R. Rose
November 18, 2014

Brief remarks to opening session of Cariforum/EU Consultative Committee

Madame Chair, permit me to begin by offering the heartiest congratulations of the Caribbean delegates to you on your election as Chair of the European Consultative Committee and by extension Chair of the joint body. We pledge our full support and cooperation as we work together to make a success of the formidable tasks before us. As such we place a lot of emphasis on interaction with our European colleagues in finding common solutions to the challenges we face.{{more}}

We would also like to publicly thank the CARIFORUM Secretariat for its support in facilitating the establishment of the Caribbean chapter of the joint Committee and for the support and cooperation which enabled us to participate in this undertaking.

The EPA process, like the Cotonou Agreement which preceded it and is still in operation, has as a distinctive feature the active and meaningful support of civil society. On this basis, political dialogue between the sectors is a vital gangplank and a prerequisite for success. We must not shirk our responsibilities in ensuring that these are honoured. The Consultative Committee is surely one relevant forum where such interaction and exchanges can take place and we pledge to play our part in this regard.

We note that the Consultative Committee is the final building block to be put in place in the institutional construction of the EPA mechanisms which have responsibility for the implementation, monitoring and review of the Agreement. That in no way diminishes its importance. It has taken some time to be put in place, but now with the first Five-Year Review imminent, it can prove to be a most valuable tool in bringing to the table perspectives of civil society, concerns and recommendations of the private sector, labour, the environmental and social movements which underpin our respective societies. Those concerns, about the lack of impact of the EPA on our societies are already being openly voiced.

For our part, Caribbean civil society has from the outset, during the protracted EPA negotiations and since then, always insisted that the voices of the people of the region must have expression through their various and diverse organized non-state groupings. The EPA would be an incomplete work without the meaningful participation of the sectors mentioned in both the implementation and monitoring processes and, of course, in the Review. Our stocktaking must not be confined to economic and trade indicators, but we must also closely monitor and assess the social impact of any agreements on the quality of life of our people and how such Agreement contributes to their economic and social upliftment.

In order to do so, we must ensure that the Consultative Committee is provided with the requisite levels of support and receives the cooperation necessary for it to be able to carry out its functions effectively and efficiently. Too often we establish institutions and mechanisms without providing the resources adequate for their proper functioning.

Civil society is quite diverse and provides unique challenges in its organization. These are multiplied across multi-island and multi-country barriers, as obtained in the Caribbean and the European Union. Yet our history proves that they are not insurmountable. We in the CARIFORUM CC are confident that, with the full cooperation of our European colleagues and with the support and collaboration of the main institutions and appropriate mechanisms of the EPA and its principal parties, we can fulfill our responsibilities.

I thank you, Madame President.

Renwick Rose, CPDC

Chair of Cariforum Consultative Committtee

Renwick Rose is a community activist

and social com-mentator.