SVG names first office holders for  CELAC Secretariat
From left: Secretariat Coordinator Dr Douglas Slater, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, Foreign Affairs Minister Keisal Peters and Deputy Coordinator Andreas Wickham.
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February 3, 2023

SVG names first office holders for CELAC Secretariat

Former ambassador to Venezuela, Andreas Wickham and former Assistant Secretary-general of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Dr Douglas Slater have been assigned major responsibilities as St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) moves to establish the Secretariat of the Community of Latin America and the Caribbean (CELAC).

The naming of Slater as National Co-ordinator, and Wickham as the deputy co-ordinator of the regional grouping’s Secretariat comes just over a week after this country was unanimously elected to the Presidency of the 33 member organisation for the year 2023, during its 7th Summit of Heads of States and Government on Tuesday, January 24, in Argentina.

On Thursday February, 2, a ministerial brief was held at the conference room of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kingstown where Prime Minister, Dr Ralph Gonsalves spoke briefly about this country’s vision and work programme for the year of its presidency, and the role of various technical officers within the government apparatus.

“In any integration movement, not every unit within that integration system will have the same extent of added value. But for sure, if it is done in an organic manner, each of the units will have additional value than what they possess outside of the integration system,” he told the gathering of senior government officials, which included permanent secretaries.

“We have to make our leadership of the pro-tempore Presidency of CELAC for 2023 inclusive and collegiate that all of us in the respective countries have to feed into this process.

“The inclusiveness and the collegiate nature has to also be manifested, exhibited, engendered by within the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the various state agencies and indeed, the population as a whole, because the integration is not only state to state, but people to people.”

Speaking more specifically about the role of the various government ministries and the Prime Minister said “when the professionals outline the structure, I can see immediately that across every ministry, there is an individual of a technical professional nature who is identified as focal point within each of those ministries, to provide technical professional assistance. In addition, of course, to the administrative work required of each of the permanent secretaries and heads of department, because the declaration covers every aspect of life living and production inside of all our countries.”

Slater told the gathering that he had decided on retirement, “but that is not a word that is very much appreciated in the lexicon of the prime minister.”

And he deemed it “an honour to be asked to serve in the public capacity nationally, and in this case, regionally.”

And, the deputy co-ordinator of the CELAC Secretariat, Wickham expressed confidence at this country’s ability to position itself to maximise the potential benefits which could derive from its Presidency the CELAC.

“We have had the experience of membership in other regional integration and cooperation circles. For close to 20 years, we have embraced Latin America, and I have engaged meaningfully with some of these countries on a bilateral basis, and also multi-laterally,” Wickham said as he underscored the means through which this can be done.

“We are championing the cause for multi-polarity in international affairs and in the international political economy within CELAC. There’s a wide diversity of socio economic systems development agendas, philosophies, strategic approaches, which guide respective national discourse…”.

Also speaking at Thursday’s ministerial briefing were permanent secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Sandy Peters-Phillips who observed that “We have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand. Certainly, our being here today is a testimony to the achievement of success.”

And Minister of Foreign Affairs, Keisal Peters noted that “…each and every one of us… has a role to play fundamentally, in ensuring that our presidency is one filled with success.”

During a news conference on January, 24, the Prime Minister disclosed that the CELAC Secretariat will be located at Frenches.

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