March 6, 2017
Cooperation, an unavoidable issue for the countries of the South, is the main point in the agenda of the First Conference on this matter convened by the Association of Caribbean States (ACS), which will take place in Havana next March 8.
It´s symbolic that this meeting takes place in Cuba, which has always praised contribution as the best form of relation with its neighbor countries. The Conference has been jointly convened by the General Secretariat of the ACS and Cuba in its capacity of pro-tempore president of the Council of Ministers —responsibility to be handed over two days later at the meeting of that body— so, it could also be considered important and the last Contribution of Cuba during its term.
The Caribbean is the natural environment of Cuba, and although this conglomerate of countries is distinguished by different languages and lifestyles, we are united by historical roots and a common element unavoidable given by the Cuban location in the same sea.
The ACS, born in 1994 as a consultative, cooperative and concerted entity, was the first body in the hemisphere to claim postulates for the genuine integration of their countries at a time when few integrationist structures in the area advocated physical integration and trade.
Of course, trade is important for the Association and it´s included within the main lines of work, together with tourism, transport, disaster risk reduction and climate change. However, cooperation strategies give the ACS a distinctive mark, and cooperation can allow it to avoid severe handicaps like the asymmetries at the level of development, something that has prevented the progress of other unitary schemes.
The external debt, which at the end of last year represented 69.6 percent of the GDP of the Caribbean States, and the difficulties in access to financing are also obstacles to development, together with the vulnerability of the small islands to face up natural disasters.*
That´s why it´s important the consolidation of the Conference to become another place for the debate with tangible results. The Secretary General of the ACS June Soomer said on her arrival in Havana, that the meeting will strengthen the agency.
According to Acting General Director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Ministry of Foreign Relations (Minrex) Carlos Zamora, the state of implementation of the cooperation programs will be evaluated, and resources will be managed for the programs in execution and others that have been proposed.
Thus, two projects will be presented during the Conference: Joining the Caribbean by air and sea, and the Program to address the impact of climate change in the area.
Other States and agencies, members and observers, will participate in the meeting. In addition, UN programs and agencies relevant to the relations with the region or their experience in the themes of the meeting, have also been invited to make the plans of the ACS viable and concrete, Zamora said.
Zamora also said that the matter is that "this event will be placed as part of the ACS´s usual work program, so that such meetings will be held annually, allowing governments, scientific professionals and financial institutions to promote the necessary alliances that contribute to improve the scientific, technological, cultural and economic capacities of the Caribbean in terms of sustainable development. "
In a world that increasingly works in blocs, and where the North continues imposing the rules (though less expeditiously,) the group of islands that are members of the Association, together with the continental nations bathed by the Caribbean Sea, can do much if they share what they have.
* The Association of Caribbean States Seeks to Promote Cooperation, Interview with Carlos Zamora, Cubaminrex Website
Translated by ESTI