In honour of the Organisation’s 40th Anniversary, since the historic signing of the Treaty of Basseterre on June 18, 1981, the Opening Ceremony featured a celebratory presentation in addition to remarks by the outgoing Chairman of the OECS Authority, Dr. the Honourable Roosevelt Skerrit, Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Dominica; the incoming Chairman, Dr. The Right Honourable Keith Mitchell; and the Director General of the OECS Commission, His Excellency Dr. Didacus Jules.
Dignitaries in attendance included the Secretary General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), His Excellency Irwin LaRocque; Hon. Chief Justice of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC), Dame Janice Pereira; a representative of the Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB), Mr. Timothy Antoine; Managing Director of the Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority (ECTEL), Mr. Andrew Millet; Dr. Lisa Indar representing the Executive Director of Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), Dr. Joy St. John; and members of the Diplomatic Corps.
In the main, the Meeting focused on, inter alia:
(a) Joint Diplomatic Representation
(b) COVID-19 Response and the need for a regional policy on vaccine requirements
(c) Recovery Support for St. Vincent and the Grenadines
(d) Civil Aviation and Air Services
(e) Support and Financing of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court
(f) Annual Work Plan and Budget of the OECS Commission
(A) JOINT DIPLOMATIC REPRESENTATION
The Authority received a report on the Canada-Caribbean Seasonal Agricultural Farm Workers Programme (SAWP). The Commission, through its Eastern Caribbean Liaison Service (ECLS) and with support from regional Ministries of Health and the relevant Canadian Authorities, facilitated the safe travel of over four hundred (400) agricultural workers from the OECS to Canada via charter flights for the year to date.
The Meeting commended all involved in their efforts to continue expanding the participation of OECS nationals in the programme amid the travel limitations and health risks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the recent volcanic eruption of the La Soufriere volcano.
Heads were also updated on the opportunities for joint diplomatic representation on the African Continent through agreements with CARICOM.
(B) COVID-19 RESPONSE AND THE NEED FOR A REGIONAL POLICY ON VACCINE REQUIREMENTS
The OECS Authority discussed reports on the region’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically the progress as it pertains to vaccinations.
Heads of Governments deliberated extensively on vaccine hesitancy and considered various avenues to circumvent this challenge noting the severe implications to the health systems and the economies of the region. The Meeting re-affirmed the principle of sharing vaccine supplies amongst the Member States, where necessary.
(C) RECOVERY SUPPORT FOR ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES
The Meeting received a report on the Stronger Together Campaign and was apprised of the Commission’s efforts to mobilise aid following the eruptions of the La Soufriere volcano and the subsequent flooding in the south of the island.
Heads of Governments and their representatives reiterated their support for St. Vincent and the Grenadines as in-country rebuilding initiatives continue.
(D) CIVIL AVIATION AND AIR SERVICES
The Authority received an update from the newly appointed Director General of the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority (ECCAA), Mr. Anthony Whittier, on plans for the restoration of the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Category One status; and working with the UN International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) in advancing aviation safety and security in the ECCAA jurisdiction.
(E) SUPPORT AND FINANCING OF THE EASTERN CARIBBEAN SUPREME COURT
Heads of Governments received a presentation from the Chief Justice of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC), Her Ladyship Honourable Dame Janice M. Pereira, and discussed the continued functions of the Court during this period.
The Meeting also discussed the sustainable financing of the Court and highlighted the benefits to approaches adopted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as increased virtual meetings, while cautioning against the extreme curtailing of judicial matters.
(F) ANNUAL WORK PLAN AND BUDGET OF THE OECS COMMISSION
The Authority received a presentation on the continued streamlining of finances at the OECS Commission. The Meeting was also updated on the progress of several cost reduction, revenue generation and partnership expansion initiatives implemented by the Commission, such as the Sustainable Development Movement, scheduled to be held in September 2021.
Heads commended the Commission on its steadfastness and leadership throughout this period of uncertainty and committed to settling outstanding financial contributions, reiterating the importance of these contributions to the effective functioning of the Organisation.
All Heads and their representatives expressed their deep appreciation to the staff of the OECS Commission for the arrangements made to ensure a successful virtual meeting held on the occasion of the 40th Anniversary of the OECS.
Heads of Governments and Representatives of Governments in attendance included:
Honourable Gaston Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda;
Dr. the Honourable Roosevelt Skerrit, Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Dominica;
Dr. the Right Honourable Keith Mitchell, Prime Minister of Grenada;
Honourable Easton Taylor-Farrell, Premier of Montserrat;
Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris, Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis;
Dr. the Honourable Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines;
His Excellency Alfred Marie-Jeanne, President of the Executive Council of the Territorial Authority of Martinique;
His Excellency Ary Chalus, President of the Regional Council of Guadeloupe, accompanied by Vice President, Honourable Diana Perran; and
Her Excellency Elma Gene Isaac, Ambassador to the OECS and CARICOM for Saint Lucia (representing Prime Minister of Saint Lucia, the Honourable Allen Chastanet).
Dr. Didacus Jules, Director General of the OECS, and the following Commissioners were also in attendance:
H. E. Colin Murdoch, Commissioner to the OECS for Antigua and Barbuda;
H. E. Felix Gregoire, Commissioner to the OECS for the Commonwealth of Dominica;
H. E. Cathisha Williams, Commissioner to the OECS for Grenada;
H. E. Ms. Debra Lewis, Commissioner to the OECS for Montserrat;
H. E Mr. Sydney Osbourne, Commissioner to the OECS for St. Kitts and Nevis;
H. E. Allan Alexander, Commissioner to the OECS for St. VIncent and the Grenadines;
Ms. Maguy Marie-Jeanne, Commissioner to the OECS for Martinique; and
Dr. Ruddy Blonbou, Commissioner to the OECS for the Regional Council of Guadeloupe.
The OECS Member States of Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands were not represented on account of prior urgencies.