3 July 2003


NEW YORK, 2 July (UN Headquarters) -- Following is Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s message to the twenty-fourth regular meeting of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) heads of government, delivered today by Anwarul K. Chowdhury, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, in Montego Bay, Jamaica:

It gives me great pleasure to send my greetings to the heads of government gathered in Montego Bay, and to congratulate you on a milestone in the history of the Caribbean Community and Common Market.

For 30 years, CARICOM has sought to provide dynamic leadership and service in pursuit of regional peace and development.  It has strengthened links among governments, civil society organizations and other actors working to improve the region’s standards of living.  It has embarked on an ambitious programme of regional integration through the establishment of a Single Market and Economy, as well as of the Caribbean Court of Justice.

This long tradition of cooperation and partnership should serve you well as you face the challenges ahead and work together to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.  Many Caribbean countries rank high on the human development index created by the United Nations Development Programme, but many remain mired in poverty and underdevelopment.

As many CARICOM members are small island developing States and face specific constraints in development efforts, the full implementation of the Barbados Programme of Action is important.  The Barbados +10 review, scheduled to be undertaken in Mauritius in August next year, will provide an opportunity to take stock of achievements made and challenges still to be met.

A particular concern is the slow progress of international trade negotiations in areas of special interest to developing countries, such as eliminating the unfair competition faced by farmers and producers in poor countries, opening developed-country markets to developing-country goods, and giving poor people better access to affordable life-saving medicines.  Ten weeks before the World Trade Organization (WTO) ministerial meeting in Cancun, the time has come for all parties to show more flexibility, and give priority to the global interest.

Another challenge that demands urgent attention is HIV/AIDS.  In the past decade, the CARICOM region has experienced a dramatic increase in adult prevalence rates.  My recently named Special Representative for HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean will do his utmost to garner greater global support for the efforts of Caribbean countries to address the pandemic.

In these and other efforts -- from protecting the environment to fighting organized crime and seizing the opportunities of information technologies -- the United Nations and CARICOM will continue to work as close partners.  The United Nations system has a strong presence in the region, helping people in their daily lives, assisting governments in improving administration and governance, and working closely with the CARICOM secretariat itself.  Issues of concern to the region should also gain a higher profile in the international arena with the election of Saint Lucia’s Minister of External Affairs as President of the forthcoming fifty-eighth session of the General Assembly.  For my part, I look forward to working closely with you across a broad spectrum of issues, to strengthen the United Nations and to achieve our shared goals.  Thank you for your support, and please accept my best wishes for a successful meeting.

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