The Government of the Republic of Haiti has expressed gratitude to the Caribbean Community for donating $7 million in response to that nation’s food crisis, it was revealed at the Eleventh Meeting of the Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR) held in Antigua and Barbuda May 7-9, 2008.

The issue was among other matters discussed by CARICOM Foreign Ministers and included in the Communiqué issued following the Eleventh Meeting of the Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR).

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs the Hon Brent Symonette represented The Bahamas. He was accompanied by Ambassador-at-Large the His Excellency Joshua Sears.

According to CARICOM Secretary General His Excellency Edwin Carrington, the coordination of foreign policy is one of the “greatest strengths” of the Caribbean Community.

He also touched upon the challenges of a rapidly changing international and hemispheric environment and the need for the Community to “urgently respond to the redistribution of power and influence on the global stage.”

Talks during the summit focused on the environment in the face of climate change; the rising prices in food and fuel; and the Caribbean Sea Initiative, which is aimed at having the Caribbean Sea recognised internationally as a ‘Special Area’ in the context of sustainable development, amongst other issues.

Ministers expressed particular concern regarding the impact of high fuel costs on aviation services and consequently the tourism sector, which is of “critical importance” to many of the economies of CARICOM Member States, according to the Communiqué.

As regards Haiti, Ministers welcomed the financial support provided by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) through the Haiti/CSME Project to assist the accelerated integration of Haiti in the Caribbean Community, which will be facilitated by the operations of the CARICOM Representative Office in Haiti (CHRO), according to the Communiqué.

The Representative of Haiti expressed appreciation to CARICOM for giving from the petroleum fund of $7 million in response to its food crisis.

The Communiqué also stated that Ministers welcomed the new impetus being given to promoting greater interaction between CARICOM and Canada. They drew particular attention to the preparedness of CARICOM to commence negotiations with Canada on a Trade and Development Agreement.

“This augured well for the convening of the Canada-CARICOM Summit, which is tentatively scheduled for Fall 2008,” the Communiqué said.

The Foreign Ministers also discussed the New York Conference on the Caribbean, scheduled for June 19-20, following acceptance of an invitation from Congressman Charles Rangel to visit on the occasion of the Caribbean American Heritage Month.

Regarding the EU, the COFCOR noted the “significant change” in relations between Europe and the Caribbean that will be ushered in with the signing, in June, of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).

“The COFCOR emphasised that the full implementation of the EPA was critical to the achievement of its objectives,” stated the Communiqué.

Talks also centered around issues of importance to CARICOM in the UN system, namely climate change, Security Council Reform and the Follow-up International Conference on Financing for Development to review the Implementation of the Monetary Consensus, to be held in Doha in November, 2008.

The Ministers further reiterated that the issue of HIV/AIDS remains a priority for the region and view the upcoming High-Level Comprehensive Review of the Progress Achieved in realising the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS and the Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS that will be held at the UN June 10-11, as “an important opportunity” to invite donors and partners to assist in the region in this area.