The Northern Caribbean Conference, which took place in Grand Cayman today (Dec. 17) has the potential to be “a game changer,” the Rt. Hon. Joe Clark, former Prime Minister of Canada, and chairman of the one-day deliberations stated. He said that it could chart a new course in the history of Caribbean integration.
The conference, at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, brought together more than 160 participants, including heads of states, members of the public and private sectors from most of the seven sub-regional countries—the Cayman Islands, the Bahamas, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica and Puerto Rico.
He said that the Caribbean Research Policy Institute (CaPRI) of The University of the West Indies provided studies highlighting some of the challenges and opportunities to be gained from a regional perspective, to address the key issues of—trade, immigration, education, security and climate change.
“Our is aim to improve the collaboration between governments and the private sector to address these issues,” Mr. Clark pointed out, noting that they, “may seem insurmountable individually; but, achievable within the context of a unified sub-region. “
The Hon. McKeeva Bush took the lead in announcing that as of the end of January 2011, Jamaicans, who have USA, UK and Canadian visas will be exempted from the current visa requirements of the Cayman Islands. He said that it was part of a package of immigration reform, aimed at making Cayman more investor friendly.
The three discussions sessions, and a luncheon presentation dealt with all of the subject areas on the stated agenda, and, it was the opinion of Professor Brian Meeks, Conference Rapporteur, that the deliberations pointed the way forward to achieve—common polices and protocols on imigration; education and the establishment of minimum standards of security in the region.
He also highlighted themes for consideration to include—strategies in sports and culture; language as communication and commerce; and the fact that, the Caribbean Sea should be regarded as a resource and an environmental concern.
Dialogue from the conference floor supported the “way forward” points outlined by Professor Meeks; and the consensus was that the conference had struck the right chord, particularly among the private sector participants. Professor Meeks stated that in three months, a technical steering committee will meet to discuss the next steps.
Some of the main speakers included: The Hon. McKeeva Bush, Premier of the Cayman Islands; the Hon. Bruce Golding, Prime Minister of Jamaica; Mr. Kenneth McClintock The Most Hon. P. J. Patterson, former Prime Minister of Jamaica, and Special CARICOM Representative for Haiti; and Professor the Hon. Gordon Shirley.