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Conference on Caribbean Should Strengthen US and Caribbean Ties – Ambassador Shirley

WASHINGTON, DC – Ambassador to the United States, Professor Gordon Shirley has said that the Conference on the Caribbean set for June 19-21, in Washington, would serve to strengthen and deepen the relationship between the Governments of the US and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

Giving an overview at the 7th Diaspora Dialogue on the Conference of the Caribbean, at the Kelly Chapel United Methodist Church in Decatur, Georgia on Saturday, April 28, Ambassador Shirley said that the major highlight of the Conference will be a meeting between the President of the United States and the Heads of State/Government of the Caribbean Community.

Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice will meet with CARICOM Foreign Ministers. Other meetings are planned with Secretaries of Commerce, Education and the Treasury.

According to Ambassador Shirley, the meetings would serve to cement the relationship between the Governments of the region and the US Administration.

Ambassador Shirley, who is also Chairman of the CARICOM Caucus of Ambassadors Private Sector and Experts Working Group, said that meetings have been planned with Members of Congress on Capitol Hill, which would discuss several issues, which were important to the Caribbean Diaspora.

The people to people dialogue, Ambassador Shirley pointed out, would comprise three components – an Experts Forum, Private Sector Forum and Diaspora Forum. The Experts Forum would feature meetings between some of the leading experts from the Caribbean and the United States.

“Experts will look not just at the relationship between the US and the Caribbean that exists today, but how that relationship is going to evolve over the next couple of decades in the external environment in which we have to compete with the opening up of China and India and other economic giants; as well as how the Caribbean will evolve over that period and how can the US and the Caribbean collaborate to ensure that the hemisphere is not only safe but a high growth one going into the future,” the Ambassador said.

He emphasized the importance of the social infrastructure in underpinning the growth of the Caribbean. Hence, the Conference will be looking at health, education, personal and national security as well as the physical infrastructure for growth, housing, telecommunications, roads and energy, that will be necessary for the Caribbean to grow over the next couple of decades.

Over 200 Caribbean nationals who attended the meeting suggested that the Conference should address matters related to immigration and deportation, security, human rights, education, trade and economic development, as well as youth exchange and voting in Caribbean home countries.

The meeting was also addressed by Ambassador of Guyana and Co-Chair of the CARICOM Caucus of Ambassador Working Group Logistics, Bayney Karran; Ambassador of Barbados and Chair of the CARICOM Caucus of Ambassadors Working Group on the Diaspora Forum and Dialogue, Michael King; Ambassador of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Chair of the CARICOM Caucus of Ambassadors, Ellsworth John; Charge d’Affaires of the Embassy of the Commonwealth of Bahamas, Rhoda M. Jackson, and Fay Housty, Executive Director, Foreign and Community Relations, CARICOM Secretariat.

Caribbean communities in Los Angeles and Chicago will have an opportunity to make their contribution to the Diaspora Dialogue on Saturday, May 5 and Saturday, May 26.

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