by Kevon Browne
St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Caucus of Ambassadors in Washington, D.C. hosted theVirtual Launch of its ‘Public Diplomacy Engagement Programme (PDEP)’ on Tuesday June 29, 2021, during Caribbean American Heritage Month 2021.
The programme is geared toward raising the profile of the region and enhancing cooperation with the Unites States of America (USA) and US based partners.
CARICOM Secretary General, Ambassador Irwin Larocque during the launch of the programme spoke of the significance of the forum in providing a unified voice representing CARICOM’s interests.
“Time and again, we have skirted around the edges of creating a unified voice outside their realms of government that is a strident advocate for the issues of concern to the community. A voice for instance that is loud and forceful enough to put the spotlight on the denial of correspondent banking to our region. A voice that makes the international financial institutions and governments from adopted homelands change course on the criteria of access to concessional development and financing. A voice that demands action on climate change before global warming reaches 1.5 degrees above pre industrial levels, which creates an existential threat to all member states. This is the significance of this forum. An avenue to spread the information that will arm those voices to go out and make themselves heard on our behalf.”
In remarks to mark the occasion, Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris, as the CARICOM Lead head for Health, HIV and Human Resources, highlighted some of the threats that need addressing within the region.
“From inception, I have argued that our region’s challenges in addressing COVID-19 and other threats deserve high priority. Namely, access to finance based on vulnerability, not only per capita income… [but] being the most tourism dependent region, globally, being highly susceptible to the ravages of climate change, and having high levels of NCDs, which also increases the risk of death from COVID-19.”
Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, Timothy Antoine highlighted a challenge the region is facing, connectivity. He suggested that the way we can address that issue would be to embrace digital technology which would help to elevate our developmental trajectory and to compete and thrive in the global economy.
He said the challenge of connectivity within the region for the last 18 months laid bare the divide between the ‘haves and the have nots’ in connectivity, especially in education.
“…it should be collaborative, and we should pay careful attention to the pillars of the digital economy. So first, infrastructure, and that includes connectivity, digital identity, cybersecurity and [data protection]. To ensure digital citizenship our governments must adopt a policy that ensures that connectivity is treated as a right not a privilege… Then there is a matter of platforms, through which governments… public sector agencies… are able to offer citizen facing services to the public. Beyond the ease of doing business this is important for building digital trust. The next area of the pillar approach would be digital finance and that bundle includes payments, access to credit and literacy… One in three [people] are financially literate… so you can’t do digital and do payments and all of that without addressing financial literacy… And then there is the issue of digital skills, and entrepreneurship. We have to ensure that our people are not merely consumers in the digital economy, but producers in this digital economy. That’s the way we will earn our living. That’s the way we will earn our keep. That’s the way we will earn foreign exchange, not simply expend foreign exchange, and it starts with our children.”