Stronger cooperation in disaster risk management and in climate change adaptation and mitigation is among the major decisions of the Sixth CARICOM-Cuba Summit, held in Antigua and Barbuda on Friday 8 December 2017.
Strengthening ties on this very topical and critical issue for both sides was underlined by the signing of an MOU between the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) and the Cuban Civil Defence Agency at the Summit.
The severe opportunity costs of natural disasters for the economies of both sides was also discussed. It was however pointed out that the resulting challenges spurred both sides to upgrade their disaster preparedness and risk protection policies and measures. It was felt that Science, Technology and innovation were important contributing factors in this area.
The triennial Summit Meeting process between CARICOM and Cuba, that was initiated in 2002, marks the historic and politically courageous decision of the four independent CARICOM states (Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago) in 1972, at the height of the Cold War, to establish diplomatic relations with Cuba.
This Sixth Summit, focused on the development cooperation, trade and economic relations between the parties. Cuba’s historic development cooperation with CARICOM has been characterised by its solidarity, and oriented towards high social impact goals. These include capacity-building where priority has been given to the field of health.
By the close of academic year 2016, some 5,432 students had graduated. Currently, there are 653 undergraduate and 70 post-graduate students who are recipients of scholarships granted by the Cuban Government. The number of scholarships increased by 20% since 2014. At present, there are also 1,762 Cuban cooperation workers in all CARICOM countries. Of these, 1469 work in the health sector, the others are in the areas of education, agriculture, construction and sports.
In the area of trade and economic relations, following the signing earlier this year of an additional protocol to the Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement, it was recognised by both sides that there is great potential to be exploited. The Summit noted the significantly increased interest among Caribbean entrepreneurs to develop business and commercial relations.
The potential for complementarity in the area of tourism was recognised by the signing at the Summit of an MOU on multi-destination tourism between CARICOM countries and Cuba. In this regard, the Summit identified air and sea transportation as an area requiring priority attention, and the acquisition of cargo ships was proposed.
The Summit agreed to signal to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), whose trade ministers meet in Argentina in the coming days, the need for WTO flexibility for small states during the phase of reconstruction following the devastation of Hurricanes Irma and Maria. It was agreed that WTO rules should not be obstacles to the reconstruction of small states and small vulnerable economies.
The decision was taken to advance joint cooperation in science, technology and innovation, including the development of enhanced research and development capacity, and to this end, the drafting of an MOU is underway.
The Summit reiterated condemnation of the US trade, economic and financial embargo against Cuba and expressed concern over the regression in relations between the US and Cuba.
The Summit concluded with the endorsement of the Declaration of St. Mary’s.