The Meeting was preceded by a brief virtual Opening Ceremony where remarks were made by the outgoing Chairman, the Honourable Gaston Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda; the incoming Chairman, Dr. the Honourable Roosevelt Skerrit, Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Dominica; and the Director General of the OECS Commission, His Excellency Dr. Didacus Jules.
The Secretary General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), His Excellency Irwin LaRocque, was also in attendance at the Opening Ceremony.
In the main, the Meeting focused on, inter alia:
(a) The Regional COVID-19 Response
(b) The Reopening of Borders
(c) Support and Financing of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court
(d) Annual Work Plan and Budget of the OECS Commission
(A) REGIONAL COVID-19 RESPONSE
The OECS Authority received reports on the region’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically in the areas of Health, Education and Agriculture.
Heads of Governments were updated on the current numbers of the Cuban Henry Reeve Medical Brigade supporting the region in the fight against COVID-19 and the additional support expected in the coming weeks. Heads were also briefed on the procurement status of critical medical supplies, such as COVID-19 test kits, as Member States prepare to reopen borders.
The Authority received a report on the Seasonal Agricultural Farm Workers Programme (SAWP) in Canada. The OECS Commission, through its Eastern Caribbean Liaison Service (ECLS) and with support from regional Ministries of Health and the relevant Canadian Authorities, facilitated the safe travel of over three hundred (300) agricultural workers from the OECS to Canada – at a time when OECS economies are most vulnerable and sustaining employment is essential.
The Meeting was also apprised of a new educational initiative, the Yes I News Broadcast – a production of the OECS Education Development Management Unit, in collaboration with Ministries of Education across the region – intended to provide students with an opportunity for creative expression and skill development through engagement on authentic, meaningful experiences stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Further, Heads of Governments were presented with a dynamic tool, developed by the OECS Commission, that provides an overview of all COVID-19 protocols implemented by Member States.
(B) REOPENING OF BORDERS
The Meeting deliberated on matters of health, travel and the safe reopening of borders within the region. Heads of Governments and their representatives received reports on the proposed dates and reopening protocols of various Member States. The Meeting mandated that the OECS Commission lead in the coordination and review of protocols with a view to harmonise the region’s approach, especially in the area of testing.
(C) SUPPORT AND FINANCING OF THE EASTERN CARIBBEAN SUPREME COURT
The Authority received a presentation from the Chief Justice of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC), Her Ladyship Honourable Dame Janice M. Pereira, and discussed the continued functions of the Court during this period of uncertainty.
The Meeting also discussed the sustainable financing of the Court and considered opportunities presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, such as increased remote training and virtual meetings.
(D) ANNUAL WORK PLAN AND BUDGET OF THE OECS COMMISSION
OECS Heads of Governments received an update on the increased streamlining of finances at the OECS Commission, which included several cost reduction and revenue generation initiatives. The Meeting was also apprised of the progress of the Sustainable Development Movement, scheduled to be held in September 2020.
The Authority commended the OECS Commission on its nimbleness during this unprecedented crisis and recommitted to settling outstanding financial contributions.
All Heads and their representatives expressed their deep appreciation to the staff of the OECS Commission for the arrangements made to ensure a successful virtual meeting held on the occasion of the 39th Anniversary of the OECS.
Heads of Governments and Representatives of Governments in attendance included:
Honourable Gaston Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda;
Dr. the Honourable Roosevelt Skerrit, Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Dominica;
Dr. the Right Honourable Keith Mitchell, Prime Minister of Grenada;
Honourable Premier Easton Taylor-Farrell, Premier of Montserrat;
Honourable Shawn Richards, Deputy Prime Minister, St. Kitts and Nevis (representing Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris);
Honourable Allen Chastanet, Prime Minister of Saint Lucia;
Dr. the Honourable Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines;
His Excellency Alfred Marie-Jeanne, President of the Executive Council of the Territorial Authority of Martinique; and
Mrs. Diana Perran, Vice President of the Regional Council of Guadeloupe (representing the President of the Regional Council of Guadeloupe, His Excellency Ary Chalus).
Dr. Didacus Jules, Director General of the OECS, and the following Commissioners were also in attendance:
H.E. Colin Murdoch, Commissioner to the OECS for Antigua and Barbuda;
H.E. Felix Gregoire, Commissioner to the OECS for the Commonwealth of Dominica;
Senator Cathisha Williams, Commissioner to the OECS for Grenada;
H. E. Elma Gene Isaac, Commissioner to the OECS for Saint Lucia;
Ms. Najan Christopher, Commissioner to the OECS for the British Virgin Islands;
Ms. Maguy Marie-Jeanne, Commissioner to the OECS for Martinique; and
Dr. Ruddy Blonbou, Commissioner to the OECS for the Regional Council of Guadeloupe.
The OECS Member States of Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands were not represented on account of prior urgencies.
Representatives of OECS Institutions in attendance were:
Her Ladyship Honourable Dame Janice M. Pereira, Chief Justice of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC); and
Mr. Donald McPhail, Director General of Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority (ECCAA).
Other Members of Delegation in attendance were:
Honourable Sarah Flood-Beaubrun, Minister with Responsibility for External Affairs of Saint Lucia;
Honourable Kenneth Darroux, Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Business and Diaspora Relations of the Commonwealth of Dominica;
H. E. Steve Ferrol, Ambassador-at-Large, Commonwealth of Dominica; and
Mrs. Barbara Dailey, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Business and Diaspora Relations of the Commonwealth of Dominica.