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WASHINGTON, DC – On Tuesday, June 19, The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza outlined the main challenges confronting the countries of the Caribbean and reiterated the Organization’s continued support and commitment in working to help overcome the economic, environmental and social vulnerabilities that these small states face.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the “Conference on the Caribbean –A 20/20 Vision”, at the World Bank in Washington, Insulza noted that “this vulnerability arises from an inherent exposure to adverse external shocks that are beyond the control of the countries, including energy price shocks, natural disasters, strains posed by migration, the effect of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and the adverse effects of climate change.”

The Secretary General emphasized that the region’s development partners, like the OAS, can do a lot to help the Caribbean to avoid, withstand and recover from the shocks induced by these threats. “These vulnerabilities can be mitigated through an appropriate policy orientation that focuses on bolstering the resilience of Caribbean states to withstand external shocks,” he explained.

Insulza highlighted some of the positive policies that have been implemented that promote stability, market efficiency, good governance, social development and sound environmental management. He praised the region’s move to create better economies through the creation of a single market and economy (CSME) noting that the external trade environment has a significant impact on the ability of the region to compete and to continue to grow. “The decision of the CARICOM countries to integrate and further open their economies, negotiating trade agreements collectively, must receive a positive response from their main trading partners in the Americas,” he said.

Along those lines, the Secretary General noted that the region’s development partners can be of assistance on the issue of energy. “The Caribbean has significant sources of renewable energy which could be better utilized to articulate a regional sustainable renewable energy policy and program,” Insulza said.

Another area of concern, the Secretary General stressed is that of disaster mitigation and response. He called on the international community to improve the coordination of its programs in this field. “We must continue to articulate sound disaster mitigation policies and practices, designed to minimize the disruption typically caused by hurricanes that are, unfortunately, a feature of this season every year in the Caribbean,” he said.

Finally, the Secretary General stressed the need for human resource development in the region. Insulza underscored the resourcefulness, talents, and work ethics of the people of the Caribbean saying that they have been the “basic resource that has allowed the countries of the Caribbean to develop the public institutions and civil society organizations that are the foundations of their development and stable democracies.”

However, he outlined the challenges they face including the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the increase in crime and violence and the trend of “out-migration” of thousands of skilled personnel. “These social phenomena impose significant economic and social costs,” Secretary General Insulza said, adding that “the international development community must revisit outdated assistance policies to cooperate by providing assistance to the region for the fight against crime and violence; and support in the fight against HIV/AIDS has to be increased.”

The three day conference will examine how to build economic growth and development for the betterment of Caribbean democracy, human rights, and justice. Conference participants will also discuss promoting Caribbean trade and tourism, encouraging competitiveness and investment, and providing better social and economic equity.

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