Commission Targets Private,Public Sectors and Civil Society
A two-day consultation held at Auberge Seraphine last week sought to ramp up efforts by the OECS Commission to get its message out more efficiently and strategically. According to organizers, the OECS integration movement can use all the assistance it can get in getting its message out to the masses.
Held on Thursday and Friday, the session, dubbed “Civil Society and Private Sector Consultation on the Development Agenda of the OECS Region”, brought together key stakeholders from both private sector and civil society organizations to discuss ways in which the OECS Economic Union can be strengthened to the benefit of the region.
Among the participants were representatives from the Civil Service Association (CSA), National Youth Council (NYC), and St. Lucia Chamber of Commerce, Industry & Agriculture. The participants were apprised of the moves being made by the Commission to deepen ties within the seven-member Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Economic Union.
In her opening remarks to the just over one dozen participants, OECS Commissioner Ambassador, Dr. June Soomer, called on the participants to use their influence to spread the word about the OECS’ efforts to spread its regional integration message. Dr. Soomer said the time had come for the soul in the OECS integration movement to be felt by its people.
“We need to put the soul into the OECS Economic Union lest we are reduced to an entity where the projects – the technical, the financial and the political – overshadow the foundational philosophy of the deepening of our integration movement,” Dr. Soomer said at last Thursday’s opening ceremony. “Our Economic Union was built on the promise of improvement in the lives of the 600,000 of the region.”
The Ambassador said the people of the region must not look solely to the economic identity inherent in the Eastern Caribbean dollar as the only means of defining the OECS identity. The message of the OECS, she said, must be one of hope and humanization. To that end, she said the OECS movement must move fervently to advance improvements in economic growth, job and wealth creation, poverty reduction, citizen security and the strengthening of good governance and democracy.
Dr. Soomer added that quite often many people think that by focusing on the economic aspect of integration that the social aspect will automatically be the beneficiary. Unfortunately, she said, those with vested interest will not ensure trickle-down without a much more structured approach to poverty alleviation. She added that while the region can boast about several key achievements in the integration movement push, the real litmus test of the integration movement’s progress will include ensuring that all citizens can benefit from the movement’s prosperity.
“I believe that the test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little. At the same time, I also want you to understand that the rights of the citizens under the Revised Treaty of Basseterre must be accompanied by discussions on the duty of citizens. We still have to consider the common good as well as what our leaders refer to as ‘the love for the OECS’. How can we as the citizens also ensure that the Economic Union is preserved?” Dr. Soomer said.
Head of the OECS Economic Development Policy Unit, David Popo, said last week’s consultation was one of a series of similar meetings currently being hosted in OECS member states to engage civil society organizations and the public and private sector. The role of these organizations, he said, is crucial towards deepening the integration process. Popo said all efforts must be made to ensure that partnership exists among the public sector, the private sector and civil society in order for the OECS Economic Union’s mandate to make a meaningful impact on its citizens.
“At the end of the day, one of the principal objectives of the OECS Economic Union is to ensure that we can improve the quality of life of the ordinary citizens of the OECS countries,” Popo said. “That cannot be done by governments alone or by the private sector but has to be done by the entire society. We know that historically a number of civil society organizations have played an important role in terms of contributing to the improvement in the lives of people, whether in health, education, and so on. Trade unions, for example, have played an important role across the Caribbean in the context of promoting and securing the rights of people who are trying to access the resources in society and to ensure that their lives can be improved.”
The OECS Economic Union came into force on January 21, 2011 via the Revised Treaty of Basseterre. The seven countries that form the Union are Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.