UK-Caribbean Forum is the principal vehicle for dialogue between Britain and the Caribbean region. The Forum was set up as a means of strengthening and institutionalising the close relationship that exists between the UK and Caribbean countries. Every two years Foreign Ministers and senior officials from the Caribbean nations meet UK Ministers to agree our joint objectives on key issues of concern for the region and the UK and review progress.
Jack Straw speaking at the fifth UK-Caribbean Forum in Barbados, April 2006.
Barbados hosted the fifth UK-Caribbean from 26 to 28 April 2006. The UK delegation was led by the then Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, who co-chaired the meeting with Grenada Foreign Minister The Hon Elvin Nimord. The Foreign Secretary was accompanied by four other Ministers: Lord Triesman (Foreign and Commonwealth Office), Baroness Amos (Leader of the House of Lords), Baroness Scotland (Home Office) and Gareth Thomas (Department for International Development). All CARICOM countries except St Kitts attended - most at Foreign Minister level. Ministers of National Security of Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and Grenada were also present. All ministers met in retreat for half a day.
Two British parliamentarians, Lord Foulkes and Geraldine Smith MP, attended the Forum and held a separate meeting with Barbadian senators. There was a Business Encounter on the morning of 27 April which discussed the strengthening trade and investment ties between the UK and the Caribbean, and preparations for an investment conference due to take place in London in November 2006. There was also a meeting of the Joint Management Committee responsible for implementation of the CARICOM-UK Security Cooperation Plan.
The formal sessions at the Forum covered long-term economic development in the Caribbean and security. Topics included the impact of EU sugar regime reform on the Caribbean, the need for human resource development, capacity building in legal drafting, further debt relief and support for the Regional Development Fund of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy. CARICOM outlined the steps taken to enhance national and regional security ahead of the 2007 Cricket World Cup and the Forum discussed areas where the UK might provide additional support.
A communiqué was issued at the end of the Forum, which records the discussion. It includes an Action Plan setting out activity to be undertaken before the next UK-Caribbean Forum in 2008.
Fifth UK-Caribbean Ministerial Forum Communiqué
The Forum endorsed the report of the Joint Management Committee on implementation of the CARICOM-UK Security Cooperation Plan.
Report of the Joint Management Committee of the Caricom-UK Security Cooperation Plan
The next UK-Caribbean Forum will take place in the United Kingdom in 2008.
INTRODUCTION BY LORD TRIESMAN TO THE 2006 UK-CARIBBEAN FORUM
May I start by thanking Billie Miller and the Government of Barbados on behalf of Jack Straw and all of the UK Delegation for hosting this, the fifth, UK/Caribbean Ministerial Forum. I can say, with no hesitation, that it really is a pleasure to be here in Bridgetown in April.
A number of my colleagues and friends were somewhat suspicious of my travel plans - the beauty of Barbados is well known in the UK with some 250,000 British visitors in one year. But, while tourism will rightly take up a part of our discussions, our agenda will go well beyond the topics in the tourist brochures into areas with which colleagues and friends back home will be a lot less familiar. While to some the Caribbean may be no more than sun, sea, rum and reggae; we of course know that the reality is rather more complex.
So why are we here and what do we hope to achieve?
It is often said that the UK and the Caribbean have a 'special' or 'unique' relationship. In saying that, I think most are looking to the past, to a long history of British presence in the region. That history is, of course, of huge importance. But the world is changing at an extraordinary pace and we need now to concentrate on promoting the best possible relationship for 2006 and for the future. That is, I hope, what we will be seeking over the next two days - an ever stronger partnership with a joint strategy clearly focussed on the future.
Our agenda sets out some of the challenges to sustainable economic development. I am well aware of the concerns of many in the Caribbean about changes to EU preferences, with sugar probably currently at the top of that list of concerns. I am also aware of the concerns of many small economies at changes proposed in the multilateral trading system. And I am all too aware of the threat that crime, so much linked in this region to drugs-trafficking, is bringing to development. Nor is that the end of the list of the challenges - I expect, for example, to be discussing debt, HIV/AIDS and the risk of natural disasters over the next couple of days.
But while we must face the challenges, I also think we should recognise the opportunities that exist. At the beginning of the year, the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) was launched. Surely the integration envisaged in that vision presents opportunity. I have also heard many plans for the development of new industries in the Caribbean - in agribusiness, in new energies, in new tourist activity, in other services. Again opportunity. And at a very specific level, the Cricket World Cup 2007 - an opportunity not just to bring in more visitors for the period of the matches, but to develop new sustainable tourist activity and new permanent security structures.
I believe the UK, alongside others such as the EU, the US and Canada, have an important role to play in helping deliver those opportunities. But I don't for a minute underestimate the capability within the Caribbean itself to work more closely as a region, to diversity its economy, and to build for its future.
Yes there will be challenges ahead. But there are real and substantial benefits to be won in an increasingly open world economy. A safe, stable and prosperous Caribbean in 2020 is something we can all work for together.