By Edwin Baker –
On July 4, 2023, The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) marked its momentous 50th anniversary as the oldest surviving integration movement in the developing world.
CARICOM, the Caribbean Community, is a vibrant union of twenty countries, consisting of fifteen Member States and five Associate Members. With a collective population of around sixteen million people, CARICOM is a melting pot of cultures, where 60% of its citizens are under the age of 30. The region boasts a rich blend of Indigenous Peoples, Africans, Indians, Europeans, Chinese, Portuguese, and Javanese, making it a tapestry of diverse ethnic groups.
Language is another area where CARICOM shines with its multilingual character. While English serves as the primary language, it harmoniously coexists with French, Dutch, and their respective variations. Moreover, the cultural mosaic is further enriched by the incorporation of African and Asian expressions, creating a unique linguistic fusion.
Geographically, CARICOM extends its reach from the sunny beaches of The Bahamas in the north to the lush landscapes of Suriname and Guyana in South America. Though predominantly consisting of island states, CARICOM also includes Belize in Central America, as well as Guyana and Suriname in South America. While these countries may be small in population and size, they showcase remarkable diversity in terms of geography and population. Additionally, CARICOM states are united by their shared status as developing nations, each facing distinct challenges on their path to economic and social development.
CARICOM is not only a collective of nations but a dynamic tapestry of cultures, languages, and landscapes. With its youthful population and rich heritage, the Caribbean Community stands as a testament to the power of unity amidst diversity, aiming to uplift its member states and foster a prosperous future for all.
Pillars of Integration:
CARICOM’s foundation rests on four pillars: economic integration, foreign policy coordination, human and social development, and security. These pillars provide the framework for CARICOM to achieve its stated objectives, including improving standards of living, promoting full employment, enhancing economic development, expanding trade relations, and strengthening member states’ capacity in dealing with global entities. By fostering functional cooperation in various sectors such as education, health, culture, and security, CARICOM has made significant strides towards regional integration.
A Historical Journey:
CARICOM’s journey towards integration began with early efforts for political union, which culminated in the establishment of the West Indies Federation in 1958. While the federation dissolved, it laid the groundwork for subsequent endeavours. In 1965, CARICOM took shape through the Caribbean Free Trade Association (CARIFTA), which aimed to deepen economic integration. Finally, on July 4, 1973, CARICOM was officially established with the signing of the Treaty of Chaguaramas, signifying a commitment to regional cooperation and economic development. Over the years, CARICOM has evolved and expanded its scope, leading to the eventual establishment of a single market and a single economy.
Achievements and Impact:
CARICOM’s achievements over the past five decades have been remarkable. Functional cooperation has played a vital role in advancing education, health, culture, and security within the region. Additionally, the establishment of the CARICOM Single Market has facilitated the free movement of goods, services, capital, and skilled labour, fostering economic growth and enhancing regional competitiveness. CARICOM has also emerged as a respected voice in international affairs, thanks to its coordinated foreign policy and effective engagement with global entities.