LaRocque urges regional integration to tackle challenges

While global initiatives and agreements create the environment to plan and take action on regional development, Caricom Secretary General Irwin LaRocque believes this is not sufficient and regional leaders must take their own action, such as proposed in the Strategic Plan for the Caribbean Community for the period 2015-2019.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the Regional Civil Society Conference, hosted by the Caribbean Policy Development Centre (CPDC), Georgetown, LaRocque said that Caribbean leaders had to think outside the box, look for innovative and new ways to address challenges, as well as adopt new approaches to regional development.

Secretary General Irwin LaRocque
Secretary General Irwin LaRocque

“While the challenges may have long been identified, it is how we approach finding and implementing the solutions which will be important in the long run. It is that kind of strategic thinking, which has gone into the formulation of a Strategic Plan. We need all actors in the development process to contribute to innovative and new approaches to our development,” he remarked.
The Caricom Secretary General pointed out that the Community’s Strategic Plan was derived through a widespread inclusive and consultative process undertaken at national and regional levels. He said after distilling all the views and ideas put forward, priorities were determined.
“The Plan sets out the strategies to be pursued, the outcomes anticipated, the principal measures to be undertaken and the major activities to be implemented. We are well advanced with our work on the Operational Plan,” he stated.
Among the urgent priorities outlined in the Plan is developing arrangements for participatory governance at the regional level. This, La Rocque said, is probably the most important, since it seeks to involve all elements and components of Caribbean society in the regional development process.

The Secretary General emphasised that this is premised on the fact that the Caribbean cannot achieve sustained and inclusive growth and development unless all the players in development are actively engaged.
“It involves the creation of partnerships for development. It specifically involves formal inclusion of the Private Sector, Civil Society and Labour in the consultative process, the decision-making processes and in implementation at national and regional levels. It takes its cue from the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, which requires us to establish and maintain an efficient system of consultations at the national and regional levels,” he remarked.
Moreover, LaRocque stressed that at the level of the Secretariat, efforts will continue in the search for funding to establish a civil society desk. However, he posited that the implementation of the agreed Strategy would not be without its challenges.
He outlined that it would required changes in regional thinking, the adoption of new approaches to planning, to look at innovative approaches to implementation and financing. In summary, the Caricom Head said that the Community could not approach the implementation of the Strategic Plan for regional development as if it were business as usual.
“The people of the Region will hold all of us accountable for the success or failure of its implementation. As a Region, we cannot afford to miss this opportunity to set ourselves on a trajectory which can boost our own development,” he remarked.