Speech from Edwin W. Carrington, Secretary-General, CARIFORUM

STATEMENT
HIS EXCELLENCY EDWIN W. CARRINGTON SECRETARY-GENERAL
Caribbean forum of ACP states (CARIFORUM)
ON THE
Occasion of the launching of
The Caribbean Regional Information and Translation Institute (CRITI)
17 January 2008 Paramaribo, Suriname


YOUR EXCELLENCY THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF SURINAME, DR. RUNAALDO VENETIAAN,
YOUR EXCELLENCY THE VICE PRESIDENT OF SURINAME, MR. RAMDEIN SARJOIE,
MINISTER OF PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT CO- OPERATION OF SURINAME, THE HONOURABLE RICARDO VAN RAVENSWAAY,
OTHER HONOURABLE MINISTERS,
MEMBERS OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY OF SURINAME,
PRESIDENT OF THE CARIBBEAN COURT OF JUSTICE THE HONOURABLE MR JUSTICE MICHAEL DE LA BASTIDE,
HIS EXCELLENCY AMBASSADOR GERT HEIKENS REPRESENTATIVE OF THE EUROPEAN UNION,
OTHER MEMBERS OF THE DIPLOMATIC CORPS,
DISTINGUISHED REPRESENTATIVES OF THE MEMBER STATES OF CARIFORUM,
DISTINGUISHED GUESTS,
REPRESENTATIVES OF THE MEDIA,
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN

Today is an extremely significant day for the countries of the Caribbean Region. For today 17 January 2008, the countries comprising CARIFORUM, the Caribbean Forum of ACP States namely Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Cuba, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, St Kitts/Nevis, Saint Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago, have agreed among themselves and with the support of one of their major International Development Partners, the European Union, to launch the establishment of the Caribbean Regional Information and Translation Institute, using the acronym (CRITI), to be headquartered here in Suriname.

The importance of this Institute derives from the fact that while we in the Caribbean speak many languages, English, French, Dutch and Spanish among others, this linguistic diversity, which is a vital part of our cultural heritage and wealth, can sometimes pose a challenge to the progress of our regional integration process, which is, after all, the most viable path to the development of our Region. Institutions such as CRITI will therefore serve to enhance the co-mingling of our peoples and thus the strengthening of our Community – indeed in the language of our Heads of Government to facilitate the creation of “A Community for All.”

The location of the Headquarters of this critical institution – and indeed that of the CARICOM Competition Commission here in Suriname – confirms the central role that Suriname has now assumed in both CARIFORUM and CARICOM and thereby in the Region’s cooperation and integration processes.

As Secretary-General of both CARIFORUM and CARICOM, I am today most proud at this launching of the Caribbean Regional Information and Translation Institute (CRITI). It is of special significance to me given the facilitation role it will play in the promotion of intra-regional communication and co-operation which goes to the very heart of my responsibilities as Secretary-General.

It was with this awareness that in January 2007, I journeyed to Brussels – in the dead of winter – and signed with the EU Development Commissioner, Commissioner Louis Michel, a Financing Agreement for a Caribbean Integration Support Programme, valued at 40.5 million Euros, all grant funds. Most relevantly in that Agreement, provision of more than Euro 1.5 million was made for the establishment of the Caribbean Regional Information and Translation Institute (CRITI). Today, one year later, we launch that Institute and I wish to pay tribute to the Commissioner and his staff, and the EU in general, for their support in the establishment of this vital institution for the Caribbean Region. In that regard I say a special welcome to the Delegate of the European Union who is here with us today.

Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, we are aware that as we seek to develop regional strategies, policies and programmes documentation is not always available to national political representatives and policy makers in their native language and that this may have a constraining effect both on the representation to be made and on the positions to be advanced.

Also, as we are aware, we are in a period of trade expansion and enhanced movement of capital and of services in the Region, in part triggered by the CARICOM Single Market arrangement. This process requires information and translation services to be provided to the private sector to facilitate trade, commerce and investments. In that domain, the language diversity of the Region can place some constraint on the conduct of business and commerce, networking and coordination of activities.

CRITI will have a particularly important role and function to play in the provision of translated information and forms necessary for the movement of goods, persons and services within the context of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME). Its role will also be beneficial within the context of expanding trade opportunities within CARIFORUM, as well as in the outreach to the Departements Outre Mers and the Dutch Overseas Territories here in the Caribbean.

On a demand basis, CRITI will address some of these constraints and challenges. Of central importance, CRITI will need early to translate key CARIFORUM and CARICOM decisions, agreements, policies and strategies into the four official languages of CARIFORUM and to facilitate Community discussion of important integration issues.

Overall, this will serve to bring the various linguistic groups of the Region closer and aid the widening and deepening of integration processes. CRITI must therefore be afforded every opportunity to fulfil its great potential given the important role it will play in CARIFORUM and CARICOM. Therefore we must begin from now to pay close attention to its medium and long term sustainability, so that its delivery of services does not suffer when the grant funding from the EU comes to an end. Already consideration is being given to cost recovery charges as one of the means to sustain this critical Institution.

Mr President, Honourable Ministers EU Representative, Other Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen, in closing, I wish to take this opportunity to thank the Government and people of the Republic of Suriname for agreeing to host this very important Regional institution. I want to express appreciation to Her Excellency Manorma Soeknandan, Suriname’s Ambassador to the Caribbean Community, for her steadfast championing of the creation of this Institute and particularly in regard to the launching which is taking place today.

Finally, as I reflect on today’s activity, I feel priviIeged that I have been afforded the opportunity to make these brief remarks. For I wonder whether History may not well record that 17 January 2008 was not simply the launch of the Caribbean Regional Information and Translation Institute, but the launch of a springboard for a quantum leap towards the fuller integration of the Caribbean Region. Only time will tell.

I thank you.