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Parliamentarians from the Caribbean Confer with EU Counterparts in Suriname

By Robert Johnson

BRUSSELS | PARAMARIBO, Suriname (ACP-IDN) – Climate change, which is a major concern in the Caribbean, and identifying and implementing effective climate adaptation and mitigation strategies were high on the agenda of the 17th regional meeting of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly in Paramaribo, the capital of Suriname, from February 28 to March 2, 2019

Parliamentarians from the Caribbean region of the ACP Group and their European counterparts also focused on regional Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs), security and the political situation of the region as well as on energy, economic growth and employment.

The ACP secretariat was represented by Assistant Secretary-General in charge of political affairs and human development, Ambassador Léonard-Emile Ognimba and Doreen Walsweer, an expert in political dialogue and relations with international organisations.

The Paramaribo communiqué took note of the 10th anniversary of the EU-CARIFORUM Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). The Caribbean parliamentarians raised concerns about insufficient progress in the implementation of the EPA and called for the speedy implementation of the joint review and monitoring mechanisms. They called for heightened awareness of the importance of EPAs and for political will for action that will lead to transformation of the Caribbean economies.

With regard to regional security, Members had an extensive discussion on the unrest in Venezuela and its repercussions for the entire region. They also addressed the appallingly high levels of violent crime and domestic violence in the region that have a profound impact on development and society as a whole.

They further noted the simmering political crisis in Haiti that is attributed to deteriorating socio- economic conditions, the on-going migration issue with neighbouring countries, a divided legislature and weak governance institutions as well as public dissatisfaction with the government’s response to corruption.

Discussing ways of self-financing for the ACP Group, the Caribbean parliamentarians noted the proposals to establish an endowment fund that would provide for the operational costs of the ACP secretariat and a trust fund that would address the challenges facing the ACP Group such as climate change.

Trade, energy, investment and private sector development

While acknowledging the economic benefits of tourism to the Caribbean states, the parliamentarians took note of the tourism management capacity of the region through the Caribbean sustainable tourism policy framework which is currently being aligned to the SDGs. They also recognized the ambition of the region to attract sufficient quality and quantity of talent to facilitate the sustainable growth of the sector.

They expressed the belief that there is benefit to be gained from the Caribbean supplying labour to the EU and vice-versa specifically in the tourism sector. This mobility would result in a transfer of skills, expertise and ideas as well as resources thus raising the standards in the industry through best practice exchanges, noted the communiqué.

The parliamentarians took note of some of the challenges faced by the industry such as inadequate infrastructure and the exorbitant cost of inter-regional travel, and differences in the level of development of the industry that lead to unbalanced tourist flows across the region.

They acknowledged that access to sustainable energy remains a critical challenge for the Caribbean countries and stressed the need for the involvement of various stakeholders including governments, the private sector and the international community.

Further, they called for the region to provide access to investment in affordable energy for all which would result in economic growth and job creation. It was pointed out that the region is working on new energy sources that are sustainable, affordable and efficient.

BREXIT – Implementation for CARIFORUM and the EPA

Parliamentarians took note of the on-going Brexit process and highlighted its possible negative impact on the region. They held extensive discussions on the continuity agreement that would have an effect on trade in certain commodities

They noted the options for a possible way forward that could include attaching an annex to the continuity agreement to cover trade facilitation arrangements and administration issues.

Environmental crime and natural resources

Parliamentarians were informed of the decline in agricultural production, low productivity and lack of incentives for young people in the agricultural sector. This has led to high dependence on food imports for many Caribbean countries and has had significant consequences on eating habits and health.

They noted the devastating impact of natural disasters on agricultural production and emphasized the importance of introducing practices to build up preparedness, response- capacity and resilience. While climate change is a global issue, the parliamentarians recalled that Caribbean countries are less responsible for climate change but are facing the most devastating consequences therefrom. In this regard, they acknowledged the importance of fair climate financing mechanisms.

The Joint Parliamentary Assembly called on countries in the region to strengthen and implement policies on forest preservation and reforestation. The Caribbean participants welcomed the European Union programmes designed to support disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation activities in the Caribbean region, and further welcomed the confirmation that the European Union will maintain its commitments beyond 2020. [IDN-InDepthNews – 05 March 2019]

Photo: 17th regional meeting of ACP-EU Parliamentarians in Suriname. Credit: European Parliament

This report is part of a joint project of the Secretariat of the ACP Group of States and IDN, flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.

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