caribbean States saw the violence and the disintegration of political institutions in Grenada as an unprecedented threat to peace and security of the region. With 800-1,000 US citizens (many, students at the St. George's Medical School) to protect, the US shared their concerns. Inaction would have increased the dangers of the crisis in Grenada.

The OECS determined that the collapse of government and disintegration of public order on Grenada posed a threat to the security and stability of the region. The OECS members decided to take necessary measures in response to this threat, in accordance with Article Eight of the OECS Treaty. They sought the assistance of friendly foreign states to participate in a collective security force. Barbados and Jamaica agreed with the OECS assessment of the gravity of the situation, offered to contribute forces to a collective action and joined in urging the United States to participate in the support of this regional measure.

The Governor-General of Grenada made a confidential, direct appeal to the OECS to take action to restore order on the island. As the sole remaining authoritative representative of the government of Grenada, his appeal for action carried exceptional moral and legal weight.

The OECS states, in taking lawful collective action, were free to call upon other concerned states, including the United States, for assistance in their effort to maintain the peace and security of the Caribbean. Assistance given in response to their request is itself lawful. Moreover, US cooperation with the collective security force permitted the safe evacuation of endangered US citizens. Such humanitarian action was justified by well-established principles of international law.

A dependence on tourism and limited amounts of economic diversity among the islands has pressured CARICOM members and increased inter-island competition, as they at the same time seek out various bilateral agreements with other countries that best meet their needs. Perhaps for this reason, members of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) have sought a single market economy sooner than CARICOM, hoping to do what the larger body has failed to accomplish thus far.

Some observers claimed the OECS was pushing to form a free trade agreement apart from CARICOM in an attempt to increase their collective bargaining power. Such an alliance would allow CARICOM's smaller member states to contract services collectively--including telecommunications services, which are currently over-priced due to their micro markets--as well as to import goods at lower prices through unified buying power. The island nations aspire to eventually be seen as a larger market and to profit from economies of scale that will also strengthen their voice in an already complex global economy.



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