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CARICOM's leaders must shape its future


FOR OVER four decades the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has been at the forefront of the region’s efforts to build regional economic cooperation.

When the organisation was launched in 1973 it carried the hopes of Caribbean leaders that it would help maximise the region’s economic and political development.

But as our feature in this week’s issue highlights, problems for the organisation are looming.

The last decade has seen CARICOM struggle with obstacles that stand in the way of it efforts to achieve full regional integration.

These obstacles could provide a threat to its effectiveness. Anxieties over the freedom of movement, xenophobia and the absence of an agreed shared vision among member states are providing a real challenge to CARICOM, just as they are in the European Union.

The scale of these problems could increase if the organisation’s leaders do not take action. In Europe, far right groups have used these issues to gain political advantage.

The Caribbean doesn’t have an established history of xenophobia and nationalism.

However there is no doubt that recent years have seen the economies of many CARICOM member states come under strain.

As a result more countries have adopted narrow, short term national interests that will eventually make CARICOM’s mission of regional integration much harder. For example, in Barbados in 2009 the country’s leaders declared that migration numbers were too high and expressed measures to deport “illegal” CARICOM migrants.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. The original aims behind its creation - maximising the region’s economic and political development – are as important as ever.

CARICOM, it seems, is at a crossroads in terms of what direction it will take in the 21st century.

And its leaders must act fast to shape that direction in a way that benefits the whole region.

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