CARICOM’S Implementation Deficit and the Neglect of Functional Cooperation: A Community for ALL
The – CARICOM Heads of Government in Montego Bay 4-6 July has a golden opportunity to change the directions of the Community, triggered by the insightful recommendations of the Golding Report, Reviewing Jamaica’s Relations within the CARICOM and CARIFORUM Frameworks, March 2017. There have so far been several forums and valuable opinions and assessments of this Report. Except, very tangentially, the role of functional cooperation, has been underestimated if not neglected.
It is worthy of recall that CARICOM Heads of Government at the Twenty-Eighth Session of their Conference held in Barbados in July, 2007, adopted the Needham’s Point Declaration in which they expressed their determination to make functional cooperation a priority within the Community. This was to be one of the principal means by which the benefits of the integration movement can be distributed throughout the length and breadth of the Community, including the Associate Members and among its entire people, thereby engendering a ‘Community for All’. They therefore pledged to invest in functional cooperation for the further development of the human and social capital of the Region. But as with so many others this pledge fizzled.
The earliest reference to functional cooperation appears in the decisions adopted at the Seventh Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government held in October 1972 at Chaguaramas in Trinidad and Tobago. The original Treaty of Chaguaramas which created the Caribbean Community and Common Market in 1973 identified three main objectives of the Community, namely, the economic integration of the Member States by the establishment of a Common Market regime; the coordination of foreign policy of Member States; and functional cooperation, including the efficient operation of certain common services and activities for the benefit of its people. The Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, which was adopted in 2001, reiterated the importance of functional cooperation as one of the main pillars of the integration movement. The activities under functional cooperation referred to in Articles 4 (iii) and 18 of the Treaty include air transportation, meteorological science and hurricane insurance, health, intra-regional technical assistance, intra-regional public service management, education and training, broadcasting and information culture, harmonization of the law and legal systems of Member States, the position of women in Caribbean society, travel within the Region, labour administration and industrial relations, technological and scientific research, social security, other common services and areas of functional cooperation as may from time to time be determined by the Conference.
This concept was explicitly articulated during the Twenty- Seventh Meeting of the Conference held in St. Vincent and the Grenadines in July 2006, at which the Heads of Government agreed that there was an urgency in addressing functional cooperation that paralleled developments related to trade and economic cooperation, and stated in this regard that increased attention should be paid to those issues that would enhance the welfare of citizens, including the reduction of poverty, social protection, human resource development, health and education among others.
A second consideration is that it is also necessary to develop mechanisms that would create opportunities for increased participation in the work of the Community by all Member States, including a Member State such as The Bahamas which does not participate in the CARICOM Single Market and Economy arrangements; the Associate Members which, it is felt, should also play a greater role in the activities undertaken by the Community; and the wider consideration of cooperation with networks of countries, referred to as “the variable geometry of integration”. Functional cooperation is therefore seen to be an extremely useful mechanism for fostering multilateral and global solidarity to achieve the pragmatic economic objectives.
The recommendations of the Task Force included in the Needham Point Declaration approved by Heads of Governments in 2007 were that:
The failure of CARICOM to move forward with this template for action is due as much to the non-responsiveness of the designated Lead Head for this area (Bahamas), as well as other Heads of Government that did not press the issue. In contrast, in the same period, the ASEAN countries accelerated their implementation of functional cooperation Its Secretary-General of stated that “functional cooperation has become a way of integrating ASEAN’s political and economic goals with its social, cultural, scientific, technological and environmental objectives”
As we optimistically hope for positive changes, there are contrary signals reflected in a failure to make the CARICOM Youth Ambassadors and civil society pivotal to regional revival. We are therefore reminded of an observation by the celebrated West Indian Commission with respect to the transformational CARICOM Charter of Civil Society signed in Antigua and Barbuda in February 1997: “the Charter can become the soul of the Community, which needs a soul if it is to command the loyalty of the people of CARICOM”
The Community could discover its soul by reversing its neglect of functional cooperation intended to propel a Community for ALL.