It’s OECS time, Let’s celebrate!
June 23, 2006
It’s OECS time, Let’s celebrate!

Message from the Chairman of the OECS Authority

Ecumenical Service

Sunday, 18th June 2006

Fellow citizens of the OECS.

Today, Sunday 18th 2006, we give thanks to God as we celebrate 25 years since the signing of the Treaty of Basseterre which established the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).

It is a day for us to reflect on the significant strides the OECS sub-region has made over two and a half decades of collective action, including the pooling of our limited resources to improve the social and economic well-being of our people.{{more}} Today is also a time to focus our minds on the road ahead and in particular how we re-fashion our Organisation to deal with the new and bigger challenges of our time, chief among which is an emerging international economic environment whose rules are often a direct threat to the survival of mini-states like ours.

The preamble to the Treaty of Basseterre speaks of the determination of our member states to ‘achieve economic and social development for their peoples’ and an equal determination “to strengthen the links among themselves by uniting their efforts and resources and establishing and strengthening common institutions”. There can be no doubt that this Treaty has provided the basis for a significant part of the progress of our countries. From the start, the fledgling states, several of whom had just attained political independence, had to face up to the harsh realities of the 1970’s oil crisis and the global debt crisis and economic downturn of the 1980’s.

The OECS has stood the test of time and grown in strength and stature. There has been a strong bond among OECS member countries that has grown out of shared needs and this is best demonstrated through the successful institutions of integration that continue to serve our people. There has been joint action in monetary policy and central banking. There is a single judiciary, joint overseas representation and pharmaceutical procurement. We cooperate in aviation matters, education and health reform and by competing among ourselves through the OECS sports programme. Our OECS model for integration and regionalism has become recognized by the international community as being worthy of emulation by other groupings of small island developing states.

Certainly as we observe the silver anniversary of the OECS there is much to celebrate. Let us not be reluctant to do so.

The world into which the OECS was born in 1981 is however very different to what exists today. Gone for example, is the trade protectionism for our bananas and sugar. In its place are new buzz phases such as trade liberalization and international competitiveness. The OECS in 2006 must also deal with many new development issues, among them growing demands for social services from increasingly sophisticated populations. Many of our member countries are also grappling with an escalating crime problem. The increasingly active hurricane seasons, floods and threats of volcanic eruptions put pressure on member states to put greater resources into disaster mitigation measures.

Our governments have taken the approach that the contemporary challenges to socio-economic development and international trade can best be tackled by further deepening the integration process, and proceeding toward and OECS Economic Union. We rallied around Grenada following the devastation of hurricane Ivan in 2004. We, however, need a far more cohesive, coordinated and integrative regional governance structure.

As part of these 25th anniversary celebrations the OECS Heads plan to unveil an OECS Economic Union Treaty during the opening ceremony for the 43rd meeting of the OECS Authority later this week in St. Kitts/Nevis. This unveiling will be followed by a year long period of consultation with you, the OECS people. I trust that you will take every opportunity to familiarize yourself with the provisions of the Treaty and contribute to the discussions.

We have shown over the past twenty-five years the positive results of cooperation. As we look ahead let us find ways to build on the foundation created by those who have set the stage for us. We each have our part to play in building this region into a strong sustainable entity.

I want to invite you to share in the remaining 25th anniversary activities during the course of this year. It is your celebration. I want to particularly ask those of you who are parents of students to encourage them to take part in the OECS Schools Art and Schools Debating Competitions which have been scheduled for the September to December school term.

Let us continue to give thanks for twenty-five years of working together and pray for many more years of deeper, stronger integration. It is OECS Time. Let’s celebrate!

As Chairman of the OECS Authority, let me on behalf of my other colleague Heads of Government wish all a Happy OECS 25th anniversary.