view from the top
prow can slice through a cloud of ideas
know not each other must hurry to know each other, as those
who ready themselves to fight together.
Martí, Nuestra AméricaA popular cop-out in the
debate on our integration has been the old saw that, whilst
the people embrace each other, the leaders turn their backs.
Dangerous sophistry that, if one truly believes in democracy,
denotes either a blind leadership or an indolent electorate.
Though there might be something to the popular criticism of
summits and summiteering (too many, too often, too costly,
too few results), a more informed analysis yields that great
turning points are owed to these events.
Indeed, if democracy is meant to be a bottom-up affair, from
that very fact it follows that elected leaders are expected
to lead and thus, when even the best intentions stagnate,
they can always benefit from the refreshing view from
The 4th ACS Summit, held in Panama City on July 29 on the
heels of our tenth anniversary, comes when the association
has achieved a level of maturity that requires a new vision
for the future.
Our leaders have recognised that the time is ripe to move
more rapidly toward our objectives through promoting greater
consultation and co-operation, taking into account the dynamics
of the wider international agenda.
Yes, the Panama Declaration might be a bit lengthy. It did
indeed go into a series of issues which might not be entirely
germane to our work. It addresses countries support
for the multilateral system with the UN and its charter at
It talks about energy co-operation, terrorism, drugs, democracy,
corruption and effective public administration, sovereignty
and non-intervention, the handicapped, HIV/Aids, indigenous
peoples and human rights.
I must also point out that the summit went an extra mile in
its embracement of democracy by paying special tribute to
the former President of T&T, Arthur NR Robinson, for his
contribution to the creation of the ACS, his personal courage
in the defence of democracy and his important role in the
creation of the International Court of Justice.
Though many are driven to despair by the insertion of these
supposed non ACS issues, it must be acknowledged
that, in so doing, leaders underscore that, far from being
a think tank or co-operation agency, the ACS is indeed the
mechanism envisioned in its 1994 convention, ie that the ACS
was and is, from its very inception and the circumstances
of its birth, a political forum.
Beyond that, it must also be acknowledged that it would be
unthinkable for national leaders to abandon fundamental principles
and core commitments from one forum to the next.
None of this is intended to underplay the mandate-specific
achievements of the summit, as the political support received
from heads was translated to all areas.
The Caribbean Sea is our patrimony and our leaders, as its
custodians, pledged to continue seeking its recognition as
a special area in the context of sustainable development by
A lofty aspiration, as it is envisioned to go beyond the merely
declaratory, to enable us to obtain the necessary assistance
to take on the serious responsibility of effectively assuming
the sovereignty over waters which, in the case of some Caribbean
nations, can be larger than their land area.
Our vulnerability to natural disasters and their negative
impact on efforts to ensure sustainable (socio-economic) development
Furthermore, heads agreed that the best way to combat vulnerability
to natural disasters is to integrate disaster management and
risk reduction into development policies and plans and reaffirmed
the importance of international and regional co-operation.
Heads also recognised the sad state of affairs posed by an
intra-Caribbean trade at only eight per cent of our countries
global commerce and the need to promote regional investment
to cushion our dependency on (often fickle) extra-regional
Talks on an ACS agreement on investment promotion and protection
were approved and the work undertaken by the ACS to support
the progressive dismantling of obstacles to trade and the
mobility of capital also received support, as did the insistence
on recognising the special vulnerabilities of the small economies
As tourism is one of our most important sources of foreign
direct investment and foreign exchange earnings, as well as
a significant provider of employment in the region, the ACS
was mandated to continue to aim at increasing the number of
Leaders underscored the fact that the ACS convention establishing
the Sustainable Tourism Zone of the Caribbean creates the
first such zone in the world, thus paving the way to market
a tourism product in a manner consistent with attracting ecologically
aware tourism as well as with the development of a environmental
and socio-economically conscious tourism industry.
The state of air and maritime transport in the Greater Caribbean
was also addressed as transport was acknowledged to be a channel
for strengthening regional ties, especially in the areas of
trade and tourism.
In that respect, the ACS was recognised as an instrument for
addressing the main challenges of maritime and air transport
within the framework of the associations programme:
uniting the Caribbean by air and sea.
However, and much to my personal delight, implicit in the
language of the declaration and the debate is the recognition
that the trade and tourism woes of our region will no longer
be laid at the feet of the air and shipping industry.
Getting back to the politics, in both the declaration and
the debate, heads drew an unbroken line between the action
envisioned and the ultimate goal of the ACS: to work toward
the social and economic development of our people, to combat
poverty, hunger and social exclusion and to give the Greater
Caribbean its rightful place in the world, for:
Caribbean regional integration movement will succeed to the
we diligently strive for a New Global Human
OrderCheddi Jagan, From Montego Bay to Georgetown.
Luis Carpio is the director of natural disasters and transport
of the Association of Caribbean States. The views expressed
are not necessarily the official views of the ACS. Feedback
can be sent to: [email protected]